Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, May 1, 2014

Rattlesnake – Red Yarn
The World Is a Wonderful Place – Nora and One Left
Shine – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
Effervescing Elephant –  Cat Doorman
Future Days – Pearl Jam
Fart Like a Pirate – Papa Crow
The Flying Fox – Davy Andrews
Give Me Back My Hat – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Are We There Yet?  – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
H-U-L-L-A-B-A-L-O-O  – Hullabaloo
My Daddy's Record Collection – Sugar Free Allstars

Suzi Shelton: Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile

Want an easy way to tell how dedicated a recording artist is to children's music? When there are more kids vocalists listed in the credits than musicians. New York-based Suzi Shelton certainly passes the first down marker with flying colors on her new CD, SMILE IN MY HEART, her first collection in six years.

Suzi has staked out her position just right of "girl power" and adjacent to "kindie folk." You get the upbeat little chick anthem, "Tomboy in a Princess Dress" as well as a faithful cover of "Pony Boy" (featuring kindie fave Little Miss Ann). Speaking of faithful, there are those among us who believe you can never have too much Jonathan Richman. And Suzi keeps his spirit alive by ringing a perky "Ice Cream Man."

For your inner folk singer, Suzi and her band deliver the one-two punch of "Banjo Pickin' Girl" and "Jubilee." The latter song was plucked right out from under Dan Zanes, where it would sound equally as appropriate. For the toddling set, Suzi includes a tune co-written by a four-year-old student, "Go, Fire Truck, Go." And present (and past) doll collectors will smile at the ballad, "Cinnamon Bear":

He was a bear, a cinnamon bear.
And he was wild, happy, and free.
He was a bear, a cinnamon bear.
And his heart belongs to me.

Suzi was part of one of our most memorable kindie experiences a few years back at the late, lamented Kindiefest. At the 2012 family festival, a number of acts took the stage and co-mingled on each other's songs. Bari Koral sang "A Day at the Beach" with Suzi and Joanie Leeds. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo sang with SteveSongs. It was a round-robin of delights and my kids still play the videos (from my YouTube channel).

Ably produced by Mark Bazerman (of Baze and His Silly Friends fame),  SMILE IN MY HEART is mostly about uplifting messages, from the title track through "It's A Beautiful Day," "Let Your Light Shine," and the closing track, "I See You For You." No wonder she has a dedicated Brooklyn (and outreaching) following. Who doesn't want to hear that they're special? And you want to sing about it for me? Sure!

Six years is a long time between releases. And for a children's recording artists, it's an eternity – one entire audience can "age out" of your demographic. But Suzi Shelton is back to reclaim her share of the kindie spotlight, with our without her princess dress, but always with a smile.

SMILE IN MY HEART is available from Suzi's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video from her song, "Tomboy in a Princess Dress":

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Getting A Sunburn – Recess Monkey
Shot Reverse Shot – Jack Johnson
Here Comes the Summer  – Ponds & Fleshman
Everybody Out There – Paul McCartney
We Can't Stop – Miley Cyrus
Lightning Bolt – Pearl Jam
Join a Rock and Roll Band – Dean Jones
Continental Geography – Astrograss
Roller coaster – Bari Koral Family Rock Band
That's Just Us (Playing Rock-n-Roll) – Hullabaloo

Monday, April 28, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Long Gone – Recess Monkey
Grumpy Boy – Steve Songs
I Love the Rain – The Real Tuesday Weld
Sirens – Pearl Jam
Closer To You  – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Bonsai – Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs
The Owie Song – David Tobocman
Sisters and Brothers  – Bari Koral Family Rock Band
Earn It – Hullabaloo
Garbage Bugs  – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 28, 2014

When You're Smiling – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
When the World Was New – Dean Jones
Fortune Cookie – The Little Rockers Band
Look, Think, Guess, Know – Tom Chapin
Baby, Don't Cry – The Twigs
Unconditionally – Katy Perry
My Sister Kissed Her Boyfriend – Trout Fishing In America
Frog  – Artichoke
Space Kid And Banana – Ratboy Jr.
Best Friends Forever – Hullabaloo
Apple Tree – Bari Koral Family Rock Band

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 25, 2014

The Sun Will Shine Again – Frances England
Stand With Me – Dean Jones
Let The Records PlayvPearl Jam
Boo! – Trout Fishing In America
In The Group – Tom Chapin
My Secret Robot – Justin Roberts
Let's Be Friends – Jambo
Dancing Bear  –  Bari Koral Family Rock Band
Jamaica Ska (feat. Coolie Ranx & Little Goose) – Father Goose
Kids in America – The Muffs

Latest Bari Koral Not a Stretch For Kids

It's not just kids who love sweet things. Given a choice between kidney pie or chocolate chip cookies, who wouldn't choose the latter? The Bari Koral Family Rock Band plays fair with your tykes, giving them a clear choice on their newest CD, THE APPLE TREE & THE HONEY BEE.

The dulcet tones of Bari Koral have wafted through our home for years, ever since her first self-titled EP. You don't get a whole lot of pretense with the Family Rock Band – these are straight-ahead, single entendre songs for tots and their entourages. "Big Truck" is perfect for transportation-obsessed kids. "When I'm Five" is all about natural curiosity about what's ahead when you grow up (and only slightly older). "Back to the Farm" is about... well, going back a farm.

If you want to get your brood up on their feet and moving, the disc starts with "Dancing Bear." There's also a disco-fied "Birthday, "Fall Down," and the amusement park anthem, "Roller Coaster," with its refrain "everybody up, everybody down."

The originator of adult "lunch and learn" yoga programs, Bari has taught at numerous Fortune 500 companies, getting grown ups to relax. In contrast, her upbeat music tends to get kids to move, with songs like "Yes/No." After playing together for close to a decade, the Family Rock Band (Dred Scott, Dan Cohen, and Eric Halvorson) is a tightly knit unit. Under the production of Nashville-based legend Brad Jones, the group has delivered a sprightly scented, family friendly selection of kindie originals.

Technology is a funny thing. When I was three, I don't think I could have managed sorting through my parents' record collection, carefully putting a record on the turntable, turning on the stereo, and playing music I want to hear. But Matthew (3 1/2) has no problem flipping through two columns of CDs, determining what he wants to hear, and playing his choice. He's got previous Bari Koral releases locked in memory (I'm sure spelling will play a role in the future as he sorts through discs). THE APPLE TREE & THE HONEY BEE will make a nice addition to his rotation. Because kids love sweet things the most.

THE APPLE TREE & THE HONEY BEE is available through Bari Koral's website, Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble.

Here is a video shot last summer at Kidstock, where the band played "Anna and the Cupcakes":

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 24, 2014

Start Of The End – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Size Of The Problem – Tom Chapin
Recess –  Justin Roberts
International Smile – Katy Perry
Born To Rock  – David Tobocman
Thingamajig – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band
Desert Dogs – Shiprock and Anchordog
Together We Can Fly – Danny Weinkauf
Bionic (feat. Shiz & Lady Asha) – Father Goose
Raised by Trolls – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke

Hullabaloo Makes Some Shy Kid Noise

It's been at least 35 years since I saw anyone who attended kindergarten with me. For Steve Denyes and Brendan Kremer of Hullabaloo, every time they get together is a preschool reunion.

Now more than a decade into their kindie recording career, the duo have released an origin story of sorts. SHY KID BLUES tells how Steve (shy) and Brendan (exuberant) met and later decided, in the fifth grade, to collaborate musically.

As most concept albums go, SHY KID BLUES works as two separate projects. The entire 37-minute CD works as a long-form children's story. If you subtract the approximately one dozen spoken-word expositions, suddenly it's a typical collection of Hullabaloo children's tunes, which is never a bad thing.

Steve's vocals have often seemed reminiscent of Johnny Cash and he works that to the band's advantage in "Talking Shy Kid Blues." Among the songs, you get the misty "Best Friends Forever," the countrified kickin' "That's Just Us (Playing Rock 'n' Roll), the zydeco anthem "H-U-L-L-A-B-A-L-O-O," and the performance showcase number, "Like a Bird Must Feel." Parents can inspire their own shy kids to participate with two refrains of "You Can Do This":

You can do this, you can do this
You've got the kind of strength to get you through this.
You might not believe it, but believe me friend, I do.
I believe that you can do this because I believe in you.

Two thousand shows into their career, it's hard to argue with Hullabaloo's success. They fill SHY KID BLUES with a bevy of guest artists, from guitarist Joey Harris (late of the Beat Farmers) to trombone player April West of the Euphoria Brass Band, and Danny "Slapjazz" Barber and Leland "Spoonful" Collins on jaw harp and spoons.

Bottom line, SHY KID BLUES is a tuneful tale that churns to a predictable (and uplifting) ending. It does skew close to southern country for a SoCal band, but Hullabaloo has always presented themselves as kid folk. What you hear is the sound of two kids sharing the music they've always dreamed of performing.

SHY KID BLUES is available on May 27 through Hullabaloo's website, Amazon, iTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is the video for their song, "DAD UPSIDE DOWN":

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Little Little Baby – The Harmonica Pocket
California King Bed – Rihanna
Pendulum – Pearl Jam
All Together Now – Caspar Babypants
Upside Down – Ratboy Jr.
Cool Watermelon – Ethan Rossiter And The Jamberries
Jim-A-Long Josie – Jr. Madness
Jump Right In  – The Twigs
No School Today – Danny Weinkauf
Iko Iko (feat. Josh and the Jamtones & Little Goose) – Father Goose
Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin

It's Still Billy Joel to Me (at MSG)

If there's a performer I've seen more times than anyone else, it's Billy Joel.

If there's a venue where I've seen him before more times than anywhere else, it's Madison Square Garden.

From Glass Houses to River of Dreams to New Years 1999 to 12 Gardens to his "franchise" stop on Friday, April 18, 2012, if he's been there, we've been there.

Now Billy has his critics as well as his fans, as they are legion. They want to know why he released his last original album in July 1993 and has essentially became a touring oldies act for the past 21 years – a period longer than his original recording career.

I straddle the fence. For New Years 1999, it was kind of nice to see a "big" concert in Manhattan and not have to deal with Times Square. And we were "only" six years out of River of Dreams, so there was still the hope, an inkling of hope, that a new album was just around the corner.

That thought was shot to hell by 12 Gardens, an ambitious engagement meant to shatter attendance records. But it was 13 years since River of Dreams – and a few years (2001) to be exact) since his classic noodling, FANTASIES AND DELUSIONS.

Billy has continually stated that he felt "thwarted" by the constraints of pop music. When Howard Stern interviewed him in November 2010, he went even further. Billy said that after 9/11, he suffered from writer's block and became unable to write new material. No kidding. His output since 1993 has consisted of two songs, one a cover of Bob Dylan's "To Make You Feel My Love" for GREATEST HITS VOLUME 3 and "All My Life," a 2006 tune for (then) new bride Katie Lee. The only one of his three "wifely" tunes not to make a big splash, it's ironic that he has not performed it live anywhere, considering it's his most recent composition. And he HAS performed "Uptown Girl" and "Just the Way You Are" numerous times.

But there we were on April 18, back at MSG, back to see Billy Joel. Back for the first time with our 13-year-old son, to introduce him to the guy who wrote all those songs he hears on the radio and in the car. "I look like my father," Billy told the crowd. Well, at 64, them's the breaks with genetics.

Billy played entirely from his own catalog. Tellingly, when he strayed, he went OLDER – doing a few verses from the Beatles and Elton John, leading to a punchline. You got no sense of a performer who stayed in touch with modern trends or even more recent entertainers. I'm not saying Billy Joel should be covering "Blurred Lines." But is there really no other material he'd like to attempt that isn't covered in dust, ivy, or moss?

Sadly, it's time to enact some tough love for Billy Joel. His newest CD? A re-release of his "Bridge to Russia" concert...from 1988. The hook? It includes songs that were cut to make room on the vinyl record.

Twenty-one years is long enough to wait. Hell, if you were born on the release date of RIVER OF DREAMS, you are now counting the days until you can legally drink! And believe me, when I think about that, it's enough to make ME want to have a drink. Billy Joel has not released an album of original material in 21 years!

Hell, even James Taylor has Billy beat. James released new albums in 1997 and 2002 and an album blatantly called COVERS in 2008. James performs as many if not more concerts every year than Billy Joel. Admittedly, he's made hits out of many songs that were written and first performed by others. But he hasn't given up the ghost. Even when he was tapped out, he resorted to cover tunes to otherwise break up a 12-year barren streak.

Twenty-one years. By the time our younger son is ready for a Billy Joel concert, Billy will be closing in on 70. I'm holding out the slim hope that Billy will have made a breakthrough and penned some new songs between now and 2020. But I'm not holding my breath. And ultimately, if he's still performing concerts at MSG, we'll be there. Maybe for less than $200 per ticket, too.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sing To Me – Walter Martin
Now Let's Dance – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
Slow – Trout Fishing In America
Bigga Bagga – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
Robots From The 4th Dimension – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Up In Cat's Room – David Heatley
Bananas (Plum Crazy) – Tangerine Tambourine
Only Girl (In The World) – Rihanna
Marsupial  – Danny Weinkauf
A Who? (feat. Joanie Leeds) – Father Goose
Twirl! Twirl! Twirl! – Mr. Leebot

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 21, 2014

S.S. Brooklyn – Lloyd H. Miller
Over Again – One Direction
Wander 'Round the World – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
Unicorns R Real – Koo Koo Kanga Roo
Let 'em Know – Milkshake
I Love Music (feat. Wordsmith) – Rhymezwell
Combination Pizza Hut – Das Racist
The Ballad of Ben – Danny Weinkauf
Fun Day (feat. Roxanne Farrell) – Father Goose
Dear One  – Jim James

Friday, April 18, 2014

Father Goose: Bashment to the Penthouse

When I lived on Long Island in the early '80s, the Stray Cats were in vogue. A bunch of Long Island natives who emigrated to England to make it big playing rockabilly, they also inspired radio stations to push a bunch of other musical genres, such as ska and reggae.

Listening to Father Goose's new children's CD, BASHMENT TIME, I was brought right back to my college days. After I spun an hour of comedy CDs on Monday afternoons for the college radio station, "Jimmy Jim" came in for two hours of island music. He would often show up with seconds to spare, hand me a Bob Marley CD and say, "Cue up side two, mon." Then he would disappear and leave me sitting there, as Marley sang through tracks one, two, three... I would do Jim a favor and air his ad spots. He would resurface, smelling of odd spices, hand me another CD (mind you, I've been off the air for 20 minutes and late for my next class) and say, "Cue up track two, mon."

No, this did not cause me to hate island music. Nor did it preclude me from encouraging my kids to embrace "world music," although it's not particularly my thing. We first encountered the good Father Goose back in his days as Dan Zanes' sideman, coming out at the end of the shows as Symphony Space to get the crowd on its feet for the final few songs.

Goose left Zanes and embarked on a solo career, with a first album ("It's A Bam Bam Diddly!") coming out in 2007. After a health problem, he retrenched for BASHMENT TIME, a term that describes high energy Jamaican dance hall music. And it's a collection of upbeat tunes that put you right on the Island ("Farmers Market," "Top of the Mountain," and "Jamaica Ska").

Guest stars on BASHMENT TIME include Dan Zanes (almost a given) on "Constant Sorrow," as well as Joanie Leeds ("A Who?") and Josh and the Jamtones ("Iko Iko"). There are also some native influences with Lady Asha, Princess Goldie, Roxanne Farrell, and even Little Goose). The vibe is "house party" and the procession of revolving visitors provides an inviting, open feel to the proceedings.

Although it's been seven years between CDs, Father Goose is not laid back when it comes to production. BASHMENT TIME has a full, dynamic sound that will force you into action. If your feet aren't twitching, then your head will be bopping and your fingers will be drumming. You've been goosed.

BASHMENT TIME is available through Father Goose's website, iTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is the video for the song, "Constant Sorrow," featuring Dan Zanes:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 18, 2014

Peaceful – Cat Doorman
Delicious – Orange Sherbert
Blink Of An Eye – Frances England
Changes – David Bowie
Show Me What You're Feeling – Tom Chapin
Turned Out – Paul McCartney
Otis – Justin Roberts
Our Love Fits – Danny Weinkauf
Constant Sorrow (feat. Dan Zanes & Coolie Ranx) – Father Goose
I'm a Shark (I Rock, I Swim) – ScribbleMonster

Sugar Free All-Stars Celebrate Record Store Day

Oh man did I love vinyl. It's been decades since I last purchased actual record albums. CDs never felt the same. Their decline, due to the advent of digital media, has been sanguine. I still harken back to college, when I'd load up a plastic bag of my favorite comedy CDs and lug them down to the radio station to do my one-hour, weekly broadcast.

For those of us who long to go back to the future, there is Record Store Day on Saturday, April 19. Conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record store owners and employees, Record Store Day is a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1000 independently owned U,S. record stores (There are Record Store Day participating stores on every continent except Antarctica).

There are a multitude of freebies and near-freebies, as well as promotional giveaways in conjunction with this year's celebration. On the kindie scene, the Sugar Free All-Stars have released a 45 of "My Daddy's Record Collection" on colored vinyl. For the digital enthusiasts, there is also a download code that comes with your pre-order, if you just can't wait to hear the song. But wait – you can, if you just click on the handy dandy lyric video below!

Vinyl is coming back, if you care to read the reports. People always missed the full sound, rendered dissonant by compression algorithms. And SFAS's Chris “Boom!” Wiser and Rob “Dr. Rock” Martin wanted to add their two cents to the equation.

My turntable died about 10 years ago. It was part of a component system with a double cassette deck (for tape-to-tape recording) and AM/FM radio, as well as an AUX input/output. When I finally hunkered down and replaced it with a mess of new equipment, it took another couple of years before I bought an ION turntable with a USB port for conversion. But we have stacks of CDs stored on top of it, so when the All-Stars' single arrived, I had to do some juggling to even play the disc.

My three-year-old, ever so helpful, jostled himself next to me and turned on the CD player. When I pulled the disc from the slip cover, he just stared. He immediately knew the oversized 45 would not fit in the CD player. "What that?" he asked. "Just wait," i told him, and put the single onto the turntable. We listened to both the A side and the B side ("Banana Pudding'). I asked him, "What do you think?" He said, "It's good!" High praise from a kid who listens to a three-artist rotation of Ralph's World, Recess Monkey, and Sesame Street.

It will be a few years before the kid is able to handle the turntable's sensitive nature. In the meantime, the download code puts the songs in easy listening range in iTunes. Kudos to the folks behind Record Store Day, as well as the Sugar Free All-Stars for reminding me that I still love vinyl.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 17, 2014

Swinging on a Star – Zak Morgan
Life Is Better With You – Michael Franti & Spearhead
I Got You –  Jack Johnson
Flat Stanley – Play Date
Mr Wolf – The Short Films
Ice Cream Soup –  Jambo
Pardon My Pajamas  – Dog On Fleas
Archaeology –  Danny Weinkauf
The Roach Waved Hello –  Chibi Kodama
Full Tilt – The Not-Its

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Weinkauf Heads Class With "No School Today"

Danny Weinkauf knows how kids work. Literally.

Spending 19 years working as a pediatric physical therapist, he helped challenging children (his words) work out issues with their bodies. Transitioning to a full-time musician (commercial work, solo gigs, and playing bass with They Might Be Giants), Weinkauf now works out people's bodies, as well as children's minds.

Parents who enjoyed the whimsy of his contributions to TMBG's kids compilations ("Where Do They Make Balloons" and "I Am a Paleontologist") will be happy to hear about his first full-length children's CD, NO SCHOOL TODAY. In much the same way Sugar Ray mined the success of "Fly" with songs in a similar vein, Weinkauf returns to his sweet spot with "Archaeology" and "Marsupial." There is also some weird science with "The Moon Is Made of Cheese" and "The Kdiney That Lived in Four People."

The Kickstarter-funded CD fills the kindie void that TMBG created by (temporarily?) abandoning the genre to concentrate on adult endeavors. I can't imagine the Johns dueting with Laurie Berkner on a song like "Our Love Fits," but it's a sweet ukelele-strummer. Musician Hank Green also drops by for the kidney song that wraps up the disc. "Ballad of Ben" may be about Ben Folds, but when your own son (named Ben) happens to play piano, it's a fortuitous coincidence.

Weinkauf is clearly proud of his son Kai's vocals (and rightly so). But the wordy "Cast My Vote" clunks along, with fact-laced verses that hammer the point into your head:

Amendment 15 changed the law and included all black men 
But women called the Suffragettes fought long and hard 
'Til when Amendment 19 said that women needed voices too
(Now) all citizens can register it's great for me and you (great for me and you)

There is a fairly large contingent of kindie music families who were brought into the fold primarily due to the four "kid-fueled' TMBG albums. Weinkauf is staking his own ground in the market, and his connection to the group will certainly help make inroads that other artists might not see. Ultimately the question is, "Does NO SCHOOL TODAY hold up on its own?" Short answer, yes. There's some light rock and roughhousing, some wackiness, and some value reinforcement, as in "Together We Can Fly."

Weinkauf has stressed that he is not "in" TMBG but merely plays "with" the band, which he dissects as the Johns (Flansburgh and Linnell). People come to see them and he happens to be there. By stepping out on his own, Weinkauf gives parents a reason to listen to (and eventually see) his original compositions. School may be out for Danny Weinkauf, but he's apparently only started educating a fan base.

NO SCHOOL TODAY is available on April 29 at Amazon and iTunes.

Here is the video for his new song, "Marsupial:"

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Don't Believe A Thing I Say – Jack Johnson
Anybody Got A Watch? – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Jump Right In – The Twigs
Electric Lady –  Justin Timberlake
Liza Jane –  Jr. Madness
I Must Be a Genius – Dog On Fleas
Electric Guitar – Laura Doherty
Rock Melon – Gustafer Yellowgold
Mooshpie  – The Whirlygigs
Fun Fa Fun Fun Fun – Danimal
Is This a Joke?  – Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 14, 2014

Dream a Little Dream of Me – Zee Avi
Nonsense – Davy Andrews
Roar  – Katy Perry
What's My Name? – Rihanna Feat. Drake
Danceology – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Waiting Room  – Fugazi
BroOKlyn – Mil's Trills
Till There Was You – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band
Me Time – Chibi Kodama
Tomorrow's People – Brady Rymer

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 11, 2014

Just a Normal Day – Lesley and the Flying Foxes
Early Days – Paul McCartney
Thinking Good Thoughts – Dog On Fleas
Up Periscope – Recess Monkey
Fill It Up – Josh And The Jamtones
Cheese World – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Love The Way You Lie (Part II) – Rihanna Feat. Eminem
Sunglasses – The Que Pastas
Ben – Zee Avi
Freak Out – Astrograss
Alove Alliteration – Mr. Palindrome

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 10, 2014

Who Loves the Sun – Zee Avi
Breakfast – Ratboy Jr.
Little Blimp – The Joy Formidable
Swing Low – Josh And The Jamtones
Hide & Seek – Princess Katie & Racer Steve
Brave – Sara Bareilles
Radiate – Jack Johnson
Shake It Off! – Uncle Rock
Metaphor – The Alphabeticians
Potted Plant Guy – David Heatley
Little Cloud (Featuring Rachel Loshak) – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights

Big in Malaysia, Zee Avi Aims for U.S. Kids

They say you're not truly a worldwide superstar until you've made it in America.

For instance, how many people stateside have heard of Robbie Williams? This former British boy band member has sold millions of copies of his solo CDs, yet remains a virtual unknown in this country. But if you saw the Live Eight concert, Williams' reaction was almost identical to the one a reunited Pink Floyd received 20 minutes later.

To that point, Zee Avi is one of the top 10 Malaysians. Name one of the other nine. I dare you. The pop songstress has a dedicated fan base and is now seeking to expand her reach into the United States, by going through our children. The result is Zee Avi's NIGHTLIGHT, a nine-song set of cover tunes that you've heard before.

NIGHTLIGHT is a mellow collection of the very familiar, performed with stripped-down ukelele arrangements. "Don't Worry Be Happy" doesn't get much airplay these days. "Rainbow Connection" on the other hand, has been covered by everyone from Paramore's Hayley Williams to Sarah McLachlan. We're busily planning a bar mitzvah, so a simple version of Michael Jackson's "Ben" may get exposure at his event. For everyone else? Not so much.

Perhaps it's a cultural thing. Maybe Zee Avi, though well-intentioned, did not thoroughly vet her set list. It's been a while since I heard Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game." I could have gone a few more years. And I never thought "Colors of the Wind" was one of Steven Schwartz's better efforts. Kudos to a timely rendition of Lou Reed's "Who Loves the Sun," however.

Zee Avi apparently traveled to Woodstock, New York to produce NIGHTLIGHT. Nothing got lost in translation or travel from such a distance. But it would have been nice to hear something original mixed in with such well-tread material. You can turn off this NIGHTLIGHT and still remember exactly where everything is.

NIGHTLIGHT is available April 22 through Zee Avi's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for Zee Avi's cover of Sara Bareilles' "Winter Song":

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Change – Jack Johnson Feat. Ben Harper
When You Wish Upon a Star – Gene Simmons
We Are All One Kind – Jambo
Royals – Lorde
Duck Ellington – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band
Shrimp – Recess Monkey
Midnight Memories – One Direction
Me and My Brand New Haircut – Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs
I'll Be An Alien – Justin Roberts
Throw Me Something Mister – Jazzy Ash

Monday, April 07, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Crayola Doesn't Make a Color for Your Eyes  – Kristin Andreassen
Sing-A-Long Song  – Lloyd H. Miller
Take Back the Night – Justin Timberlake
Here Comes Peter Cottontail  – The Hipwaders
Show Me A Sign – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Mothership – Mr. Saxophone
My Own Detective  – Tom Chapin
The Hustle – Van McCoy
Summer Day – Stacey Peasley
It's Not Fair to Me – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Nutritious  – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 7, 2014

What Will You Ever See? – Lunch Money
a wild one –  Justin Roberts
First Day of School  – Ethan Rossiter And The Jamberries
You Remind Me Of You – Jack Johnson
Big Green Party Machine – David Heatley
New  – Paul McCartney
Speeding Motorcycle – The Pastels
Stop Your Sobbing – Stacey Peasley
Copycat – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Working On A Bridge –  Lloyd H. Miller

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 4, 2014

Till the Sun Goes Down – Poochamungas
Sleepover  – Ellen & Mark
This Moment – Katy Perry
I Just Wanna Play – Sunshine Collective
Callooh Callay  – Pointed Man Band
You Got It On –  Justin Timberlake
I Got This! –  Princess Katie & Racer Steve
Sunflower – Josh And The Jamtones
Lucky Day – Stacey Peasley
Sunshine  – The Twigs
Riverside  – Baze And His Silly Friends

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 3, 2014

No, No, No – The Little Rockers Band
Hundredaires – Dog On Fleas
Future Days – Pearl Jam
Imagination – Shine and the Moonbeams
Guitar Pickin' Chicken – Ratboy Jr.
I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like) – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Broken Record (Featuring Mista Cookie Jar)  – Stacey Peasley
We Can't Stop – Miley Cyrus
Don't Touch My Stuff! – Trout Fishing In America

Your Kid's Lucky Day as Peasley Pleases

Mom knows best. Ask any kid. Ask any mom.

Several years ago, Stacey Peasley started recording children's music. She'd been performing live for years but never for kids. Now, with kids of her own, she decided to combine her two top interests. Like I said, mom knows best.

Much like Melissa Green (who also started her kindie career in NYC), Peasley uses her music to provide positive reinforcement and simple themes for active tykes on her second CD, LUCKY DAY. With some help from Mista Cookie Jar, she even seeks to inquire why some of the wee ones need severe repetition to complete the easiest tasks ("Broken Record"):

It feels just like a broken record.
Asking the same thing over and over (phony skip) and over (phony skip) and over.

And did my ears deceive me or is her band really covering the Kinks "Stop Your Sobbing"? Had never thought that the 60s song's second resurrection (after the Pretenders redeemed the tune in the 80s) would be as a perfect kid's ballad. Just goes to show you, mom knows best.

Peasley honed her vocal abilities as part of the New York-based girl group “The Chiclettes," appeared on numerous stages at festivals, events, and parties. Her love for that era and its harmonies extended to gigs backing up Lou Christie and singing on Don K. Reed's "Doo Wop Shop."

It takes a completely different mindset (yet a similar sensibility) to turn those instincts into a career as a children's recording artist. Smaller patrons, but shorter attention spans as well. And as much as they may like "Wrecking Machine" and "Me TV," they still need parents who are willing to either bring them to live shows or purchase their CDs. Stacey Peasley has chosen to scale those walls and has found some local success. Can she get to the next level? Listen to the samples and judge for yourself. But trust me, mom knows best.

LUCKY DAY is available from Peasley's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for Stacey Peasley's song, "Summer Day":

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Little Things – One Direction
Sirens – Pearl Jam
Every Family's Different – Jazzy Ash
Alligator – Paul McCartney
I Am the Wind – Underbirds
Tambourine Submarine – Recess Monkey
Every Day At This Time It Rains – Django Jones
Gotta Get Up – Sugar Free Allstars
Escalator – David Tobocman