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?"
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"