Thursday, September 03, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Friday, September 4, 2015

Cheese World – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Everything I Didn't Say – 5 Seconds of Summer
Grizzly Bear – Red Yarn
Right Here Now – Renee & Friends Featuring Freckles
Say Hey! – Mil's Trills
This Land – Rolie Polie Guacamole
This Little Light Of Mine – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
You Are My Sunshine – The Harmonica Pocket

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, September 3, 2015

All Around the Kitchen – Andy Z
Bionic (feat. Shiz & Lady Asha) – Father Goose
Bird Belly – Rolie Polie Guacamole
Gratitude – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
Hamsterdam –  Ratboy Jr.
Hello Goodbye – Caspar Babypants
Hot Air – Recess Monkey
This Bright Dream – Renee & Friends Featuring Tom Rossi
Trapped In The Attic – Lloyd H. Miller

Andrew & Polly Polish Some Odds & Ends

What do you want to be when you grow up? Andrew & Polly have figured out that there's a future to be made in staying young. The married Los Angeles duo produce music for Nick's Wallykazam as well as film and television. But their passion is children's music, as they demonstrate with their nifty new kids podcast, Ear Snacks, and their second full-length CD, ODDS & ENDS.

Polly Hall and Andrew Barkan met in college and began a life partnership that includes the aforementioned projects (as well as one-year old Izzy). Their children's music is almost a distraction from the real world, however they've managed to squeeze in recording time in their home studio. It helps that they can play all the instruments (except banjo and trombone). ODDS & ENDS sprints along at a brisk 28 minutes with 10 tracks meticulously crammed into order. Highlights include a rousing kid chorus on "Ghostbusters" (which points out that in the Age of the Internet, it would help to have your phone or contact information in your theme song) and the lively summer single "Grapes," which is gaining momentum on SiriusXM's KidsPlace. A lilting version of Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" defines Andrew & Polly's mission statement to remain young at heart. The often-recorded "Here Comes the Sun" closes out the disc by whistling through a nostalgic note of optimism.

The challenge with all recording artists is to continue sounding fresh and new while mining for material in their own lives. As their careers progress (and their son matures), we'll see how well Andrew & Polly deal with the curveballs that inevitably come everyone's way. As Roger Day once told me, he started out with simple movement songs that amused his young children, evolved into a storyteller to keep their interest, and now records educational tracks that are used in junior and high school science programs.

The line of delineation for any children's CD is whether or not the original songs hold their own against the covers. By using George Harrison and Bob Dylan as their yardsticks, it's almost an impossible task for Andrew & Polly. However young listeners may prefer "Little Bitta You" and "Fruitphabit" to the loftier and philosophical messages from those classic rock icons.

The world can be a confusing, messy place and kids in general often find themselves messy and confused. Andrew & Polly get down in the trenches and deliver wholesome, friendly music to redirect them from kiddie chaos back to the structured, nurturing arms of their parents. Not to mention their parents' CD player or portable music device. Life through Andrew & Polly some curveballs and it took them five years to mount their second CD. Let's hope their son Izzy isn't old enough to producing their music the next time they get around to recording another collection of songs.

ODDS & ENDS is available September 25 from Andrew & Polly's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes. Visit the website for a link to grab their Ear Snacks podcast.

Here is the video for Andrew & Polly's song, "Please Be Mine":

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Animal Kingdom – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Free Ride Everyday – Lori Henriques
Hey Jude – Caspar Babypants
I Am Not Afraid – Renee & Friends Featuring Caspar Babypants
Let's Be Friends – Mil's Trills
Mystery – Dean Jones
Rolie Polie – Rolie Polie Guacamole
This Land Is Your Land – Alastair Moock & Friends

Hot Fresh Rolie Polie Guacamole, Cookie Jar's Poignant "Goodbye" Song

In olden days, musicians would literally sing for their supper. Nowadays, children's musicians are more likely to sing about their supper. In the case of Rolie Polie Guacamole, you're clued in from their name. Now up to their fifth release, CHIPS AND SALSA, the Brooklyn-born ensemble recruited uber-producer Dean Jones to amp up their sound.

The South American-tingled nomenclature aside, Rolie Polie Guacamole is Frank Gallo (former child actor turned versatile musician) and Soviet emigre Andrew Tuzhilin. After meeting in high school in New Jersey, the duo turned their mutual interest into kindie's good fortune in 2008. Their output since then has been prolific and rhythmic.

CHIPS AND SALSA breaks little new ground if you're already familiar with the group. You get your food songs like "Açai," "Apples," and "Bird Bellyful" (a favorite of my older song). Then there are the prerequisite instructional tunes such as "Always Brush Your Teeth" and "Red Light Green Light." In the middleground are activity and locational numbers, represented by "Musuem of Natural History" and "Central Park."

Rolie Polie Guacamole employ steel drums, twanging guitars, and oodles of harmonies. Guest artists include the Chapin Sisters, Jen Chapin, Primus' Mike Dillon, and Mil's Trills' Amelia Robinson. Singer/songwriter Katie Mullins turns up on "Açai" to sing about delightful purple berries. Don't expect music that sets out to change the world and you'll find yourself satisfied with this latest collection. With its mix of easy listening beats and singable lyrics, CHIPS AND SALSA can fill your youngster's afternoon as well as subliminally quench their appetite for music.

CHIPS AND SALSA is available September 25 from Rolie Polie Guacamole's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the band's cover of "This Land Is Your Land":


Change is an integral part of life, moreso for children than anyone else. Simply growing older and (hopefully) growing up means new classrooms, new settings, new challenges, and new people. Sometimes it even means saying goodbye to your most cherished people and places. Mista Cookie Jar returns with this month's song selection, "BFF Goodbye," to chronicle that experience:

My best friend is leaving today.
And hangin’ ‘round this town
won’t ever be the same.
We say that we’ll be friends forever
so why’s it sad to say
next time we meet it’ll be like
nothing ever changed?
‘Cuz life it changes.

The most frustrating question a child can ask is "Why," especially when the only answer you can give is "because." CJ attempts to defuse this sensitive real-life situation and I personally root for him to succeed. I'm handling these matters with as much grace as possible these days. The more you can protect your children from the realities of the world until they're old enough and grown tough enough defense systems, the better for everyone in your family.

Pay a buck and download the tune here from Mista Cookie Jar.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bile Them Cabbage  – Red Yarn
Drive My Car  – Caspar Babypants
Every Day's A Holiday  – Alastair Moock & Friends
Great Big Sky  – Mil's Trills
I've Got Friends In New Jersey  – Rocknoceros
Mama Don't Allow  – In The Nick Of Time
Paper Airplane  – Recess Monkey
Sing in the Sun  – The Harmonica Pocket
Starfish and Coffee  – Renee & Friends Featuring Maya Rudolph

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Monday, August 31, 2015

All In A Day – Alastair Moock & Friends
All the Pretty Horses – Cat Doorman
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Follow The Drinking Gourd –  Lloyd H. Miller
Gather Round – Renee & Friends Featuring Lisa Loeb
Jelly Beans! – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
Right Side of the Bed – Ratboy Jr.
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
The Word –  Caspar Babypants

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Friday, August 28, 2015

The Bright Side Of Me – Alastair Moock & Friends
Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Carry a Tune – Recess Monkey
From Scratch – Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer
Gypsy Whale Waltz – Pointed Man Band
I Love U (Jz Remix) – Josh And The Jamtones
One After 909 – Caspar Babypants
Shake a Friend's Hand – Andy Z
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy

Renee & Friends Insist You Stay Simpatico

It pays to have friends. Vocalist Renee Stahl (of Renee and Jeremy fame) has called upon a laundry list of celebrated names for her latest children's music release, SIMPATICO. From her longtime producer, Rich Jacques to Men at Work frontman Colin Hay, everyone "Gather Round" to hear the lilting SoCal harmonies and dreamy acoustic arrangements.

Renee is among the performers who quantify their work as for "families of all ages," not limiting their music to the small fry set. To that end, I'd stock the Renee & Friends CD under "Unplugged" or "Easy Listening." You won't find crashing drums, thumping dance beats, or electric guitar solos. Renee has built her reputation on the Brian Wilson book of values – love thy neighbor as if they are family.

Among the most poignant of the tunes on this collection is the ode from a parent to child, "You Were Meant To Be," performed with Glen Phillips from Toad the Wet Sprocket:

I can't promise you won't need to cry.
I'll help you wipe the tears from your eyes.
There's one thing that you wanna know is true,
Please don't forget that you were meant to be here
Through hard days and sweet years.
Through laughter and warm tears,
You were meant to be here.
You were meant to be.

My two sons have gotten me through some pretty dark clouds and "You Were Meant To Be" hit me in the solar plexus. I cannot underplay the visceral emotion reaction I had to that song, as well as the Broadway classic, "Happiness," from "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown," warbled with Renee's former Cleveland school classmate, SNL's Molly Shannon. I attempted to sing along to the latter for my kids and could not get my voice to stop cracking. Gosh thanks for ruining the song, dad!

My kids were excited to hear such favorites of theirs like Caspar Babypants ("I Am Not Afraid") and Lisa Loeb ("Gather Round"). It's ironic to use such a term about this kind of laid-back music, but it's appropriate under these circumstances. Rich Jacques is a consummate studio general and the production values are crystal clear and crisp. With the number of performers on SIMPATICO, I hate to leave anyone out. There are a dozen songs and 15 people listed as "friends" on the website. With that many friends, Renee is in good company. It makes Renee & Friends good company to be around, providing music for families of all ages.

SIMPATICO is available August 28 from Renee and Friends' website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is a video of Renee and Friends' song, "Gather Round":

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dad Is Takin' a Nap – Keith Munslow
Ghost Riders in the Sky – Andy Z
God Bless America – Rocknoceros
Ground Food – Ratboy Jr.
Loving Cup – Cat Doorman
Pj Party –  Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Rainbow Tunnel – Alison Faith Levy
Spatula Vs Sun – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips
Tunneling To Paradise – Pointed Man Band