Friday, August 09, 2013

Love That Bob: Decades of Dependability

Few people become instantly familiar when you refer to them by something longer than their actual name. If you name-drop "Bob McGrath" and get head scratching in return, try "Bob from Sesame Street" and watch the jubilation.

A ubiquitous presence on American television for more than 40 years due to his tenure on PBS' Sesame Street, Bob has also written books and released nine children's recordings. He considers his latest, BOB'S FAVORITE SING ALONG SONGS, to be a compendium of tunes from the "great American songbook for children."

Essentially a "greatest hits" collection with 15 songs from two earlier "Sing Along With Bob" albums, the twist is the inclusion of new instrumental versions that follow every track. So kids can listen (or sing along) with Bob, and then perform their own karaoke versions. Lyrics are included in the packaging.

Don't look for classic Sesame tunes here (that's another one of Bob's CDs). Songs range from the very familiar ("Wheels on the Bus") to the semi-obscure ("Skinamarink"). After 60-plus years of singing and performing, Bob's voice is just as you remember it – a clear, strong tenor that bends to the necessary emotions of the moment. For example, the litany of feelings expressed in "If You're Happy and You Know It."

Back in 1969, my school (MacAfee Road School in Somerset, NJ) was chosen to "beta test" a new children's TV show. They marched a few hundred kids into the auditorium and unspooled 30 minutes of test footage for what became Sesame Street. I remember the night the show premiered, I was allowed to stay up late to see it (I recall a 7:30 pm start). Ironically, I yawned after a few minutes because "I saw this stuff." But I became a Sesame convert soon after and it was thrill to receive this CD, decades later.

In the age of social media and to-the-minute updates, it's a little frustrating that Bob's online presence seems stalled in 2008. That's when his Facebook page, blog site, and personal website were last updated. But that again, give the man a break – he's 81 and still active on the Street. You all know who Bob is and you all know what you're getting with this collection. The only question is, "Who are the people in your neighborhood?" That's Bob's signature song but you won't find him singing it on this collection, But that's okay. And he's okay, too.

BOB'S FAVORITE SING ALONG SONGS is available from Bob's website, Amazon, AllMusic, and iTunes.

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