Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, October 31, 2014

Peaceful – Cat Doorman
Not Too Young for a Song – Randy Kaplan
Delicious – Orange Sherbert
Always On The Run – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
Liza Jane – Jr. Madness
Mooshpie – The Whirlygigs
Dancing Bear – Bari Koral Family Rock Band
Nonsense  – Davy Andrews
Anybody Got A Watch? – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, October 30, 2014

Talkin' Bout Love – The Little Rockers Band
Turned Out – Paul McCartney
Mothership – Mr. Saxophone
Unconditionally – Katy Perry
The Ballad of Ben – Danny Weinkauf
Viva la Pachanga (feat. Flaco Jimenez) – Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band
Free to Be...You and Me – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam Featuring Suzi Shelton

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Secret Fox – Gustafer Yellowgold
Slow – Trout Fishing In America
Kangaroo! – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band
Fortune Cookie – The Little Rockers Band
Wander 'Round the World – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
Throw Me Something Mister – Jazzy Ash
Otis Dooda Theme – David Heatley
Prairie Boy – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips
Colors (2014 Remix) – Kira Willey

Is It Live or Coming Up Lacking?

An Age-Old Question for the Wanna Bees and Kira Willey

Music can be deceiving. Sometimes when I review a CD, I instantly "get" the concept, if there is one. Other times, I feel as if I'm missing something – perhaps in the presentation or because the music cries out for the accompanying live experience.

The Wanna Bees' new CD, DREAM BIG, falls into that chasm. Fronted by "Doctor Dan" (Chuck Riepenhoff) and "Builder Brad" (Rob Donaldson), the disc introduces a series of characters (and their cohorts) to listeners. But it comes off as mostly a laundry list. First they ask "Do You Like (Vet)." That's followed by "Valerie Vet." That's followed by Valerie's pal "Stephanie Stethoscope." Next is "Do You Like (Fireman)" and you can tell what's coming after that. By the time we got to "(Hooray for) Heidi Hose," my wife asked, "How many more songs?"

I don't want to seem too down on the guys. Clearly the Wanna Bees want to rock out while promoting occupations and showing kids all the fun things they can grow up to become. But the repetition did become a bit numbing. Princess Katie and Racer Steve play characters as well, but they never released a CD that doubled as a checklist of things you'd appreciate more in a stage show.

Speaking of live experiences, when you go to a Kira Willey concert, sometimes a yoga lesson sneaks in. Kira is keen on music and the mind-body connection and her third CD, HOW TO BE A CLOUD, mixes and mingles those concepts.

On CLOUD, there are 13 kids songs along with nine yoga tracks. Once again, listening to yoga tracks when you are not doing yoga reminds you that there's nothing like a live music experience. But the 13 kids songs are another story entirely.

"Dancing With My Daddy" is a melodic rhumba. The almost-misnamed "Jazzy" seems more of a country tune. "Colors (2014)" is a remix of her 2008 song that was used in a Dell TV commercial. The title track, "How to Be A Cloud, should not be confused with the Dean Jones song of the same name. It's an ethereal harmonic song, later reprised (as are many of the others) as a yoga track (with directions over the music bed).

As always, I cannot over-emphasize taking your children to a live music performance. In the case of the Wanna Bees, they may discover the joys of being a fireman. With Kira Willey, they can jump around and do a series of relaxing poses. Either way, their new CDs provide the blueprints.

DREAM BIG is available November 11 from the Wanna Bees website, Amazon, and iTunes.

HOW TO BE A CLOUD is available on November 18 from Kira Willey's website, SoundCloud, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is a video of Kira Willey's song, "ROLLER COASTER":

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When You're Smiling – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
Be a Little Angel – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips
Me Time – Chibi Kodama
Here Comes the Summer – Ponds & Fleshman
Uh Huh – Dean Jones
Unwind – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Lucky Penny – The Whirlygigs
I've Got A Feeling – Papa Crow
The Girl With the Squirrel in Her Hat – Caspar Babypants

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Monday, October 27, 2014

Effervescing Elephant – Cat Doorman
You Got It On – Justin Timberlake
Till the Sun Goes Down – Poochamungas
Bigga Bagga – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
Blink Of An Eye – Frances England
Sittin On A Cloud – The Whirlygigs
If Red Tastes Like Strawberry – The Whirlygigs
Midnight Memories – One Direction

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, October 24, 2014

Jam on Rye – Randy Kaplan
Rock Melon – Gustafer Yellowgold
Give Me Back My Hat – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
Up In Cat's Room – David Heatley
The Baron's Bicycle Balloon – Banana Baron
Flannel Jammies – The Not-Its!
Kings & Queens – The Hipwaders
Caught in the Screen – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, October 23, 2014

Early Days – Paul McCartney
Gettin' My Ya Ya's Out – Brady Rymer & The Little Band
In All Of The World – Papa Crow
Little Cloud (Featuring Rachel Loshak)  – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
Cumbe – Crosspulse Percussion Ensemble
Alove Alliteration – Mr. Palindrome
When I'm Ten – Recess Monkey & The Not-Its
Lightning Bolt  – Pearl Jam

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Alive – Eric Herman
Continental Geography – Astrograss
Don't Touch My Stuff! – Trout Fishing In America
This Moment – Katy Perry
Coral Reef – The Whizpops!
Luna Y Lucero – Sonia De Los Santos
Mystery – Dean Jones
Hippo Dance –  Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
I Love Music (feat. Wordsmith) – Rhymezwell

My 2014 Fids and Kamily Ballot

The 2014 Fids and Kamily Awards were recently announced. I culled my choices from 46 CDs reviewed over the past year. A few CDs were either constantly being tracked by Ben (13) for his morning playlists or selected for rotation in our car. Those factored higher in the standings. His younger brother Matt (3 3/4) and mom also had some comments on my "second round" choices of 22 recording artists.

As in past years, my ballot has several notable discrepancies. To clarify, my points were distributed among CDs that we either purchased or reviewed. This is why Walter Martin and the Okee-Dokee Brothers failed to make my list. Apologies, but we heard so much good music this year, they were missed but not fatally.

That being said, it's always an honor to be asked to participate in balloting of this kind. When I think back 8-9 years and our entry into the kindie music scene, I never anticipated I'd have to struggle to "rank" such talented individuals and ensembles. Congratulations to everyone who produced children's music in 2013!

1. Buy One Get One Flea – Dog on Fleas
2. WIRED – Recess Monkey
3. No School Today – Danny Weinkauf
4. Raise Your Hand – The Not-Its
5. Just Say Hi – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
6. Perfect Quirk – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
7. Greetings From Cloud 9 – The Whirlygigs
8. Good Egg – Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights
9. The Apple Tree and the Honey Bee – the Bari Koral Family Rock Band
10. Smile in My Heart – Suzi Shelton

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wake Up – The Neville Brothers
Give Some, Get Some – Papa Crow
Delicious  – Orange Sherbert
First Day of School  – Ethan Rossiter And The Jamberries
Archaeology – Danny Weinkauf
Handy – Weird Al Yankovic
The Best Parts – Eric Herman
Alligator Get-Together – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Grandpa-Land  – Bill and Karlee Goffrier

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Monday, October 20, 2014

A Billion Stars – Papa Crow
Danceology – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Are We There Yet?  – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
I Am the Wind – Underbirds
We Can't Stop – Miley Cyrus
I Love the Rain – The Real Tuesday Weld
Animal Kingdom – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
The Flying Fox – Davy Andrews

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, October 17, 2014

I Must Be a Genius – Dog On Fleas
When the World Was New – Dean Jones
Anytime At All – Caspar Babypants
Imaginationology – Jon Samson
Earn It – Hullabaloo
Kids in America – The Muffs
What's That Sound? – Recess Monkey
Brave – Sara Bareilles
Big Green Party Machine – David Heatley

The Wild Animal Lives of Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke

For some recording artists, children's music is a pit stop. Others flit in and out, whenever the occasion (or material) is right. For an elite few, making children's music becomes a vocation. I'm not saying they can make a full-time living at it; that's a fantasy fulfilled by the top one percent. But their ventures are always worthwhile, the music and lyrics are playful and joyful, and adults and kids alike can't wait to hear what's on the disc. Which is why I'm happy to share a few thoughts about KEY WILDE AND MR. CLARKE and their brand new CD, ANIMAL TALES.

The New York-based duo have a long and colorful history, together and separately (read their bios if you have the time). Their recordings for kids have been celebrated by SiriusXM's Kids Place Live and their videos have blown up on Youtube. ANIMAL TALES, their fourth CD, is not your father's "here's a mammal, here's a reptile" collection of tunes. These are kids tunes with 'tude. "Animal Island" creates a fantasy paradise stocked with creates of all persuasions and delineates how different our priorities are from theirs. "Alligator Get-Together" is a lazy country tale with plenty of backwater twanging guitars. It also delivers a powerful message about extinction. "Larry the Lobster" introduces some underwater denizens and tells their stories:

Herman the hermit crab lives in his shell
He's friends with two anemones who live there as well
But when he moves to a new shell he'll bid them farewell
He says, "With friends like me, who needs anemones?"

Play "The Bear Song" for your kids and introduce them to all eight species of bear. Created for an international conference at The Woodlands Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, the song made a splash online with its whimsical tone and easy to watch graphics.

Mr. Clarke's UK and French upbringing gives an offbeat perspective to the music (while not turning it into a world music project). Key Wilde grew up in Texas, branding a track like "Armando Armadillo" with a cultural gravitas. His original artwork and graphic design also make their videos and cover artwork stand out from the pack.

ANIMAL TALES is the duo's second collaboration with ace producer Dean Jones (Dog on Fleas) and equals the durability and competence of last year's PLEASED TO MEET YOU. Jones's comic sensibilities shine through on tracks like "The Buck Stops Here," where Wlide and Clarke sing, "I've been here for a year and I ain't seen a single deer." It's been more than a year since their last collection. These ANIMAL TALES are a welcome menagerie for any child's musical education.

ANIMAL TALES is available October 21 through Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for THE BEAR SONG:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, October 16, 2014

Start Of The End – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Glass Bottom Boat – Jason Didner And The Jungle Gym
Let The Records Play – Pearl Jam
Music – Alex & The Kaleidoscope Band
Copycat – Bill Harley And Keith Munslow
I'm a Shark (I Rock, I Swim) – ScribbleMonster
Manatee – The Whizpops!
Up Periscope – Recess Monkey
Thingamajig – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Here Comes the Summer – Ponds & Fleshman
Banana Pudding – Sugar Free Allstars
Fancy (feat. Charli XCX) – Iggy Azalea
Bonsai – Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs
Duck Ellington – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band
Little Blimp – The Joy Formidable
Fun Day (feat. Roxanne Farrell) – Father Goose
Hide & Seek – Princess Katie & Racer Steve
Love The Way You Lie (Part II) – Rihanna Feat. Eminem

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Electric Guitar – Laura Doherty
Pendulum – Pearl Jam
Liza Jane – Jr. Madness
Slow – Trout Fishing In America
No School Today – Danny Weinkauf
Bananas (Plum Crazy) – Tangerine Tambourine
Odd Socks – Dean Jones
My My My – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips
Take Your Kid To Work Day – Recess Monkey

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Monday, October 13, 2014

Peaceful – Cat Doorman
The World Is a Wonderful Place – Nora and One Left
Lucky Day – Stacey Peasley
What's My Name? – Rihanna Feat. Drake
She Looks So Perfect – 5 Seconds of Summer
Raised by Trolls – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
Tacky – Weird Al Yankovic
Working On A Bridge – Lloyd H. Miller
Bird in an Airplane Suit – Caspar Babypants

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, October 10, 2014

Till There Was You – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band
When You're Smiling – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
Summer Day – Stacey Peasley
Stay Up Late – Dean Jones
New Shoes – Riff Rockit
My Sister Kissed Her Boyfriend – Trout Fishing In America
Sirens – Pearl Jam
Just a Normal Day – Lesley and the Flying Foxes
Flat Stanley – Play Date

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, October 9, 2014

Broken Record (Featuring Mista Cookie Jar) – Stacey Peasley
My Secret Robot – Justin Roberts
Potted Plant Guy – David Heatley
Fortune Cookie – The Little Rockers Band
So Funny I Forgot to Laugh – Randy Kaplan
Roller coaster – Bari Koral Family Rock Band
Ice Cream Girl  – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
National Hiccup Day – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Bionic (feat. Shiz & Lady Asha) – Father Goose

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sing-A-Long Song – Lloyd H. Miller
Always On The Run – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
Now Let's Dance – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
Robots Can't Cry – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
My Daddy's Record Collection – Sugar Free Allstars
Stay in the Pool – Jason Didner And The Jungle Gym
Shake It Off – Taylor Swift
Human Bean – Dean Jones

Dani and Demi… the Princess and the Tomboy

It's a cliche to say that every little girl wants to be a princess or a tomboy. However the motif follows through into children's music. Many female recording artists are seeking to "empower" their audience, even though they tack on "Miss" as their surname – Miss Nina, Miss Amy, etc. As for fantasy, Elska created an entire Nordic island and culture. Princess Katie rocks out in a tiara. I could say that Joanie Leeds is an ethnic princess, but that stretches the argument to the breaking point.

Two new entries this month are Demi Mays and Friends with DANDELION and Dani's BEAUTY LAND. To some extent I'm mixing apples and oranges, but both performers are attempting to reach young children and expose them to new ideas. Dani's music is more advanced and there's a story at the center of the CD. Demi's album is aimed at a younger, less sophisticated audience. If anything, it goes back to the "princess versus tomboy" concept.

BEAUTY LAND follows a brother and sister, Jimmy and Lulu, trying to escape the title setting, "a wonderful place filled with beautiful colors and candy treats." Um, then why do they want to escape? Sign me up! They come across odd characters ("Strange Little Witch," "Tree Creatures") and learn the geography of the fairy tale ("Mountain King, "Ocean").

A Chicago native who relocated to Los Angeles for a career in the music business, Dani is giving the children's recording industry a try. She's got some impressive backing, with top-level videos and a music video production company on her team. Still, it comes down to what your pre-tween is willing to listen to. Selling children's music is tough and narrowcasting makes it even tougher. I couldn't quite place the fractured accent Dani attempts on "Tree Creatures," but then again, it's a fantasy for little girls, not middle-aged bloggers.

Demi Mays' DANDELION comes through Growing Sound music, a non-profit company
that develops music and other products that translate key findings from recent child development research into practical and entertaining products for teachers, parents, and children. Specifically, fun and interactive music for young kids. Their motto could be "get 'em before they're ready for school." The CD is mostly written by GS's David Kisor, an imposing PhD of musical talent who channels his energies into youthful audiences.

When you get right down to it, any CD targeted at two year old's is going to be pretty simplistic. "Only Food in My Mouth" pretty much encapsulates its mission in five words. "Baby Animal Song" does it in three. Demi has a clear, lilting singing voice and you can almost see the kids swaying as she sings, "The Sun Always Shines." The CD ends with an extended instrumental version of "Way, Way Deep" intended for quiet time. We could use that more than the youngster these days.

I've commented over the past few years about how having a second child, nine years later, has re-introduced me to basic concepts through children's music. Now that the toddler is turning into his own person (turning four in eight weeks), it's hard to believe that once again, we are "aging out" of music for very little people. But DANDELION is just the thing for his smaller cousins. Ironically both boys, but I'm sure they're being raised as if they are little princes.

BEAUTY LAND is available from Dani's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

DANDELION is available from Growing Sound's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for BEAUTY LAND:

Monday, October 06, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Stop Your Sobbing – Stacey Peasley
You Remind Me Of You – Jack Johnson
Who Loves the Sun  – Zee Avi
Let 'em Know – Milkshake
Me Time – Chibi Kodama
This Is How We Do – Katy Perry
I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like)  – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Shake It Off! –  Uncle Rock
Fill It Up – Josh And The Jamtones

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Monday, October 6, 2014

Shine – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
Change – Jack Johnson Feat. Ben Harper
Lose My Mind – The Wanted
Wander 'Round the World – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
DJ All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Speeding Motorcycle – The Pastels
Halloween Every Night – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
New  – Paul McCartney

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Friday, October 3, 2014

Shot Reverse Shot – Jack Johnson
Blink Of An Eye – Frances England
Turned Out – Paul McCartney
You Are An Astronaut – Human-Tim + Robot-Tim
Apple Tree – Bari Koral Family Rock Band
Jim-A-Long Josie – Jr. Madness
Mooshpie – The Whirlygigs
Show Me A Sign – Michael Franti & Spearhead

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, October 2, 2014

Changes – David Bowie
Marsupial – Danny Weinkauf
Sunflower – Josh And The Jamtones
Sisters and Brothers – Bari Koral Family Rock Band
Bigga Bagga – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke M
Gravy Stain – Mr. Saxophone
Full Tilt – The Not-Its
Everything I Didn't Say – 5 Seconds of Summer
Rock Melon – Gustafer Yellowgold

Berkner Is Back With Ultimate Hits Collection

There are so many mysteries in the world of children's music… What's the best way to get across a message without sounding preachy? What's the perfect balance between motion and resting songs? How do you determine which sibling controls the station on Pandora? But most vexing of all is "How did I cover music for this long and never review a Laurie Berkner CD?"

Laurie has recorded and released music for more than 15 years, originally from her own living room on the "Two Tomatoes" label and currently through Razor & Tie. Similar to Dan Zanes, we got into her music just after the first commercial up-curve. We saw Zanes at Symphony Space right before our son Ben turned 3 (he's now 13). We saw Laurie at Town Hall when he was five. Both of those were singular experiences, yet we have not seen Berkner live in concert since then, while we saw Zanes well, everywhere. Part of that was freaky coincidence. He performed at Colden Center in Queens, 10 minutes from our house. He performed at the Westhampton Arts Center, where my mother worked as a volunteer and was able to secure tickets. When he left Symphony Space and moved to the New Victory Theater, we saw a few shows there. Laurie consistently toured and returned to venues in New York City, yet we somehow missed those opportunities.

There's a sardonic irony to that situation: Dan Zanes was lionized as the heart of "kindie" music. Whereas Laurie Berkner was positioned by People magazine as "the Queen of children's music," as if reaching a mainstream audience on Nick Jr. was a bad thing.

THE ULTIMATE LAURIE BERKNER COLLECTION seeks to remedy a hole in our music collection. Initially we passed our copies of her early CDs to younger cousins for their enjoyment. When things went full circle and our younger son, Matt, joined the family equation, we still had all the Dan Zanes CDs. He (not so) quietly preferred Recess Monkey and Ralph's World. But a curious thing happened when I played the ULTIMATE COLLECTION for Ben. Not only did Ben know the songs instantly, but he told us on which CDs the tracks originally appeared. Remember, he had not heard some of these tunes for 7-8 years.

That devotion speaks to the ultimate appeal of Laurie Berkner and why she "reigns" as kindie queen. "Running Down the Hill" and "Where Is the Cake?" are pretty simple concepts but insidiously infectious.The tunes span the entire breadth of Laurie's recording career and all three of her bassists – Brian "don't call me Mr. Berkner" Mueller, Adam Bernstein, and a fellow named Brady Rymer. Longtime keyboard player Susie Lampert and (more recent) drummer Bobby Golden are also represented. You get three songs not previously recorded, "My Family," "One Seed," and "Magic Box," a little tune about imagination.

With a CD already entitled GREATEST HITS, you may wonder why not follow with GREATEST HITS VOLUME II? It worked for Elton John, Billy Joel, and any number of children and adult music acts. As Laurie states, "I had an enormously difficult time deciding which songs to include," on her first hits CD, leaving no doubt that there would be a followup. And if she continues to record new music, she adds, "I guess I'll need to make a third one." Well, it's good to be the queen. All hail Laurie Berkner!

THE ULTIMATE LAURIE BERKNER COLLECTION is available on October 14 from Laurie's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is a video for Laurie's song, "Party Day"