It's that special time of the year. No, it's not the holiday season just yet – which means for reviewers, it means we receive all the upcoming holiday music. This year, I have received (to date) two new CDs. Of course, when I say "new," I generally mean "new to the very young," as the majority of the tunes have been covered by numerous musicians over the decades.
Locally, New Jersey's own Little Rockers Band is releasing YULE BE COOL. Technically Jessie and Chris Apple have concocted a Judeo-Christian compilation, complete with the brand-spanking new "Hanukkah Is Here!" and a reworked "Feliz Navidad" that includes a Hanukkah verse (no Kwanzaa, unless they throw that in during live shows).
Fun is a hallmark for the LRB. These crazy Apple kids (and guitarist Liam Moroney) seek an active engagement with their audiences. And even the toughest of hard cases crack when the holidays roll around. It's hard not to be happy around bubbly kids doing their darndest to put on a happy face to bluff Santa (or the designated spiritual behavior monitor) that they've been good all year and really, really deserve that [INSERT INSANELY UNLIKELY PRESENT].
Jessie delivers clear, cheerful vocals and Chris and Liam (and keyboardist Andy Letke and drummer Billy Papenberg) are a solid, spunky unit. "Frosty the Snowman" continues to delight audiences as do "Let It Snow" and "Jingle Bell Rock." And where else are you going to hear Madonna's "Holiday" re-appropriated as a kid's winter anthem?
The LRB have broken the CD into two "album-esque" sections of rockers and ballads (think of it as heating up and cooling down the tykes). This makes it easy to determine a specific point of entry, but harder to put the CD on shuffle mode. In my experience, holiday CDs seem to get played-through until ennui sets in. For YULE BE COOL, the Apples give you just enough of a good thing. Realistically, that's all I want for the holidays this year.
YULE BE COOL is available November 6 from Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.
Here is the video for the band's song "Me & My Dog":
Across the world, former Wiggle Greg Page has other ideas. Forced to retire in 2006 due to orthostatic intolerance, a form of dysautonomia, Greg's departure caused the Wiggles to have a tumultuous turnover (the firing of his replacement, Sam Moran, on his daughter's second birthday, is particularly galling). The quartet has rebranded with Emma, Lachy, and Simon joining founding Wiggle Anthony Field. And Page has not stayed on the sidelines, producing and starring on Butterscotch Playground for Australian TV.
After a decade-plus wearing the yellow jersey, Greg is eager to entertain (adults and children). Clearly he is managing his medical condition and wants to maintain his solo identity without the crushing schedule and physical mechanics of live touring around Australia and the world.
Greg seems to have higher ambitions for his music for adults – whereas HERE COMES CHRISTMAS is a completely traditional collection, featuring nothing one wouldn't expect. Some of the songs were covered by the Wiggles, in fact, with Greg as the lead vocal, leading one to wonder if they were included simply as part of a master checklist. As for the four bonus tracks from Butterscotch's Playground, they are self-explanatory from their titles, "Everybody Dance," "At the Fire Station," Knead it," and "Get Down Low and Go, Go, Go." For Greg Page, children's time is now a Wiggly Party for One. Check the sound clips and proceed according to taste and whether your kids have access to the original Wiggles online.
HERE COMES CHRISTMAS is available on November 24 from Greg's website, Butterscotch's Playground, and iTunes.
Here is the title song and opening credits for Butterscotch's Playground: