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":