Friday, February 08, 2013

Is This the Final Straw for Milkshake?

Baltimore's own Milkshake are back with their fifth CD, GOT A MINUTE?.  And they are seriously considering making it their final CD as a band. Why? They're growing up.

What, you say? But they're adults. How can adults grow up?

In order to explain, I'll need to digress from the band for a minute.

From my experiences, there are three types of children's musicians:
  1. Beloved veteran – Raffi, Bill Harley
  2. Dedicated pro – Dan Zanes, Laurie Berkner
  3. Intriguing newcomer – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, Billy Kelly, Joanie Leeds
The figurative "graveyard of children's recording artists" is littered with one album wonders, who thought it would be an easy market to conquer.

On the adjacent property fall those artists who recorded for a finite period of time, and then stopped to deal with real world issues or to segue into other areas of the business.

Berkner started her career a decade ago, prior to having children. Now she's started a family and renewed her motivation to maintain the mantle of one of the most requested children's recording artists.

Like many musicians, Roger Day entered the children's recording arena when his kids were fairly young. As he told me once, "My earliest songs are the simplest, motion-type songs." As his children grew older, the concepts in his recordings became more sophisticated. In fact, his most recent CD, Why Does Grey Matter?, is a concept album to teach kids why education is important.

Like Day, Milkshake's Lisa Mathews and Mikel Gehl's children appear on their recordings. It's family music in the literal sense. As the kids become part of the music, they are captured at that age forever. The music turns into a time capsule. But the people move on. And the four year distance since their last CD, GREAT DAY, is a chasm in a child's life.

According to Lisa and Mikel, Milkshake was conceived almost as an organic part of their kids' childhoods. Each recording fit the developmental stage of their children's lives. Now that the kids are hitting their teen years, do they really need to be singing "Clap My Hands"?

GOT A MINUTE? works on two levels. First, it anthologizes the band's early one-minute recordings for PBS KIDS and adds another 20 short, zesty songs. Second, it encapsulates the group's spirit as if to remind you, "This is Milkshake – remember them."

The band sings about odd jobs ("Workin' Kid Blues"), recycling ("This Is Our Earth"), and pollution ("Washing Machine"):

If the world could fit in my backyard
Well, keeping it clean wouldn't be so hard.
So that's why I say
We all have a part to play.

You also get a jaunty cover of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," best known as a novelty tune made famous by Tiny Tim. Once again, a one-hit fluke changes from kitsch to hip as it travels through the looking glass to a new generation.

Likely Lisa, Mikel, and their crew have more to say. They may have outgrown the vehicle known as Milkshake but their followers are also growing up. There's a difference between growing up and moving on. Take a little time to enjoy Milkshake while they're still with us.

GOT A MINUTE? is available on March 26 from the band's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is a video of one of their PBS KIDS songs, "It's My Birthday":


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