Wednesday, June 03, 2015

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":

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