Monday, August 31, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bile Them Cabbage  – Red Yarn
Drive My Car  – Caspar Babypants
Every Day's A Holiday  – Alastair Moock & Friends
Great Big Sky  – Mil's Trills
I've Got Friends In New Jersey  – Rocknoceros
Mama Don't Allow  – In The Nick Of Time
Paper Airplane  – Recess Monkey
Sing in the Sun  – The Harmonica Pocket
Starfish and Coffee  – Renee & Friends Featuring Maya Rudolph

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Monday, August 31, 2015

All In A Day – Alastair Moock & Friends
All the Pretty Horses – Cat Doorman
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Follow The Drinking Gourd –  Lloyd H. Miller
Gather Round – Renee & Friends Featuring Lisa Loeb
Jelly Beans! – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
Right Side of the Bed – Ratboy Jr.
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
The Word –  Caspar Babypants

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Friday, August 28, 2015

The Bright Side Of Me – Alastair Moock & Friends
Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Carry a Tune – Recess Monkey
From Scratch – Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer
Gypsy Whale Waltz – Pointed Man Band
I Love U (Jz Remix) – Josh And The Jamtones
One After 909 – Caspar Babypants
Shake a Friend's Hand – Andy Z
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy

Renee & Friends Insist You Stay Simpatico

It pays to have friends. Vocalist Renee Stahl (of Renee and Jeremy fame) has called upon a laundry list of celebrated names for her latest children's music release, SIMPATICO. From her longtime producer, Rich Jacques to Men at Work frontman Colin Hay, everyone "Gather Round" to hear the lilting SoCal harmonies and dreamy acoustic arrangements.

Renee is among the performers who quantify their work as for "families of all ages," not limiting their music to the small fry set. To that end, I'd stock the Renee & Friends CD under "Unplugged" or "Easy Listening." You won't find crashing drums, thumping dance beats, or electric guitar solos. Renee has built her reputation on the Brian Wilson book of values – love thy neighbor as if they are family.

Among the most poignant of the tunes on this collection is the ode from a parent to child, "You Were Meant To Be," performed with Glen Phillips from Toad the Wet Sprocket:

I can't promise you won't need to cry.
I'll help you wipe the tears from your eyes.
There's one thing that you wanna know is true,
Please don't forget that you were meant to be here
Through hard days and sweet years.
Through laughter and warm tears,
You were meant to be here.
You were meant to be.

My two sons have gotten me through some pretty dark clouds and "You Were Meant To Be" hit me in the solar plexus. I cannot underplay the visceral emotion reaction I had to that song, as well as the Broadway classic, "Happiness," from "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown," warbled with Renee's former Cleveland school classmate, SNL's Molly Shannon. I attempted to sing along to the latter for my kids and could not get my voice to stop cracking. Gosh thanks for ruining the song, dad!

My kids were excited to hear such favorites of theirs like Caspar Babypants ("I Am Not Afraid") and Lisa Loeb ("Gather Round"). It's ironic to use such a term about this kind of laid-back music, but it's appropriate under these circumstances. Rich Jacques is a consummate studio general and the production values are crystal clear and crisp. With the number of performers on SIMPATICO, I hate to leave anyone out. There are a dozen songs and 15 people listed as "friends" on the website. With that many friends, Renee is in good company. It makes Renee & Friends good company to be around, providing music for families of all ages.

SIMPATICO is available August 28 from Renee and Friends' website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is a video of Renee and Friends' song, "Gather Round":

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dad Is Takin' a Nap – Keith Munslow
Ghost Riders in the Sky – Andy Z
God Bless America – Rocknoceros
Ground Food – Ratboy Jr.
Loving Cup – Cat Doorman
Pj Party –  Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Rainbow Tunnel – Alison Faith Levy
Spatula Vs Sun – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips
Tunneling To Paradise – Pointed Man Band

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Apodidae Reggae – Pointed Man Band
Baldy – Lloyd H. Miller
H.B.D., Dude! – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
Mayim – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Rocksteady – Josh And The Jamtones
Sourwood Mountain – Red Yarn
Sponges – Ratboy Jr.
That Way – Chibi Kodama

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Best Friend – In The Nick Of Time
Extraordinary – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Future Days – Pearl Jam
Grizzly Bear – Red Yarn
Poofy – Ratboy Jr.
Raise Your Hand – The Not-Its!
Wander 'Round the World – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
Weirdos On Parade  – Chibi Kodama

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Monday, August 24, 2015

B.F.F. Goodbye – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
H-U-L-L-A-B-A-L-O-O  – Hullabaloo
Keep The Hate Mail Comin' – Lloyd H. Miller
Monkeyman – Josh And The Jamtones
Something I Need – OneRepublic
Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
20 More Dollars – Chibi Kodama

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Friday, August 21, 2015

Bile Them Cabbage  – Red Yarn
Flannel Jammies – The Not-Its!
I've Had It Up To Here – Weezer
In My Room – Chibi Kodama
Mi Chamocha (Wade In The Water) – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Stay Up Late – Dean Jones
The Tale Of The Sun And The Moon – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Voodoo Doll – 5 Seconds of Summer
When You're Gone – Mil's Trills

Everyone's in the Band for Chibi Kodama

What if you could take your favorite adult music and distill it for children? That's when John Cullimore decided to do after hearing his kids rock out to Weezer. He liked the band's style, he liked their sound, he just didn't want to be a rip-off. That's when Cullimore decided to incorporate his family (wife Yvonne and kids Aletheia, Aderyn, Chasah, and Story) as a family band and take it from there.

Thus was born Chibi (small) Kodama (magical beings) and their second new children's music CD, WE'RE NOT GOING CRAZY. It's a dozen chunky alt-rock tunes filtered though a child's perspective. You get the positive affirmation message "Who You Are" with sci-fi keyboards and guitar fills. But you also get the comically strident "I'm Always Right," which declares:

They are all wrong and I am always right.
And I merely do not want to have this big of a fight.
I'm leaving this conversation right now.
I don't care when and I don't care how.
You all need to agree with me.

There are bands that sing about children and musicians who sing songs that tell children's stories. As well as children's musicians who are storytellers. Chibi Kodama actively solicits song ideas through their web page to make its music as child-accessible as possible. Cullimore has achieved his goal – Chibi Kodama is potentially the most democratic of all children's music acts. Sometimes a kid just wants to be alone as in the opening track, "In My Room." Other times, they deal with conflicted emotions ("Real Friends Fight" and "Not Always Fine"). In the end, a family comes together even when the adults have real-world responsibilities and things have to be "That Way."

Chibi Kodama is a deceptively simple concept, however I get the idea that Cullimore wants all input, positive and negative. When you always hear what you want, you learn to tune out what the exceptions that you don't want to hear. There's enough originality here to ease his conscience about being a "rip-off." If anything, I would advise that children's music is best in small doses – the tracks on WE'RE NOT GOING CRAZY are regimented at around 3:30-4:30 minutes apiece. My younger son tends to space out at the three minute mark of virtually any song, regardless of artist. And that means the "graveyard of never-again-played CDs" for scores of musical acts I've reviewed over the years. Not every concept requires three verses, a chorus, and a bridge or solo. We get it – now we want to make sure the kids get it as well, which is what everyone wants. I love Weezer too. It would be cool for Chibi Kodama to sit side-by-side on the "recently played" shelf of the CD library.

WE'RE NOT GOING CRAZY is available from Chibi Kodama's websiteBandcamp, AmazoniTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is the band's new home-animated video for their song, "20 More Dollars":

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, August 20, 2015

Alligator – Paul McCartney
Back To The Shack – Weezer
Duck Ellington – Lucky Diaz And The Family Jam Band
Everything I Didn't Say – 5 Seconds of Summer
Great Big Sky – Mil's Trills
Haircut – The Not-Its!
Hot Air – Recess Monkey
Slow – Trout Fishing In America
Start Of The End – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band

Kindie Quick Hits: Videos from Ratboy Jr., Renee & Friends, and Josh & the Jamtones

Holy smokes! This week's kindie quick hits is comprised of three new videos from such artists as Josh and the Jamtones, Ratboy Jr., and Renee and Friends.

Supporting their new release, ROCKSTEADY, Josh and crew have released their video, featuring guest artist Jesse Wagner from the Aggrolites:

Renee and Friends is Renee Stahl (from Renee and Jeremy fame) plus a number of familiar faces. They are released SIMPATICO on August 28. Here is the pre-released of the first single from the collection, "Gather Round," featuring none other than Lisa Loeb:

Last but certainly not least, are Ratboy Jr. When I reviewed their latest CD, HAMSTER PANTS, I specifically singled out the song "Sponges" for its callback to 1980s vocalist Billy Ocean. And sure enough, here's the video to bring that revelation to the masses:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Bullfrog – Red Yarn
Caught in the Screen – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Don't Stop – 5 Seconds of Summer
Let's Be Friends – Mil's Trills
Nose In A Book – The Not-Its!
NOW That's What I Call Polka! – Weird Al Yankovic
Right Side of the Bed – Ratboy Jr.
Size Of The Problem – Tom Chapin

Monday, August 17, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, August 18, 2015

All the Pretty Horses – Cat Doorman
Animal Kingdom – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Animals – Maroon 5
Groove – Lori Henriques
Mama Don't Allow – In The Nick Of Time
Say Hey! – Mil's Trills
Somebody Somewhere – Sunshine Collective
This Little Light Of Mine – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Uh Huh – Dean Jones

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Monday, August 17, 2015

Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Hamsterdam – Ratboy Jr.
I Can Still Say I Love You – Keith Munslow
Run For The Sunshine – Sunshine Collective
Secret Fox – Gustafer Yellowgold
Word Crimes – Weird Al Yankovic
A World Alone – Lorde

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Friday, August 14, 2015

Bionic (feat. Shiz & Lady Asha) – Father Goose
Cheese World – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Closer To You – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Half Of Me – Rihanna
I Love the Beach – Keith Munslow
Let The Records Play – Pearl Jam
Sourwood Mountain – Red Yarn
Take Me Away – Sunshine Collective

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, August 13, 2015

DJ All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Drive My Car – Caspar Babypants
If I Could Fly – Riff Rockit
Mama – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips
Paper Airplane – Recess Monkey
Sugar – Maroon 5
Up To Something Good – Sunshine Collective

Collective, Mil's Trills Bring the September Sunshine

Sunshine Collective and Mil's Trills are releasing new CDs that hope to resolve the musical conundrum, can children's music be relentlessly upbeat without being redundant? Sunshine Collective delivers a California power-pop message with verve and smiles. Mil's Trills represents the East Coast with a public tip of the hat from first lady Michelle Obama's "Songs for a Healthier America" program.

Stephanie Richards and Brian Arbuckle take their real-life collaboration to the next level with their music. Lightly evangelistic (the couple have released a pair of Christmas singles), Sunshine Collective are emphatic about warmth and togetherness. The new CD, UP TO SOMETHING GOOD, radiates goodness through tracks like "I Love You," "Misplaced Love," and "Love Is the Way." And if you're still feeling down, remember that life is about journeys, as instructed by "The Ride."

Sunshine Collective refuses to label themselves as children's music, insisting that their CDs are for families and listeners of all ages. UP TO SOMETHING GOOD delivers a catchy, punchy, earnest feel-good playlist of tunes. Kids won't feel they're being sung down to and adults shouldn't wonder if Richards and Arbuckle are preaching the wrong message. Sunshine Collective sees nothing wrong with leaving yourself exposed in "The Open" and experiencing what life has to offer. And they're presenting 11 songs on their second CD as evidence of their theory.

UP TO SOMETHING GOOD is available on September 16 on the band's website, iTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is the video for Sunshine Collective's song "Together - Busking in NYC":

Amelia Robinson (Mil of Mil's Trills) is emphatic that childhood is tough. Once in a while, everybody needs somebody to offer some assistance. NOW THAT WE'RE FRIENDS is about as self-explanatory a title as you will ever hear. The CD stresses life lessons and acceptance, although I caution parents that not every child needs to be told they are "Special." Every child is unique, from my experience. "Yay! You Are You!" works a little better for me.

A global traveler, Robinson percolated her voyages and brought them back to New York, where they are regularly distilled as an interactive performance series under the nom de plume Mil's Trills. Kindie auteur Dean Jones finds himself surrounded by a host of talented musicians such as bassist Rob Jost, guitarist Thad DeBrock, and woodwind player Steve Elson.

Mil's positivity paints a broad spectrum of musical genres. The reggae beat of "Everybody's Got a Body" devolves into girl-group harmonies by the end, however the Caribbean influence pervades the entirety of the next track, "Just a Little Bit." And there's a twinge of sadness in "When You're Gone":

We could be holding hands
We could exchange a smile
I just don't understand
Why you can't come back for a while

The underlying message of Mil's CD theme is summarized in the closing anthem, "Be Kind" – the world may be a big place but every life revolves around the constant constellation of your family and friendships. It's a solemn counterpart to the rousing opener, "Say Hey!" And in the end, neither Sunshine Collective nor Mil's Trills are repetitively inspirational. Both CDs seek to instill (not indoctrinate) and engage their audiences with youthful exuberance. And you can never have enough of that rare and exalted commodity.

NOW THAT WE'RE FRIENDS will be available on September 23 from Mil's Trills website, Amazon, CDBABY, Bandcamp, and iTunes.

Here is a video of Mil's Trills live at the BAMkids Film Festival:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Another Good Year  – Lori Henriques
Future Days – Pearl Jam Lightning
Hello Goodbye – Caspar Babypants
Iko Iko (feat. Josh and the Jamtones & Little Goose) – Father Goose
My Heart Is Open – Maroon 5 Feat. Gwen Stefani
Mystery – Dean Jones
Trondaxx Berserker – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
The Way We Gets Down – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Alligator Get-Together – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Extraordinary – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Free Ride Everyday  – Lori Henriques
Germs – Joanie Leeds And The Nightlights
My Favorite Sneakers – In The Nick Of Time
Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
Up In Cat's Room – David Heatley
The Word – Caspar Babypants

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Friday, August 7, 2015

Follow The Drinking Gourd – Lloyd H. Miller
Go Jump in the Water – Keith Munslow
I'm Not the Sharpest Tool – Dean Jones
Motorcycle Mom – The Not-Its!
One After 909 – Caspar Babypants
Rest Easy Now – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Runaway  – Ed Sheeran
Show Me A Sign – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Yawn – Gustafer Yellowgold

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, August 6, 2015

Animals – Maroon 5
Baldy –  Lloyd H. Miller
Bionic (feat. Shiz & Lady Asha) –  Father Goose
Hey Jude – Caspar Babypants
Mama Don't Allow – In The Nick Of Time
No School Today – Danny Weinkauf
Sawdust And Spangles – Ralph's World

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Dad Is Takin' a Nap – Keith Munslow
Follow The Leader And Dance – Ralph's World
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Maps – Maroon 5
Monkeyman – Josh And The Jamtones
Road Trip – In The Nick Of Time
Uh Huh – Dean Jones

BeatleMania Redux for Caspar Babypants

Music can change your mood and it can also change your future. Chris Ballew (aka Caspar Babypants) had his world rocked at the age of two by the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." More than four decades later, he is returning the favor with his second collection of covers for kids and parents, BEATLES BABY!

Avoiding many overly familiar (and more mature-themed) numbers, Caspar still finds 21 tracks to reinvent and reintroduce. If you're tired of hearing the melancholy of "Hey Jude," try this CD's skiffle version. The timeless psychedelia of "Strawberry Fields Forever" is effervescently amped-up to new speeds. And "Baby You're A Rich Man" gains an '80s new-age feel.

If you don't know Caspar Babypants, the capsule is simple – he's the sideline venture for Ballew, front man for The Presidents of the United States (warning: web site not frequently updated). Ten albums later, Babypants is in regular rotation on SiriusXM's Kids Place Live as well as in homes across the nation and around the world. Producing CDs at a Brian Wilson-esque output level, Ballew took a step back from original compositions in 2013 for BEATLES BABY! A noble venture, the CD was hampered by the (copyright- and legal-rights) quagmire of not being able to produce videos to promote it. Love for the source material won out and inevitably, much like a container of Pringle's potato chips, he could not stay away from a second helping.

Musically, BABY BEATLES! is as satisfying and solid as anything in the Babypants oeuvre. A home studio fanatic, Ballew is ridiculously competent. "With a Little Help From His Friends" is provided by vocalists Rachel Flotard and Jen Wood and spouse Kate Endle, whose cherubic illustrations and cover artwork have helped define the Caspar Babypants persona.

Part of the Babypants recording process is to document the "story behind the music." As such, you never have to wonder "Why did he choose..." any particular song. From the seemingly-obscure "For You Blue" to the omnipresent "The Fool on the Hill," Ballew is refreshingly transparent. When you have an inquisitive four (near five) year-old, this helps answer a lot of "why" questions. Our older son (14) has heard all the Beatles' originals, but not his younger brother. Which negates any comments about altered arrangements – as far as the little guy is concerned, this is it. Never mind the Beatles, these are Babypants songs now. And as far as I'm concerned, that's fine. As long as this music has changed his future as well as his mood.

BABY BEATLES! is available September 18 from Caspar Babypants' website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video from his last CD, "Up All Night":

Monday, August 03, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Alligator – Paul McCartney
Gratitude – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
Grizzly Bear – Red Yarn
Groove – Lori Henriques
I Love U (Jz Remix) – Josh And The Jamtones
No Control – One Direction
Poofy – Ratboy Jr.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Ben's Playlist - Monday, August 3, 2015

Be a Little Angel – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips
Change Your Ticket – One Direction
Everybody Out There – Paul McCartney
Keep The Hate Mail Comin' – Lloyd H. Miller
Raised by Trolls – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke
Rocksteady – Josh And The Jamtones
Sugar – Maroon 5