Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jamtones Rocksteady, Ralph Rocks and Reads

You wouldn't think that the kindie genre leaves much room for evolution. After all, the average lifespan of your audience is 2-5 years before they "grow up" into more age-appropriate music or seek out other interests.

Two recent CD releases belie that argument. Josh and the Jamtones' ROCKSTEADY shows that you can serve two masters – the rambunctious tyrants of youth and your own unshakeable rhythmic island desires. Bandleader Josh Shriber and producer/bandmate Pat Hanlin have followed their instincts and taken the band's third family album down south for a Caribbean-flavored party mix.

The band's previous two CDs, JUMP UP! and BEAR HUNT! saw the Jamtones moving in many directions; musical Silly Putty. But ROCKSTEADY shows a maturity and certainty in creativity. Josh and company want to see kids move their "Tailfeather." Even the closing ballad "1 Of a Kind" still whistles with a reggae bop.

Guest artists include Secret Agent 23 Skidoo ("I Heart Your Face") and returning champion Father Goose, on a dubbed-up remix of BEAR HUNT's "I Love U." A highlight is a cover of Toots and the Mayall's "Monkeyman," already a concert staple for the band. If you're a Beach Boys fan (and really why shouldn't you be?), prepare to have your mind blown with the Jamtones' version of "Sloop Jon B." Adding to the chaos are request breaks and drop-ins from WJAM, the group's fictional radio station.

Parental warning: ROCKSTEADY is not bedtime music. Parental alert: ROCKSTEADY will get your kids jumping on the couch. Parental advisory: If it's a family dance party you crave, get ROCKSTEADY and build a freestyle, preschool rave.

ROCKSTEADY is available on August 21 from the Jamtones' website, CDBABY, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is a video of the band performing "Monkeyman," shot by yours truly, at a 2014 concert at New York's Symphony Space:


Meanwhile somewhere in the Chicago area, Ralph Covert is enjoying his second decade in the kindie biz with a retrospective CD comprised of his favorite songs based on his children's books, RALPH'S WORLD ROCKS AND READS.  A lifelong musician (for kids of all ages), Ralph enjoys a slot in our kids' lifetime Top Ten for many of the tunes included in this collection such as "Surfin' In My Imagination," "Sunny Day, Rainy Day, Anytime Band," (see the 2009 video below from the lamented Kindiefest) and "Happy Lemons," co-written by Ralph's daughter, Fiona.

Looking at the enclosed postcard of content from Ralph is almost humbling. In addition to 11 fun-filled CDs, there are performance DVDs, and books. And the DVD for Time Machine Guitar, Ralph's upcoming children's television venture. At this unique juncture in his life, Ralph finds himself with two older children (daughter Fiona has become a performer in her own right) and a six-year-old, which draws him closer to his source material at a time when many recording artists begin to stray from their core audience. To whit, how do you keep the mojo for the tots when your own brood "grow up" into more age-appropriate music or seek out other interests.

ROCKS AND READS demonstrates how Ralph bridged that divide…repurposing his material in a new medium (books). You get 17 tracks (three previously unreleased) as well as the story "Do the Math," featuring Tony Triangle and the Polygon Band, illustrated by Rita Roquite. It's educational, it's musical, it's amusing (the new girl is Poly Hedron, which will go over the heads of the intended audience).

It's always fascinating to watch musicians expand their repertoire. At the same time, it's frustrating when you're not prepared for them to leave you behind – as adults, we looked forward to the next Ralph's World CD and the next local concert appearance. ROCKS AND READS show how Ralph has matured and comfortably straddles different forms of children's entertainment. It's something for Josh and the Jamtones and other artists to emulate. And it's definitely something to hear and read with your kids.

RALPH'S WORLD ROCKS AND READS! is available from Ralph's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for "Sunny Day, Rainy Day, Anytime Band" from Kindiefest 2009. Hey, more than 1,300 viewers can't be wrong!

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