Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, August 1, 2013

Little Little Baby – The Harmonica Pocket
Set Fire To The Rain – Adele
Gingerbread Man – Lunch Money
I Wanna Party – Hot Wings
Yes And No – Caspar Babypants
Ride In My Little Red Wagon  – Willie & The Wheel
Bicycle Built For Two – Frances England
Metaphor  – The Alphabeticians
Mothership – Mr. Saxophone

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 31, 2013

First Day of School – Ethan Rossiter And The Jamberries
In A Timeout Now – Randy Kaplan
Move Like Saturday Night – Frances England
If You Want a Mustache – Space Balloons
Veo Veo – Mariana Iranzi
Flat Stanley – Steve Songs
Row Row Row Your Boat – Caspar Babypants
Big Green Party Machine – David Heatley
Come To California  – The Hipwaders

Ratputin: Despot in My Basement (new podcast)

The battle was on.
It was resident versus rodent.

It was occupant versus irritant.

It was nature versus nurture.

It's the age-old battle between an old man and the elements. This isn't a Pixar movie - I wanted to find and remove the pest from my premises.

Did I succeed? Wait for the post-button epilogue, recorded at the deadline!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I Just Had an Idea – Elska
Change My Mind – One Direction
Go Plane Go – Kira Willey
First Day – The Board of Education
Did You Feed My Cow? – Ella Jenkins
I Knew You Were Trouble – Taylor Swift
Because I Said So! – Big Bang Boom
Peace Sign – David Tobocman
Poodles of Mass Destruction – David Heatley
Blink Of An Eye – Frances England

American Kids Music? Must Be Frances England

Children's recording artists oftentimes have a fascinating decision to make.

Make of them are brought into children's music through their own families. Roger Day, for instance, played in local bands but started creating kids songs for his own brood.

The decision comes as their own children grow up – but their audience remains mostly in the same age set. When you're used to recording music for three-year-olds, who then become six-year-olds, then 12-year-olds, do you abandon the demographic that "made" you what you are? Or do you advance with them and, at the same time, cease to be a "children's recording artist"?

I bring up Roger Day who directly told me that he made the decision to move away from "little kid" songs and into the mysterious world of "tween" music. Which meant some rap, more guitars, and harder themes. In the other direction, Laurie Berkner seems content to stay with the younger audiences and more power to her.

Another artist who has gone across that divide, to a lesser degree, is the ethereal Frances England. Her new CD, BLINK OF AN EYE, would appear at first listening, to be on the same level as her previous three releases. But England admits that as her own children have grown up, she heard them playing artists such as Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift. England said that "BLINK OF AN EYE is geared for a slightly older audience...and has a quiet pop sensibility about it that I hope both kids and parents will like."

Dean Jones again dons his producer hat and guest performers include Elizabeth Mitchell ("Look How the Light Dances With Trees"), Caspar Babypants and Morgan Taylor (Gustafer Yellowgold, Underbirds), and Molly Ledford of Lunch Money ("Bicycle Built for Two").

Frances England has always been the "accidental tourist" of childrens music. Her first CD, FASCINATING CREATURES, was recorded as a fundraiser for his son's preschool and became an Internet favorite, catapulting her to kindie fame. BLINK OF AN EYE renews her gentle, lilting sound. While not breaking any new ground, I appreciate another 28-minute increment of England's musicality. The hardest "edge" you're going to get is "Move Like Saturday Night," which has a hint of electric guitar. More often than not, the CD reminds kids that they are special, as in "Day You Were Born."

Speaking of "growing up" concerns, "Bicycle Built For Two" stays true to the child in everyone:

Rolling down the sidewalk into the park
People everywhere, breathing in the fresh air
You remark on how much you can see
Daisies in the grass, Squirrels in the trees
On our bicycle built for two.
I wanna ride on it, I wanna ride with you.

If BLINK OF AN EYE is Frances England growing up, then I'm all for it.

BLINK OF AN EYE is available at Frances England's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for "Tell Me It All," a song from the new CD:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 29, 2013

May This Be Love – Elizabeth Mitchell
Hola Hello – Mariana Iranzi
I'm a Shark (I Rock, I Swim) – ScribbleMonster
Playin' On A Sunday – David Tobocman
All In This Together (MLK) – Steve Songs
I'm So Glad – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band
Up In Cat's Room – David Heatley
Fruit Nut – XTC

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 26, 2013

Puzzle Pieces Within – Lunch Money
Millions of Things – Like Totally!
Pleadia – Andy Z
Changes – David Bowie
Pizza pie – Nick Cope
Try it – Milkshake
Show Me  – Bruno Mars
In Tents – Recess Monkey
Potted Plant Guy – David Heatley
Why Is Dad So Mad? – The Board of Education

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, July 25, 2013

Little Things – One Direction
Silent Night – Dan Zanes
Grumpy Boy – Steve Songs
Gingerbread Man – Lunch Money
Just a Normal Day – Lesley and the Flying Foxes
Me and My Brand New Haircut – Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs
Sunglasses – The Que Pastas
Kiss With A Fist – Florence + The Machine
Face the Bird – Pete Donnelley
Otis Dooda Theme – David Heatley

Strange But True: Otis, the Dooda Day

I'm not feeling too good about rats right now (you can listen to my podcast to hear my reasoning). So I went into OTIS DOODA: STRANGE BUT TRUE with one strike against it (the title character has a pet rat).

It's the story of a boy yanked from his natural habitat (anywhere a kid feels comfortable) when his family moves to New York and into the very odd Tidwell Towers. But wait – I did not read the book, I heard the soundtrack. Illustrator David Heatley decided the subject material was too rich for mere drawings. He created an accompanying CD, complete with an "Otis Dooda Theme" and songs about the various characters and situations.

It's tough to get boys to read books. I know, I have a 12-year-old and he'd rather play a game on the iPad or watch a video. But he loves music. And if music can organically bring him to reading something new, more power to it.

Author Ellen Potter went through the same mini "crisis" with her seven year old son, Ian. Using his suggestions, Potter drew from her childhood, where she lived in a New York City apartment building and made up crazy stories about the other inhabitants.

STRANGE BUT TRUE chronicles Otis' encounters with "Subway Zombies," "Peaches the French Gerbil Hound," and Potted Plant Guy." Otis befriends a girl neighbor named Cat, leading to "Up In Cat's Room," an adolescent Velvet Underground take on Bruce Springsteen's "Candy's Room."

Coming into OTIS DOODA from the music end, it reminded me of Andy Z's GRAND SCREAM OF THINGS. Except Andy Z produced a "Tubby the Tuba"-esque radio play. Potter and Heatley have created a hand-in-hand multimedia project. You can listen to the music and picture the characters, but it helps to have the roadmap. I'd suggest a color PDF for anyone who buys the CD electronically, to give them a true taste of Dooda. Yeah, I know how that sounds.

I'd give OTIS DOODA: STRANGE BUT TRUE by itself an "incomplete." My son loves music and this CD will eventually go into his rotation. Now if I could only get him to willingly read the book. But that's another story.

OTIS DOODA: STRANGE BUT TRUE is available at the book's Web site, Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp.

Here is the animated (Lego) book trailer:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Frog – Artichoke
It's Not Fair to Me – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Born To Rock – David Tobocman
The Plumbing Song – Weird Al Yankovic
Punkin' Patch – Andy Z
Si Fuese – Mariana Iranzi
80's Celebration – The Reduction Agents
Otis – Justin Roberts
Love Will Remember – Selena Gomez

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Turning Tables – Adele
When the World Was New – Dean Jones
Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen
Hideous Sweater – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Superhero You – Steve Songs
A Dog Named Bruce – Ralph's World
Sell Out – Reel Big Fish
Great Is Better – Rabbit!
Upside Down – Ratboy Jr.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 22, 2013

Stand With Me – Dean Jones
I Almost Do – Taylor Swift
Peaceful – Cat Doorman
C'mon, C'mon – One Direction
Flat Stanley – Steve Songs
Shake It Off! – Uncle Rock
Locked Out Of Heaven – Bruno Mars
Looking For Trains – Justin Roberts
Hippie Mom – Big Bang Boom

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 19, 2013

Gingerbread Man – Lunch Money
Mother Nature's Son – Aaron Nigel Smith
Bike  – Charity And The JAMband
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star – Caspar Babypants
Birthday – Milkshake
State Of Grace – Taylor Swift
Everybody's Going Out To Play – Billy Kelly & The Blah Blah Blahs
My Secret Robot –  Justin Roberts
Human Bean – Dean Jones

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, July 18, 2013

Puzzle Pieces Within – Lunch Money
Snow Day – Zak Morgan
My Eraser – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Brilliance  – The Underbirds
Everybody's Got their Underwear On – Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs
Join a Rock and Roll Band – Dean Jones
Alien Girlfriend – Andy Z
Kangaroo! – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band
I'll Be An Alien – Justin Roberts
I Found You – Caspar Babypants

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Flat Stanley – Play Date
Prehensile Grip – Dean Jones
Young Girls – Bruno Mars
Heart Attack – One Direction
I Walk The Line – Chris Isaak
Let 'em Know – Milkshake
All In This Together (MLK) – Steve Songs
Candy Garden  – The Bazillions
Recess – Justin Roberts
Bonsai – Billy Kelly & The Blah Blah Blahs

Justin Roberts Muscles To Top of Kindie Rock

Hey, remember Raffi? Sure, everyone remembers Raffi. In fact, many people still connect the dots from "childrens music" to "Raffi," even if the latter hadn't done the former for close to 10 years.

Nowadays, the "face" of childrens music is disputed. Is it Dan Zanes? Is it Laure Berkner? Is it Elizabeth Mitchell? I want to throw another name into the equation – Justin Roberts. With his Not Ready for Naptime Players, Roberts is of those musicians who traverses the country and performs a countless number of shows every year. And it's easy to describe him to those jaded adults who haven't kept up with the kindie scene – he's Raffi on steroids.

Am I serious? Does Elmo love you? Raffi sang "Baby Beluga." Justin sings "Willie Was a Whale." Raffi sang "The Wheels on the Bus." Justin sings "Yellow Bus." Raffi put many parents to sleep. Earlier this year, Justin released a CD entitled LULLABY. Am I starting to make sense?

More than that, Justin is all about singing from a child's perspective. Most kids would rather rock than slumber. Which brings me (about time) to the new Justin Roberts' CD, RECESS. We start with the rocking title track, move swiftly into the playful "I'll Be An Alien," and stay in the playground for "Hopscotch." Even my two-year-old could relate to "Check Me Out, I'm At The Checkout," since he's already a supermarket veteran and ready and willing to empty the cart. The CD features jamming guitars, triumphant horns, and enough oomph to bring the stodgiest parent to his feet.

Imagining a world of sexual equality, Justin envisions the shock when "The Princess Wore Pink." Every kid who's ever pushed every button in an elevator will see themselves in "Otis," as well as every frustrated adult trapped alongside them. "Every Little Step" tells the story of a boy and his dog, with Justin singing as the dog:

When you come home, I'll come running.
When you're gone, you know I'm gonna stay.
By the door, I'm sleeping on the floor.
You know I'm with you every single step of the way.

With Justin Roberts, you aren't going to get lots of winking or thrown-in references to cultural anachronisms that get an easy pop from parents. You're going to get beautifully crafted, deceptively pervasive childrens music. Judging from the list of awards (not to mention a 2010 Grammy nomination), I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Raffi climbed his way to the top of childrens music by hypnotizing his audience. Justin Roberts reached the mountaintop by waking up his audience and taking them on a romp, whether it's through the JUNGLE GYM (his 2010 album) or reminding them it's NOT NAPTIME (from 2003). The year 2013 may be time for Justin Roberts' RECESS, but by no means is he ready to rest on his laurels.

RECESS is available at Justin Roberts' website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for "COUNT THEM AS THEY GO," from the LULLABY CD:

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Effervescing Elephant – Cat Doorman
You're Embarrassing Me – The Bazillions
You Made Me A Sock Monkey – Billy Kelly & The Blah Blah Blahs
Wag More (Featuring Indigo Girls) – Boxtop Jenkins
The Owie Song – David Tobocman
Kangaroo  – Caspar Babypants
I'm So Glad – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band
Make Me – Big Bang Boom
Gene the Brave – The Que Pastas
Candy Shop – Ethan Rossiter And The Jamberries
Rock Me – One Direction

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 15, 2013

Angels We Have Heard On High – Dan Zanes
Up All Night – One Direction
Explore, Learn, and Protect (Featuring Omagh Community Youth Choir) – Jeff Wolin
My Happiness – Chris Isaak
Continental Geography – Astrograss
Come To California  – The Hipwaders
Balloon Fest – Ozomatli
My Magic Trick –  Ralph's World
Are We There Yet?  – Big Bang Boom

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 12, 2013

Are You a Mirror (...Or a Window?) – Quiet Company
Joy to the World – Dan Zanes
Good Time – Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen
I Am the Wind  – Underbirds
Freak Out – Astrograss
Out Of The Box – The Bazillions
Don't – Ejs Big Box of Love
You've Got A Friend In Me (Featuring Chris Smither) – Alastair Moock
Hootenanny – Jambo
Give Me Back My Hat – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sleepover  – Ellen & Mark
Talkin' Bout Love – The Little Rockers Band
Music Makes Me Feel – Astrograss
DeeDee Taught Me How To Count – Kepi Ghoulie
Breakfast  – Ratboy Jr.
Melody In Me – Shine & the Moonbeams
Are We There Yet? – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
Take A Little Walk With Me (Featuring Elizabeth Mitchell) – Alastair Moock
Flat Stanley – Steve Songs

Alastair Moock's Answer to Cancer

There's an intriguing story about filmmaker Woody Allen. After he made the critically-successful and box office favorite ANNIE HALL, he went to Orion Pictures with the script for his next project, INTERIORS.  Head of product Alan Ladd Jr. was understandably hesitant – it was a complete 180 from Allen's previous warm, personal, and funny Oscar-winning movie. But Ladd committed to the picture and INTERIORS was made, distributed, and slaughtered by the press and public alike.

Years later, Ladd was asked why he had signed off on such a downer of a film, one that was destined from the beginning to be a failure. Ladd replied, "It was necessary for Woody's development as a filmmaker." Ladd was willing to invest $10M of Orion's money on the hope that Allen would continue to evolve and bloom, which he did.
Alastair Moock traveled down a similar road this past year. A year ago, one of his five-year-old twin daughters (Clio) has diagnosed with ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia). Everybody take a deep breath. She's in remission now. Along the way, Alastair decided the best way to combat the boredom and everyday terror of pediatric cancer was through music. He embarked on a project that could serve as a resource for patients and pediatric oncology programs.

SINGING OUR WAY THROUGH: Songs for the World's Bravest Kids is not your typical children's music CD. In fact, it's unlike anything since Dennis Caraher's album, PRACTICING DEATH, which helped kids come to terms with mortality. Moock is obviously narrowcasting to a very specific audience. Reviews and press coverage are for publicity more than anything else, since I can't see many unaffected families running to purchase the CD to expose their children to cancer and its affects.

From the opening line "C is for cancer, that's growing in me," the listener is in for a rough but illuminating ride. This is not background music. Moock brings you into the PICU to ride out the entire experience that Clio and his family went through. Themes include siblings ("Have You Ever Been Jealous?"), parents ("Take Care of Your Grownups"), and physicality ("When I Get Bald" and "I'm a Little Monkey").

The result of a crowd-funding campaign, proceeds from SINGING OUR WAY THROUGH will go towards putting the music into family cancer programs across the country. It's tough to argue with a performer who clearly states that his goal with this CD is "to bring some joy to kids with cancer." Holy cow. Mission accomplished, Mr. Moock.

SINGING OUR WAY THROUGH is available through Alastair Moock's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the official video for "When I Get Bald," featuring Alastair Moock and his daughter, Clio.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 10, 2013

This Little Piggy – Elizabeth McQueen
Gingerbread Man – Lunch Money
When You Wish Upon a Star – Gene Simmons
Don't Play With Your Food – Jambo
Similes And Metaphors – The Bazillions
National Fossil Day  – Jeff Wolin
Bandwagon (Featuring Rachel Loshak, Dean Jones & Justin Lansing) – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
The Crocodile (Wouldn't Brush His Teeth) – Boxtop Jenkins
Guitar Pickin' Chicken – Ratboy Jr.
Copycat – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Playground – Astrograss

Monday, July 08, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Delicious – Orange Sherbert
More Than Me – Milkshake
Begin Again – Taylor Swift
Participation Trophy – The Not-Its
We Are All One Kind – Jambo
A Dog Named Bruce – Ralph's World
Kiss With A Fist – Florence + The Machine
I Love New York – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
Imagination – Shine and the Moonbeams
No Homework – The Bazillions

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 8, 2013

What Will You Ever See? – Lunch Money
What'd I Say – Ray Charles
Kiss You – One Direction
Clap Your Hands – The Time Outs
Dear One  – Jim James
Good Morning Everything – Lesley & the Flying Foxes
Family Tree (Featuring Jonatha Brooke)  – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
No, No, No – The Little Rockers Band

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 5, 2013

Swinging on a Star – Zak Morgan
Lose My Mind – The Wanted
Shake it Out – Florence + The Machine
Tell Me A Lie – One Direction
Escalator – David Tobocman
Nutritious  – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
Hootenanny – Jambo
Follow Me When I Leave – Underbirds

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, July 4, 2013

Thank You and Goodnight – Uncle Rock
Exactly Where I Want To Be – Grenadilla
I Think I Can – Ethan Rossiter And The Jamberries
Everybody's a Baby 'bout Something – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Electricity Man – Karlee Dean and Bill Goffrier
Robots On the Dance FloorvRhymezwell
Come To California – The Hipwaders
Natalie – Bruno Mars
Stand UpvKira Willey
Little Cloud (Featuring Rachel Loshak)vJoanie Leeds And The Nightlights
Take It On Over (Timeout) – Princess Katie & Racer Steve
Rainbow – Milkshake

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Ground – Underbirds
Is This a Joke?  – Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs
Public Skool – The Travoltas
Pretend Your Hand's A Puppet – Ratboy Jr.
Heart Attack – One Direction
Music – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band
Fart Like a Pirate – Papa Crow
Let's Go – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
Tambourine Submarine – Recess Monkey
Red – Taylor Swift

Katie and Steve Bring the Music With Love, Cake and Monsters

Three years is an eternity in kid's music. If the average age of your fan base is 6-7 years old, they can grow completely out of your demographic in that timeframe. It's especially dangerous for a novelty act. Raffi vanished for 10 years yet returned this spring for a triumphant tour (fueled by nostalgic parental memories, as I doubt the venues were packed with Baby Beluga-garbed goth teens).

From the void re-appear Princess Katie and Racer Steve. As if resuscitated ala Cinderella via the kiss of a handsome, wandering Prince, the duo have returned with their fourth CD, LOVE, CAKE, AND MONSTERS. It's their first new release since 2010 yet the pair are back with nary a false step nor a speck of dust.

When we last left Katie O'Sullivan and Steve Borne, they were honing their outreach efforts for abused, neglected, and at-risk children through a high-energy multi-media presentation of music and skits. This new collection fits nicely into their oeuvre, with disco-fied takes on fighting ("Hug It Out" and "Take It On Over [Time Out]") and dancing ("I Got This").

Lyrically, Katie and Steve present simple kids concerns in an understandable format. As per the performers, there's some wackiness and imagery. In "Comet Pinky's Love Cake," the lead character bakes his products with love. In the adjacent skit, "Mr.  Stanstiglioni," a monster buys a cake to win the affections of his ladyfriend. Another terrifying figure seeks employment in the next skit, "Monster Gets a Job." Just in case the tykes start to believe such creatures exist, never fear – there's the therapeutic "Hey, Monster" to clear things up:

Hey, Monster! We don't believe in you
No matter what you try to do
We know you're not real.

Production-wise, LOVE, CAKE, AND MONSTERS is as smooth and shiny as one can expect (from a kid's CD not produced by Dean Jones, that is). A sound engineer by trade, Steve Borne fills your speakers with instruments and sound effects. Not to mention some exceptional guitar licks. Vocally, Katie O'Sullivan is no girl soprano. She (and AudraRox to some extent) provide hope and inspiration to lovers of a deeper, full-throated sound.

It's a little mystifying that this CD is being released in July with a monster theme, complete with the album-ending tale, "HALLOWEEN," featuring the 53-piece Macedonian Radio Symphonic Orchestra. But good things come to those who wait, and fans of Princess Katie and Racer Steve have certainly waited long enough for their next endeavor.

LOVE, CAKE, AND MONSTERS is available on Princess Katie and Racer Steve's website, Amazon, CDBABY. and iTunes.

Here is the video for "Sand in My Sandwich" from TINY COOL:

Monday, July 01, 2013

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 2, 2013

a wild one – Justin Roberts
Wimoweh – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Lazy Raisins – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
We Just Wanna Have Fun – Milkshake
Rocketfuel – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Busy – The Not-Its
You're On Fire – They Might Be Giants
Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin
Mr. Blue Sky – Billy Kelly & The Blah Blah Blahs