Thursday, September 12, 2013

Traveling Back (in Time) to Brooklyn With Lloyd Miller

Talk about pulling a 180-degree turnaround.

My last review was for Josh and the Jamtones, an unrepentant "good-time" kids band. This week, I'm tackling Lloyd Miller's latest CD, S.S. BROOKLYN – a veritable minefield of educational tunes.

Now Lloyd's a good egg. In fact, he even recorded a surprise, short video for Ben's birthday earlier this year (thanks, Lloyd). The majority of my blog posts are the playlists made every weeknight by Ben. In addition to those playlists, Ben also chooses two songs that will wake him up in the morning. Two Deedle Deedle Dees songs ("Ah Ahimsa" and "A Song For Abigail Adams") have both racked up impressive totals of more than 60 selections.

Taking a break from the Deedles, "America's Ultimate Teaching Band," Lloyd does not stroll far from home. In fact, he's all about the borough of Brooklyn. The leader of a weekly traveling sing-along project, Lloyd decided to record many of the popular favorites from these sessions, under the able hands of kids music uber-producer Dean Jones (Dog On Fleas). S.S. BROOKLYN features some Deedle faves ("Honk Honk (Major Deegan)" and "Henry (Hi-Ya-Ya)," about Henry Hudson) as well as time capsule-esque location setters "Gowanus Canal" and "Carroll Street Bridge." There's a lot of bridge-building going on here, if you include "Working on a Bridge," co-written with his daughter, Hazel.

Lloyd gives himself a breather so the kids can participate on "I'm a Duck!" and "I'm a Rat." Having just battled some invasive basement dwellers for most of the summer, that's the one tune we won't be hitting on replay any time soon. You also get the timely "Seventeen Years (A Cicada Love Song)":

I've been underground so long.
I missed the last few years of Bill and the first few of Barack.
I've been down in darkness so long,
I missed all eight years of W, I'm so glad we can talk
After 17 years.

When I first saw the cover art for S.S. BROOKLYN, I got a distinct Windsor McKay/Little Nemo vibe. It turns out to be public domain artwork from the legendary Walt Kelly (Pogo). That's why I'm stressing that Lloyd is taking kids back in time with his music, Not only does the modern seven-year-old not know Pogo, but his thirtysomething parents likely (and sadly) are in the dark as well about the character and the Okefenoke Swamp.

None of that stops the affable Mr. Miller from leading the neighborhood kids in a chorus of "I'm Gonna Light Up the World." And it all wraps up with the title track, where Lloyd reminds us, "We're all in the boat, we gotta get along." Already more of a message than most of the Jamtones' CD, if you wish to do an apples versus oranges comparison. But don't shoot the messenger, especially a bike messenger such as the narrator of "Brooklyn By Bike" or you'll miss highlights from around the borough.

There may not (yet) be a market for historical rock. But Lloyd (and the Deedles) have set sail for the long haul. With S.S. BROOKLYN, Miller looks forward to sailing into the future (and the past) at the same time.

S.S. BROOKLYN is available from Lloyd's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for "Seventeen Years":

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