Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, September 29, 2016

Don't Stop – 5 Seconds of Summer
Every Day's A Holiday – Alastair Moock & Friends
How Can You Tell If It's Going to Rain? – Andrew & Polly
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
Superman – Bob and Luc Schneider
Thank You (feat. R. City) – Meghan Trainor

With Kids Music CD, Amy Lee Goes from Goth to Gosh

Ah, child-bearing. When a rock star's fancy turns to children's music. That's a fairly sexist statement but it cuts across gender lines – Johnny Cash recorded one of the most famous children's music records of its time. Now Amy Lee (of Evanescence fame) has joined the pantheon, releasing DREAM TOO MUCH, a collection of 12 songs from her (and her son's) childhood.

As a band, Evanescence generated a controversy regarding the potentially faith-based message of its music. By delving into kid's songs, Lee goes from faith to faithfulness. While the recordings are bubbly and ethereal, they do not go overboard or stray far from the originals. "Rubber Duckie" is a ukulele skiffle and "Stand By Me" gets a girl group revamp. Title track "Dream Too Much" provides an amusing contradiction to itself, pointing out there's no way to dream too much.

The CD skews for three-and-under, which is reasonable to surmise, since Lee's son fits that demographic. "I'm Not Tired" is an anti-lullaby and "Little Bird" fits perfectly into Lee's high range. "The collection closes with "Goodnight My Love," a duet between Lee and her father, former DJ and guitar player John Lee. "The End of the Book" sounds like it came directly from a child's mouth:

The end of a book isn't the end
It's the beginning that comes
You can pretend pretend pretend 
And read it again

It's easy to dismiss someone's first entry into children's music as an easy one-off, a curio that doubles as an audio lock box for their child's happy memories. However that's where Lee's faithfulness works in her favor. She doesn't sound forced, the new material does not come off as contrived, the song selection is endearingly scattershot, not what a committee would pick to maximize impact; tailored to Lee's already-existing following. DREAM TOO MUCH is a realistic portrait of modern parenting presented by a mom who's a rock star and her father, the mentoring musician.

DREAM TOO MUCH is available exclusively from Amazon Music.

Here is the video for the title song, "Dream Too Much":

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Brain Freeze – The Not-Its!
The Bright Side Of Me  –  Alastair Moock & Friends
Don't Fence Me In  –  Andy Z
Expo Line  –  Andrew & Polly
Good Old Times  –  The Okee Dokee Brothers
Groove  –  Lori Henriques
Popsicle  –  Bob and Luc Schneider

Monday, September 26, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, September 27, 2016

All In A Day – Alastair Moock & Friends
Bile Them Cabbage – Red Yarn
Calling All the Kids to the Yard –  Cat Doorman
Don't Fence Me In – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Everything I Didn't Say – 5 Seconds of Summer
Island in the Ocean – Bob and Luc Schneider
Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, September 26, 2016

Ice Cream Time Machine – Todd and Cookie
My Favorite Sneakers – In The Nick Of Time
Run For The Sunshine – Sunshine Collective
Shake a Friend's Hand – Andy Z
So Gazed Upon – Cat Doorman
Unhuggable – Caspar Babypants
Washington, Dc – The Not-Its!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, September 23, 2016

Banana Bread – Caspar Babypants
Eyes on the Prize – Cat Doorman
Hamsterdam – Ratboy Jr.
Oh Island in the Sun – Aaron Nigel Smith
This Land Is Your Land – Alastair Moock & Friends
Up To Something Good – Sunshine Collective

Bob Schneider: When The L Fits, Hear It

I get it. Recording music is fun. Recording music with your kids is more fun, because you're including them in the process and sharing their energy and vitality and ideas. It's become almost a cottage industry within children's music. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's daughter Saki enthralls young girls in the audience (trust me, witnessed several times first-hand). Danny Weinkauf turned his son Kai into a Kids Place Live superstar. Chibi Kodama's John Cullimore has perfected the home assembly line of turning kids-into-musicians with his girls.

You can add Austin musician Bob Schneider to the list. He and (now) 11-year-old son Luc have released I WILL FIND YOU NO MATTER WHAT through Amazon Prime Music as part of the etailer's new children's music initiative, which includes upcoming collections by Lisa Loeb and Amy Lee.

The collaboration, under the aegis of "The L," was not originally intended as a structured kids CD. Bob recorded two songs with Luc when the lad was four years old ("Vacuum Cleaner" is clearly one of those early ventures). Over the years, more tunes were recorded. In that sense, I WILL FIND YOU... is a musical family album. Which is appropriate, coming from the son (Bob) of an opera singer. He's just passing the torch from generation to generation.

Oh yes, what of the music itself? The songs range from the organ- and pots-and-pans bop of "Popsicle" to the campfire lullaby "I Love You." There's a little vocoder on "Island in the Ocean."And Luc's plaintive vocals summon smiles on the ballads "Happy Face" and "Christmas Pony." It's not hard-charging, high-energy pop, except for "Monster Truck," which initiated the following backseat conversation between my kids:

15 year old: What's he saying?
5 year old: Monster truck.
15 year old: (Incredulously) No, he's not (listens) Oh yes, he is.

The prolific Schneider (more than 2,000 songs written and 18 solo albums) stretches his wings far enough to make room for Luc. The L may be a one-off or the first of a series. As with most projects involving children, as they age and their interests change, it's hard to predict with any certainty. I WILL FIND YOU... is a wistful walk through childhood imagination, as distilled through the perspective of an actual child. No matter what, you can click through and hear for yourself.

I WILL FIND YOU NO MATTER WHAT is available exclusively through Amazon Prime Music

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, September 22, 2016

Alligator Get-Together – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Me On The Map – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Right Side of the Bed – Ratboy Jr.
Small Bird – Caspar Babypants
Take Me Away – Sunshine Collective
To and Fro –  Cat Doorman
Wind in Our Sail – Weezer

Look! Up in the Sky! It's the Laurie Berkner Band!

Sting is releasing his first CD of original pop music in more than a decade. It's an opportunity to introduce new fans to his catalog. Due to his career longevity, the majority of Sting's solo and recordings with The Police fall under the heading of "Classic Rock." Whether or not he trends with younger audiences depends upon how hip they find the 64-year-old former punk.

The Laurie Berkner Band has released SUPERHERO, its first CD of original children's tunes in eight years. Unlike Sting, Berkner and Company may not win back any lapsed fans – that's literally an eternity in kid's music. It's not like they've been on hiatus. Between FOOD SONGS and MOVEMENT SONGS and LOVE, there's been a ton of cover (and recycled) songs in the marketplace to remind people that Laurie Berkner is more than the first lady of children's music, she's a hearty brand.

Similar to Caspar Babypants on his website, Laurie writes liner notes (possibly not available with the download) for each song on SUPERHERO. For instance, "Tallulah Jones" came from her love of rhyming pure silliness. "I love the name Tallulah," she explains, "Plus, I'd really like to see a 10-foot egg":

Hello hello I am Tallulah Pegs
I’ve got a 10 foot house
Filled with 10 foot eggs
And I’ve got music in my legs

Laurie is ably backed by longtime keyboardist Susie Lampert, drummer Bobby Golden, and some guy named Brady Rymer on bass, who also duets on "Opelika Alabama."  Ziggy Marley also duets on My My Marisol" and yoga-mindfulness expert Kira Willey provides violin and vocals ("Swing Me") on the CD.

When Laurie started on this children's music thing, she was doing kids parties with no kids of her own.  Now her own daughter, Lucy Mueller, joins the family business on "Elephant In There." Some recording artists find themselves evolving and "growing" their sound as their families age. That's true to an extent with SUPERHERO, which clocks in at just under one hour. "1-2 Hands" is a speedy blur of a concept about bodies. "Face To Face" is a facial recognition song that I can see as part of her "The Music in Me" program.

Harkening back to her earliest recordings, there's a dance remix of "We Are the Dinosaurs" that older siblings can enjoy, too. But the bread and butter of the LBB audience are still the little people who weren't even conceived the last time Sting released a pop album. SUPERHERO mines all that toddlers desire and feel, which is Laurie's strength as a singer/performer. In a callback to "Hello Dolly," it's so nice to have Laurie back where she belongs. Others have tried to fill the vacancy in the intervening absence. But Laurie Berkner is back to reclaim those shoes... and pig hats.

SUPERHERO is available at Laurie's website, Amazon, iTunes, and other fine digital retailers.

Here is a video of the Laurie Berkner Band performing the new song, "Bicycle":

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Amistad (Featuring Dan Zanes) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Because I Love You – Caspar Babypants
Bop Bodiop! – Cat Doorman
Circle Of Friends – Vanessa Trien & The Jumping Monkeys
Ground Food – Ratboy Jr.
Picky Eaters – Danny Weinkauf
Rainbow Tunnel – Alison Faith Levy