Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, May 30, 2014

Don't Believe A Thing I Say – Jack Johnson
New  – Paul McCartney
National Hiccup Day – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Lightning Bolt – Pearl Jam
Fortune Cookie – The Little Rockers Band
Only Girl (In The World) – Rihanna
Be a Mime – Eric Herman
DJ All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Mothership – Mr. Saxophone

It's Kids Play Down Under With Australian Playground

And so my journeys through the universe of world music continues with a trip down under for Putumayo Kids' AUSTRALIAN PLAYGROUND. First the obvious joke – there isn't a Wiggles song in the collection and it's still crackin' good fun.

On the other hand, the organization must have caved to some internal pressure and finished the disc with Lazy Harry's version of the standard, "Waltzing Matilda." I have memories of the song from the film ON THE BEACH, which is not a kids film. Please remember that, despite the inviting faux-summer title.

The album begins with the reggae tinged, "Marrtjina" by The NEO And Garrangali and progresses through the beachcomber-esque ukelele tune "Mango Rain" by Seaman Dan. For a native story song, Bob Brown delivers "Give Me A Home Among The Gumtrees" with enough local references to choke a dingo. The song is more than 40 years old and an Australian classic, though not widely known off the continent.

The key to Putumayo Kids is giving children some of what they are familiar with – and then activating the cultural factor. "Kangaroo (The Super Marsupial)" by iconic Aussie Don Spencer is a lesson in singalong fashion. You might expect American kids to roll their eyes, but it's got a universal appeal.

There's a Dixieland quality to "The Road To Gundagai" from the Band Of The South Australia Police, founded in 1884 as a volunteer brass band to perform at public parks, gardens and government functions. The nearly 100-year-old song comes alive anew under the skilled production Putumayo production team. And remember, one percent of Putumayo’s sales will be contributed to the Australian Children’s Music Foundation in support of their initiatives to provide music programs and instruments to disadvantaged children in schools and juvenile detention centers in Australia.

If you're like me, world music does not come easily. Overcoming the language barrier is not an issue here, so this playground is wide open and inviting. Bring the kids and stay for a fast-moving experience.

AUSTRALIAN PLAYGROUND is available through Putumayo Kids and Amazon.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, May 29, 2014

Grumpy Boy – Steve Songs
International Smile  – Katy Perry
Our Love Fits – Danny Weinkauf
All People – Michael Franti & Spearhead
H-U-L-L-A-B-A-L-O-O  – Hullabaloo
Shrimp – Recess Monkey
Thinking Good Thoughts – Dog On Fleas
Speeding Motorcycle – The Pastels
The Bicycle Song – Eric Herman
3 Pointed Back – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Life Is Better With You – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Alove Alliteration – Mr. Palindrome
It's a Beautiful Day – Suzi Shelton
Give Me Back My Hat – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Unconditionally – Katy Perry
Bananas (Plum Crazy) – Tangerine Tambourine
Metaphor  – The Alphabeticians
Big Green Party Machine – David Heatley
A Million Ways to Play – Eric Herman
Unwind – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

23 Skidoo: He's Quick With a Quirk

I'm a guy who went to the same college (if not at the same time) as Jam Master Jay during the early heyday of rap. Down at the college radio station, I DJ'd a show that led into Jimmy Jim and his reggae/funk hour. Yet I tended to fade away whenever the heavy beats started. When Grandmaster Melle Mel released "White Lines," I lumped it in with Dickie Goodman's stuff as a novelty tune. The social impact was lost on me.

So why am I listening to rap and hip hop nowadays? Have I become more multi-cultural? Has my social consciousness evolved? Or is the pervasive influence of Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and his band of kid hop entrepreneurs?

My older son Ben makes his morning playlists with nary a thought to race or restrictions. His selections are the ultimate democracy – after a cursory listen, if he's not jazzed, they don't get selected again. And after six months, it's into the discard bin. But Skidoo perseveres. Just a look back at the past few months demonstrate his continuing interest and affection for the sweet beats and zingy wordplay of Skidoo and his daughter/sidekick MC Fireworks.

Skidoo returns next month with his fourth major release, THE PERFECT QUIRK. The feelgood mantra is set in (dance) motion – Everyone has quirks and they should be embraced. You don't want to get dressed? "PJs All Day" has your back. Confide in a companion nobody else sees? "Imaginary Friend" understands. Lament the passage of time? Listen to MC Fireworks on "Time Machine":

Yo dad, stop being crazy, I'll always be your baby girl.
An oyster has to keep growing to make a pearl.
I think this world's got some big plans for me.
And pretty soon I'll go and write some chapters to the story.

While Skidoo has concentrated primarily on music for the past half-decade, he is diversifying into publishing. "Weird Calhoun and the Odd Men Out" (with an accompanying CD with karaoke tracks), his debut book, drops on June 24. Delving into the old English, "weird" comes from "wyrd," which translates into "destiny" or "fate." These are larger themes that have played into Skidoo's works over the years, from "Gotta Be Me" on EASY through "Make the Future" on MAKE BELIEVERS to "Never Stop Asking" on UNDERGROUND PLAYGROUND.

Moving along at a brisk 37 minutes, THE PERFECT QUIRK leaves you no down time to ask, "Where's the guitar solo?" There's a lot of rhythm and messages of affirmation, to keep your head bobbing as you "Unwind." In that aspect, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo is the Original G – as in Rated G, for kids of all ages. Word.

THE PERFECT QUICK is available June 24 from Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for Skidoo's song, "Pillow Fort Pillow Fight":

Monday, May 26, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Talkin' Bout Love – The Little Rockers Band
a wild one –  Justin Roberts
When You're Smiling – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
Music – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band
Here Comes the Summer  – Ponds & Fleshman
Marsupial  – Danny Weinkauf
Flat Stanley – Play Date
The Best Parts – Eric Herman
Up Periscope – Recess Monkey

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Monday, May 26, 2014

Turn! Turn! Turn! – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
You Got It On – Justin Timberlake
Boo! – Trout Fishing In America
Cool Watermelon – Ethan Rossiter And The Jamberries
Closer To You  – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Turned Out – Paul McCartney
Can We Buy a New Car (So I Can Have a Balloon) – Eric Herman
Duck Ellington – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band
Waiting Room  – Fugazi

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, May 23, 2014

Time to Dream – Randy Kaplan
California King Bed – Rihanna
Ben – Zee Avi
Shine – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
Bonsai –  Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs
Otis – Justin Roberts
In The Group – Tom Chapin
Hundredaires – Dog On Fleas
Take Back the Night – Justin Timberlake

Eric Herman Brings the Party Animals to Life

Lots can happen in five years. Father Time is a tricky dude. The last time Eric Herman released a CD (2009's WHAT A RIDE!), our son Ben was eight years old. His brother Matt was... well, he wasn't even around in theory or concept.

A five-year recording gap opens Herman for a whole lot of questions, all of which get shut down in a heartbeat with the answer that his wife, Roseann, passed away in June 2013. Father Time can play some nasty tricks indeed.

The new CD, PARTY ANIMAL, lightly touches on the theme of mortality, through "Alive!" Herman's anthem for his departed spouse (although not conceived as such, since they wrote it together). And Roseann lives on through her contributions to many tracks on the CD that she either co-wrote or inspired. There's a dichotomy to having such a maudlin cloud hanging over a children's music CD. Perhaps that's why Herman sticks to business-as-usual, which involves deconstructing behavior and the simple joys of childhood.

Herman dives right in with "Up All Night," wherein the youthful vocalist strives to celebrate New Year's Eve (spoiler: He doesn't make it). The celebratory theme continues in "Party At My House," a cautionary tale for any parent attempting to save money by hosting a children's birthday event in their home. And where would you be without "A Million Ways to Play"?

Herman and his "Invisible Band" don't have many sharp edges. They're more interested in storytelling than double entendres. PARTY ANIMAL skews for younger audiences, with sparkly guitars and Partridge Family-esque keyboards.

Despite having to use a magnifying glass to examine the lyrics and liner notes on the CD case (they're not on the website as of publication), I am psyched to confirm the guest appearances of such West Coast recording artists as Recess Monkey, Caspar Babypants, and DidiPop. The first two enliven the surreal "Mime TV" and the latter harmonizes on "Can We Buy a New Car (So I Can Have a Balloon?" I somewhat reasonable request if you're under six years old:

I'll patiently wait 'til all the paperwork is done,
Then I'll hold that balloon until I'm 71.
A car is only for a while, balloons are forever.

The closet psychologist in me would infer that the balloon is a symbolic stand-in for something else.  But that's just me, I guess. PARTY ANIMAL literally flies by (in less than 30 minutes). It's almost like the CD is a summation of all that happened in the past five years and now Herman is regrouping to move forward. You can't beat Father Time, but Eric Herman has found a way to make him dance.

PARTY ANIMAL is available on June 3 through Herman's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the new video for Herman's song, "How Big":

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, May 22, 2014

Little Things – One Direction
Earn It –Hullabaloo
Upside Down – Ratboy Jr.
Kids in America –The Muffs
My Daddy's Record Collection – Sugar Free Allstars
I'm a Shark (I Rock, I Swim) – ScribbleMonster
Mooshpie  – The Whirlygigs
Just a Normal Day – Lesley and the Flying Foxes
So Funny I Forgot to Laugh – Randy Kaplan
Show Me A Sign – Michael Franti & Spearhead

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When You Wish Upon a Star – Gene Simmons
Future Days – Pearl Jam
Combination Pizza Hut – Das Racist
Look, Think, Guess, Know – Tom Chapin
Jump Right In – The Twigs
Garbage Bugs – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Is This a Joke?  – Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs
Sunglasses – The Que Pastas
Broken Record (Featuring Mista Cookie Jar) – Stacey Peasley
Not Too Young for a Song – Randy Kaplan
Light of Love – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Start Of The End – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Sing To Me – Walter Martin
I Love the Rain – The Real Tuesday Weld
Show Me What You're Feeling – Tom Chapin
BroOKlyn – Mil's Trills
Breakfast – Ratboy Jr.
Stop Your Sobbing – Stacey Peasley
Red Piano Rag – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Jam on Rye – Randy Kaplan
No, No, No – The Little Rockers Band

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Monday, May 19, 2014

Long Gone – Recess Monkey
Till the Sun Goes Down – Poochamungas
Change – Jack Johnson Feat. Ben Harper
Peaceful – Cat Doorman
Together We Can Fly – Danny Weinkauf
Robots From The 4th Dimension – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Dance 'Til I Drop – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Don't Fill Up On Chip – Randy Kaplan
Roar  – Katy Perry

Friday, May 16, 2014

Randy Kaplan Returns to Jam With Kids

How has parenthood changed Randy Kaplan? For starters, there's an increased emphasis on all things olfactory. Of the 16 tracks on his new CD, JAM ON RYE, three deal directly with bodily functions ("Burpity Burp Burp Burp," "Everybody Farts," and "Follow Your Nose").

I'm tempted to say, "Other than that, nothing," but that's a far too specious answer. Randy's milieu is the story song and he tells a bunch of amusing new stories on this collection, both old and new. Only now, where there once was "Uncle Randy,"  as on "Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie," his previous CD, they are filtered through his daddy lenses.

Randy is full of good advice. In the title track, he suggests kids who don't like their  choices in restaurants to simply ask for something that rhymes. In "Don't Fill Up on Chips," it's the answer to the obvious refrain from parents everywhere.

The latin-themed "Ode to a Shower Door" tells the tale of a bathroom solution that changed young Randy's life (a shower door replacing a mildewed curtain that leaked down to the apartment below). He even finishes the song with a callback to an earlier favorite:

So the moral to this story is simple as can be: 
Enjoy your shower curtains while you’re young and they are free. 
And in your bathtub you can play and you might even see 
A shark who pops up from the drain and says, “Shampoo me!” 

Randy always makes judicial choices as far as cover tunes. Suffice to say, I can't think of another children's recording artist who would select Dan Bern ("Not Too Young for a Song") and the 1928 jazz standard, "Nagasaki" for the same CD. Yet as presented here, they work remarkably well in the context of a kindie disc. Other highlights include "So Funny I Forgot to Laugh," a lament about modern communication between a husband and wife. Speaking of Julie Kaplan, Randy calls on his better half to wrap up JAM ON RYE with "Goodnight My Someone" from The Music Man.

There will always be a place in children's music for original thinkers and Randy Kaplan is remarkably consistent and pleasingly off-center with his compositions. He sympathizes with the younger set and frequently takes their side in his songs, while casting a winking eye to their parents. It's quite alright to wink back – Randy would do the same for you.

JAM ON RYE is available June 2 from Randy's website, iTunes, CDBABY, Amazon, and other popular retailers.

Here is a video of Randy's performance of the Bob Dylan classic, "Forever Young":

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, May 16, 2014

Effervescing Elephant – Cat Doorman
Lose My Mind – The Wanted
Pendulum – Pearl Jam
Summer Day – Stacey Peasley
The Owie Song – David Tobocman
Bionic (feat. Shiz & Lady Asha) – Father Goose
Wander 'Round the World – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
Till There Was You – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band
Ice Cream Girl  – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
I Got This! – Princess Katie & Racer Steve
Potted Plant Guy – David Heatley

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, May 15, 2014

You Remind Me Of You – Jack Johnson
Size Of The Problem – Tom Chapin
Sirens –  Pearl Jam
Jamaica Ska (feat. Coolie Ranx & Little Goose) – Father Goose
Archaeology – Danny Weinkauf
Electric Guitar  – Laura Doherty
Little Cloud (Featuring Rachel Loshak)  – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
Me and My Brand New Haircut – Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs
Now Let's Dance – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
Just Say Hi! – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Imagination – Shine and the Moonbeams

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Brave – Sara Bareilles
The Roach Waved Hello – Chibi Kodama
Let The Records Play – Pearl Jam
Danceology – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
All Together Now – Caspar Babypants
The Ballad of Ben – Danny Weinkauf
Nutritious  – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
Tambourine Submarine – Recess Monkey
Callooh Callay – Pointed Man Band

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lucky Day – Stacey Peasley
I Am the Wind – Underbirds
I Must Be a Genius – Dog On Fleas
Unicorns R Real – Koo Koo Kanga Roo
Ice Cream Soup – Jambo
Thingamajig – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band
A Who? (feat. Joanie Leeds) – Father Goose
Freak Out – Astrograss
Unstoppable – Salim Nourallah
It's Not Fair to Me – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Hide & Seek – Princess Katie & Racer Steve

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Monday, May 12, 2014

Delicious – Orange Sherbert
What Will You Ever See? – Lunch Money
Early Days – Paul McCartney
Electric Lady – Justin Timberlake
Iko Iko (feat. Josh and the Jamtones & Little Goose) – Father Goose
Bigga Bagga – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
We Are All One Kind – Jambo
My Own Detective – Tom Chapin
Monsters – Edukator, Jr.
Guitar Pickin' Chicken – Ratboy Jr.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, May 9, 2014

Over Again – One Direction
First Day of School – Ethan Rossiter And The Jamberries
Who Loves the Sun – Zee Avi
Sing-A-Long Song – Lloyd H. Miller
Pardon My Pajamas  – Dog On Fleas
Me Time – Chibi Kodama
Cheese World – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Everybody Talks – Neon Trees
Alligator – Paul McCartney
Don't Touch My Stuff! – Trout Fishing In America

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, May 8, 2014

Crayola Doesn't Make a Color for Your Eyes – Kristin Andreassen
Radiate – Jack Johnson
Blink Of An Eye – Frances England
Shrimp – Recess Monkey
Alove Alliteration – Mr. Palindrome
Anybody Got A Watch?  – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
This Moment – Katy Perry
I see You For You – Suzi Shelton
Cumbe – Crosspulse Percussion Ensemble
Every Family's Different  – Jazzy Ash

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

High Five – Shine and the Moonbeams
Tonight – Princess Katie & Racer Steve
Yes And No – Caspar Babypants
New  – Paul McCartney
Robots Can't Cry – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like) – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Jump On The Moon – Human-Tim + Robot-Tim
The Baron's Bicycle Balloon – Banana Baron
Ice Cream Man – Suzi Shelton

Monday, May 05, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Talkin' Bout Love – The Little Rockers Band
Human Bean – Dean Jones
Riverside – Baze And His Silly Friends
Otis Dooda Theme – David Heatley
Escalator – David Tobocman
All People – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Space Monkey – Davy Andrews
Happy – Pharrell Williams
Smile in My Heart – Suzi Shelton
Gravy Stain – Mr. Saxophone

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Monday, May 5, 2014

Lose My Mind  – The Wanted
My Eraser – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Anytime At All – Caspar Babypants
Gotta Get Up – Sugar Free Allstars
National Hiccup Day – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
It's a Beautiful Day  – Suzi Shelton
You Are An Astronaut – Human-Tim + Robot-Tim
Like a Bird Must – Hullabaloo
Kangaroo! – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, May 2, 2014

Turn! Turn! Turn! – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
The Fox – Red Yarn
Music – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band
This Is How We Do – Katy Perry
No Homework – The Bazillions
Smallest Breed  – Django Jones
Me And Julio – The Little Rockers Band
Banana Pudding – Sugar Free Allstars
You Can Do This – Hullabaloo