Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Bionic (feat. Shiz & Lady Asha) – Father Goose
Don't – Ed Sheeran
Great Day – The Not-Its!
Keep The Hate Mail Comin' – Lloyd H. Miller
Mystery – Dean Jones
New – Paul McCartney
No School Today – Danny Weinkauf
Sourwood Mountain – Red Yarn

Monday, June 29, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Alligator – Paul McCartney
Amnesia – 5 Seconds of Summer
Grizzly Bear – Red Yarn
Haircut – The Not-Its!
My Favorite Sneakers –  In The Nick Of Time
Show Me A Sign – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Start Of The End – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Unwind – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Monday, June 29, 2015

Dad Is Takin' a Nap – Keith Munslow
Danceology – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Duck Ellington – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band
Everything I Didn't Say – 5 Seconds of Summer
Gettin' My Ya Ya's Out – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Love Runs Out – OneRepublic
Mole in the Ground  – Red Yarn
Uh Huh – Dean Jones
You Can Do This – Hullabaloo

Friday, June 26, 2015

Live Recess Monkey: Return to the Big Apple

The last time we saw Recess Monkey live it was kind of a compromise. The Seattle-based band flew to the East Coast and appeared at Pennsylvania's glorious Longwood Gardens. We took our first family vacation in several years, packed up the kids, and drove from Queens to see them at the outdoor venue (and attend KindieComm the next day). Despite temperatures hovering around 90 degrees (and Jack Forman declared on-stage temps closer to 100), it was a delightful early-evening performance.

This year, the band returned to Manhattan for the first time since January 2014 for a morning concert in Madison Square Park. Even better, the show fell on the exact Thursday of the week when both of our kids were on break from their schools and had yet to start their summer programs.

The Madison Square Park Conservancy has booked a wonderful series of kids concerts for the past several years. The problem is our younger son was, well, too young to schlep that far into the city so early in the morning. And our older son was in a summer program that was walking distance to the park. I pitched walking kids over for the concerts (and volunteered if they needed more chaperones) but my assumption is the summer program was very formalized and if something was scheduled "on the fly," it would mess up their routines. Plus loud music is tricky for children with autism and they may have felt some of the performers skewed too "young" for the older grades.

Recess Monkey easily defies those expectations. They are one of the rare kindie acts we can listen to repeatedly as a family and not roll our eyes or gnash our teeth. In fact, it was only on the 20th or 21st listening that I picked out an amusing key lyric from one of the songs on DEEP SEA DIVER. Okay, I can't remember which one, offhand, right now. Just go with it, folks.

We got to the park as they were opening the "stroller park" and letting people grab places on the lawn. We secured a nice spot (a wee bit too close to one of the speakers, but hey we were arm's length from the band, as you can see from the videos) and the kids began to give "status" reports on band members Jack, Korum Bischoff, and Drew Holloway ("Jack is checking the set list... Korum is in the booth...Drew is not wearing glasses").

Unlike an "adult" performer like James Taylor, who played eight songs from his last CD when we saw him in 2002-03, Recess Monkey are not married to their latest material. They did play 3-4 songs from HOT AIR. But they were more concerned with getting the crowd of youngsters on their feet and interacting, to classic older songs such as "Flapjacks," "Jet Pack," and "Twins."

After the show, Jack remarked that some of the band's East Coast shows have been met with harsh temperatures. In fact, their 2013 Madison Square Park show was performed in 90-plus degree heat. But on June 25 the weather was agreeable and so were the kids in the audience. Well, until the final song and the nannies and camp programs began to quickly disperse, but that's another story.

Drew is a reliable and enjoyable lead singer. Jack provides narrative and instruction between songs. And Korum anchors the trio with robust drum beats. Even when they lost sound early on, they vamped in professional style and never lost an easily-distracted demographic.

Recess Monkey does a fun show. They deliver an interactive show (Jack ran through the crowd early this time, although no conga line as in previous concerts). While our older son has mostly "aged out" of the kid's music demographic, this is one act he clamors to see and hear. And his younger brother listens to their Pandora station and routinely selects their CDs for rotation in the car.

Kudos to the group for their continued ingenuity and to Madison Square Park for bringing them back to NYC. It was our third Recess Monkey concert in 18 months and the first in a year. Seems way too long a gap, so let's see what 2016 brings!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Friday, June 26, 2015

Bile Them Cabbage – Red Yarn
Don't Stop – 5 Seconds of Summer
Fountain of Youth – Brady Rymer
Hold On to Your Dreams – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
Jet – Robin Zander & Rick Nielsen
Kings & Queens – The Hipwaders
Mooshpie – The Whirlygigs
Together We Can Fly – Danny Weinkauf

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, June 25, 2015

Alligator Get-Together – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Carry a Tune – Recess Monkey
Change Your Ticket – One Direction
Extraordinary – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Future Days – Pearl Jam
Invisible Wind  – Earthworm Ensemble
Look, Think, Guess, Know – Tom Chapin
That's Just Us (Playing Rock-n-Roll) – Hullabaloo

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Animal Kingdom – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Archaeology – Danny Weinkauf
Gloria – Van Morrison & Them
Junior's Farm – Steve Miller
Now Let's Dance – Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Zanes
Odd Socks – Dean Jones
Smile in My Heart – Suzi Shelton
This Land Is Your Land  – Alastair Moock & Friends
Tomorrow's People  – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could

Red Yarn Spins a New Deep Woods Revival, Cookie's June Tune

"Traditional" is typically another way for musicians to say "public domain." How else to explain multiple versions of "Oh Susanna" on so many children's recordings? Portland-faced Andy Furgeson doesn't see things that way. Under his "Red Yarn" persona, he knits a concise connection to songs from American history on his second release, DEEP WOODS REVIVAL.

The disc has deeper meaning in the vinyl edition (I stuck with the new traditional digital format), where the A side contain pop favorites such as "Skip to My Lou" and "Mole in the Ground." Yes, there was a time when these songs were contemporary. Then they were kitsch. Now they are kindie. The B side "For Brave Kids and Grownups" dives headfirst into the woods and the wonders of nature with "Grizzly Bear," "Crosseyed Gopher," and "The Bullfrog."

Red Yarn has performed since 2008 for children in the Portland area with a combination music and puppet show, slowly cultivating a persona and musical identity with "free-range ethics." Accompanied by spouse Jessie Eller-Isaacs and ace producer Dean Jones, Furgeson has a deep love and appreciation of early American culture, values, and musicality. Red Yarn delivers a resonant, enriched early American experience that young children can appreciate – boy, puppets can accomplish almost anything!

DEEP WOODS REVIVAL is available through Red Yarn's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Mista Cookie Jar is getting silly. Well, when you set a mandate to release one song every month, you're bound to get a tad ridiculous and June is his month to do so. "Spatula Versus Sun" pits a plastic spoon against a backyard full of mangy characters, akin to the wild west. You don't believe me? Well, who asked if you believed me – the story is all here, see for yourself.

It's a nice little slice of fiction. Consider it the kid's equivalent of a summer sci-fi blockbuster, condensed and set to music.

As per schedule, you can find "Spatula Versus Sun" his CJ's bandcamp page or his blog. Enjoy!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

All In A Day – Alastair Moock & Friends
All the Pretty Horses – Cat Doorman
Amnesia – 5 Seconds of Summer
Earn It – Hullabaloo
Follow The Drinking Gourd – Lloyd H. Miller
Gratitude – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Robots From The 4th Dimension – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Monday, June 22, 2015

DJ All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Don't Fence Me In – Andy Z
Every Day's A Holiday – Alastair Moock & Friends
H-U-L-L-A-B-A-L-O-O – Hullabaloo
National Hiccup Day – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Right Now – Rihanna Feat. David Guetta
Snaggletooth – Dean Jones
Spatula Vs Sun – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips
Tsy Akeo  – Madagascar (All Around This World Africa)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Friday, June 19, 2015

Baldy – Lloyd H. Miller
The Bright Side Of Me – Alastair Moock & Friends
Free Ride Everyday  – Lori Henriques
I Got This! – Princess Katie & Racer Steve
I'm Not the Sharpest Tool – Dean Jones
If Red Tastes Like Strawberry – The Whirlygigs
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy
Toothloser – Gustafer Yellowgold
A Who? (feat. Joanie Leeds) – Father Goose

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, June 18, 2015

Early Days – Paul McCartney
Groove – Lori Henriques
I Can Still Say I Love You – Keith Munslow
I've Had It Up To Here – Weezer
Nobody's Business – Rihanna Feat. Chris Brown
Nose In A Book – The Not-Its! Raise Your Hand
Poofy – Ratboy Jr.
Raised by Trolls – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
Stay Up Late – Dean Jones

All Kinds of Alastair Moock For Your Kids

A little education can be a dangerous thing, if placed in the wrong hands. Luckily for us, Alastair Moock knows just what to do with a little education. Now, I'm not saying he's got limited experience. Far from it – Alastair's resume includes a 2014 Grammy nomination, a Parents' Choice Gold Medal, and a trio of National Parenting Publications Gold Awards. On the contrary, Alastair makes music that teaches your kids with a soup├žon of brain-growing content.

His latest CD, ALL KINDS OF YOU AND ME, is Alastair's personal take on the classic 1970s FREE TO BE...YOU AND ME collection. While not as groundbreaking (and few children's music performers aspire to achieve those lofty standards), ALL KINDS... sits comfortably as a companion piece. Once you've mentioned FREE TO ME... it's almost incumbent to make the comparison. Okay, I've done it. Let's move on.

ALL KINDS... includes a number of Alastair's friend such as Rani Arbo, Anand Nayak, Jennifer Kimball, Samirah Evans, Debbie Lan, and Mark Erelli. Cover art is provided by illustrator and kindie musician Key Wilde. If anything has changed from the 1970s, it's that "that" world was more concerned about "boy things and girl things." Gender roles between the sexes have become so complicated that Alastair largely leaves the topic alone for younger listeners, save for "You Might Be A Girl."

In place of gender politics, Alastair turns to world issues. Alas, this is my weak spot. "Kenya Imagine?" is a neat conceit, but that's what Putumayo is for. He is on better footing with catchy tunes like "It Takes All Kinds" and "My Life (Is A Lot Like Yours)." And he takes to jauntily strumming for an inclusive take on "People":

People people people you meet
Look at all the people walking down the street
Some are grumpy and some are sweet
Some like bananas some like peas

Alastair takes people down south for some zydeco flavor with "Everything's Upside-down But Me" and closes with a solid narrative take on his childhood hero Woody Guthrie's classic "This Land Is Your Land." In between, he and his friends are busy and upbeat. They're not kidding about the concept – there's eight "you" or "me" instances in the album's 12 tracks. Alastair is sincere about promoting the pioneering efforts of such people as Dr. Martin Lither King and Gloria Steinem. And a little education in the right hands has never sounded as sweet.

Alastair Moock and Friends descend on Madison Square Park on Thursday, June 18 for part of the annual summer children's concert series. If you're interested, drop by and take a listen for yourself.

ALL KINDS OF YOU AND ME is available June 19 from Alastair's website, Amazon, iTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is the video for the song, "It Takes All Kinds":

Oh – and rustic roots revival racounteur Red Yarn (Andy Furgeson) is back soon. Here's the first video from "Deep Woods Revival," his upcoming CD. It's "Bile Them Cabbage." Tell me that's not obscure!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Foolish Father – Weezer
Lighter Feathers – Dean Jones
Mama Don't Allow – In The Nick Of Time
Motorcycle Mom – The Not-Its!
Right Side of the Bed – Ratboy Jr.
Runaway – Ed Sheeran
This Little Light Of Mine – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Tomorrow's People – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could

Monday, June 15, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Be a Little Angel – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips
Best Friend – In The Nick Of Time
Cheese World – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Go Jump in the Water – Keith Munslow
Ground Food – Ratboy Jr.
Lightning Bolt – Pearl Jam
Ninja Pajamas (feat. P.O.S.) – Play Date

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Monday, June 15, 2015

All Around the Kitchen – Andy Z
Blink Of An Eye – Frances England
Coral Reef – The Whizpops!
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
My Own Detective – Tom Chapin
Show Me A Sign – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Sponges – Ratboy Jr.
Start Of The End – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Trapped In The Attic – Lloyd H. Miller

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Friday, June 12, 2015

Amnesia – 5 Seconds of Summer
Archaeology – Danny Weinkauf
Hamsterdam – Ratboy Jr.
Invisible Wind  – Earthworm Ensemble
Keep The Hate Mail Comin' –  Lloyd H. Miller
Little Things – One Direction
Raise Your Hand –  The Not-Its!
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy

Big Hamster Dance for Ratboy Jr. and New Kids Vids!

It's all about plate tectonics.

Yeah, there's finally a kid's song ("Poofy") that gets to the bottom of the division of the Earth's land masses. Well, not really. But Ratboy Jr. plays hard and fast with serious stuff. The duo (yes, it only takes two people to make such unique craziness) of Tim Sutton and Matt Senzatimore (aided by ubitqituous uber-producer Dean Jones) are not afraid to ask leading questions such as "What Does the Farm Do?" and "have you ever thought about sponges?"

On the latter song, the chorus answers resoundingly, "Even Billy Ocean uses sponges from the ocean," which led both my kids to ask, "Billy who?"

From their cozy confines in New York State's Hudson Valley, Ratboy Jr. has hatched their third collection of tunes, HAMSTER PANTS. You will be amused ("Marian the Barbarian Librarian"), you will be confused ("The Skunk and the Robot"), and you will be educated ("Ground Food"). And by you, I refer to the reader and any attached children.

If there's a lesson to be learned from Ratboy Jr., it's that fun matters. Children's music doesn't need to always pound home concepts and theories. Sometimes a kid just needs to kick back and enjoy his "Dancing Room." However it's not all fun and games for Tim and Matt. They do finish the CD with "Try," reminding kids that there's more to life but you have to make an effort:

Try to watch for falling stars.
Try to dance in clogs.
Try to sing with the swan as you sit amongst the logs.

You can take the Ratboy Jr. guys from the Hudson Valley (they do a lot of shows around the East Coast) but they remember to bring their sense of humor wherever they go. HAMSTER PANTS is infused with warmth and mirth. You also get a sly reference to Johnny Marr, and name another children's group that works him and Billy Ocean onto the same disk!

HAMSTER PANTS is available from the band's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Recess Monkey is back and they're full of HOT AIR. That's their new CD/DVD package, featuring a short film about Andrew (singer Drew Holloway) and his magical ballooning adventure. Here's a look at the latest video, "Lighter Than Air":

Brooklyn's impressively silly duo, The Pop-Ups, have released the second in their new kid's webcast series. In this installment, they teach viewers how to play with a ball. Got it?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, June 11, 2015

Changes – David Bowie
Farewell – Rihanna
Germs – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
I Love the Beach – Keith Munslow
Marsupial – Danny Weinkauf
Sittin On A Cloud – The Whirlygigs
Tunneling To Paradise – Pointed Man Band
Turned Out – Paul McCartney
Wake Up  – The Neville Brothers

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, June 10, 2105

All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor
Apple Tree – Bari Koral Family Rock Band
Everybody Out There –  Paul McCartney
Flannel Jammies – The Not-Its!
Hot Air – Recess Monkey
It Suits You – Gustafer Yellowgold
Mama – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips
Metaphor – The Alphabeticians
Stay Up Late – Dean Jones

Monday, June 08, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Carry a Tune – Recess Monkey
Dad Is Takin' a Nap – Keith Munslow
Fountain of Youth – Brady Rymer
Lips Are Movin – Meghan Trainor
National Hiccup Day – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Secret Fox – Gustafer Yellowgold
Snaggletooth – Dean Jones
Voodoo Doll – 5 Seconds of Summer
The Way We Gets Down – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Monday, June 8, 2015

Big Green Party Machine – David Heatley
Brick By Brick – Recess Monkey
Head in the Clouds – Recess Monkey
Kings & Queens – The Hipwaders
Lazy Raisins – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
Listen To What The Man Said – Owl City
Sing in the Sun – The Harmonica Pocket
Smile in My Heart – Suzi Shelton
Thinking Good Thoughts – Dog On Fleas

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Friday, June 5, 2015

Beneath The Water – Caspar Babypants
Bionic (feat. Shiz & Lady Asha) – Father Goose
Life In Color – OneRepublic
Lighter Feathers – Dean Jones
Lucky Penny – The Whirlygigs
NOW That's What I Call Polka! – Weird Al Yankovic
Penguinese – Recess Monkey
Robots From The 4th Dimension – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Trondaxx Berserker – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, June 4, 2015

Future Days –  Pearl Jam
Nobody's Business – Rihanna Feat. Chris Brown
Paper Airplane – Recess Monkey
She Looks So Perfect –  5 Seconds of Summer
Space Kid And Banana – Ratboy Jr.
Tomorrow's People – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Uh Huh – Dean Jones
Welcome To New York – Taylor Swift

Recess Monkey Thankfully Full of Hot Air

Never underestimate Recess Monkey. In December 2012, original founding member Daron Henry left the trio to pursue other avenues. At the time, I was skeptical that the band could forge onward. Indeed, at the time I made a comparison to the Beatles losing John Lennon. Three-plus years later, I can happily eat my words. Drummer Korum Bischoff stepped in and the Monkey Men have not only persevered, they have prospered.

For Recess Monkey's amazing 12th studio release, HOT AIR, the trio are debuting a combination CD/DVD set. The album is once again a collection of magical songs. The theme is self-evident and many of the tunes are flight-related, such as "Lighter Than Air," "Head in the Clouds," and the George Harrison-esque "My Balloon," to enact a Beatles callback.

The DVD tells a 30+ minute adventure story featuring lead singer Drew Holloway as "Drew," a boy who grows up obsessively sewing together his older siblings' "Hand Me Downs" (another song). He fortuitously uses them to create a hot air balloon and competes in a local 24-hour flight contest where he meets a talking penguin on a flying carpet. You may ask, "How do the fellows fit 39 minutes of music into a 30+ minute film?" The answer is, "They didn't try." Many songs are reduced to short clips, which works in advancing the story without the redundancy of additional verses and choruses that might take younger kids away from the narrative.

The music of HOT AIR stands independently from the DVD. In fact, I had to view the DVD apart from my kids in order to concentrate on the story, which was simple enough to paraphrase and includes some nifty old aero footage and a combination of graphic animation and live-action. Veteran producer John Vanderslice gives a modern feel to some very retro songs, especially the balled "Morning Sun" and the jaunty title track:

I'm as red as a beet from my head down to my toes.
"Come down," they all say, but I just can't let it go.
Can't you tell that I'm ready to yell.
I'm like a grizzly bear with a really soft tooth or an army of wasps about to get loose.
I've had enough, everybody back up, everybody back up.
Because I'm full of hot air.

Remember Lando Calrissian, Han Solo's double-agent friend in "The Empire Strikes Back," who happens to be the mayor of cloud city? Well, Recess Monkey remembers him and includes the tribute "Oh, Lando" near the close of HOT AIR. While it fits into the concept of the album, my kids have yet to see any of the "Star Wars" films. DON'T ATTACK ME – WE'LL GET THERE. I just told them it was a nice tribute and they'd probably hear it in rotation on Kids Place Live as we got closer to the release of "Episode 7" in December.

The third member of Recess Monkey is Jack Forman, known to SiriusXM listeners as one of the voices of Kids Place Live's "From the Monkey House." That's what is known as synergy. Drew provides sweet vocals and guitar playing, Jack delivers steady bass lines and harmonies, and Korum rounds out the band with jaunty, bold drumming. Undoubtably one of 2015's most anticipated children's music releases, HOT AIR delivers with gentle novelty, genuine emotion, and serious fun.

HOT AIR is available on June 16 from the band's website, Amazon, iTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is the first video from HOT AIR, "Penguinese":

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Animal Kingdom – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Banana Pudding – Sugar Free Allstars
Domino Town – Dean Jones
Fill It Up – Josh And The Jamtones
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Me Time – Chibi Kodama
The Owl And The Pussycat – Papa Crow
Pendulum – Pearl Jam
That's Just Us (Playing Rock-n-Roll) – Hullabaloo

Monday, June 01, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Alligator Get-Together – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Baldy – Lloyd H. Miller
Guitar Pickin' Chicken – Ratboy Jr.
Hold On to Your Dreams – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
I'm Not the Sharpest Tool – Dean Jones
Mothership – Mr. Saxophone
New  – Paul McCartney
Unwind – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Voodoo Doll – 5 Seconds of Summer