Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ben's Final 2016 Playlist - Friday, December 30, 2016

Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
Fresh Spokes (Featuring Susan Lapidus) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Groove – Lori Henriques
How Can You Tell If It's Going to Rain? – Andrew & Polly
Loving Cup –  Cat Doorman
Tae Kwon Do – Bob and Luc Schneider

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Drifting on the Edges With Mo Phillips

Long ago, Mo Phillips came to Earth on the back of a ginormous intergalactic leatherback turtle that deposited him into the mountains of Colorado. He ultimately landed in Portland, Oregon where he embarked on many careers, including that of a children's recording artist. His latest CD, SPECTACULAR DAYDREAM, serves many purposes as well, including a ukelele primer for beginners.

Indeed, you can visit Mo's home page (or go directly to his YouTube channel) and view instructional videos for many of the songs on the new disc, including the title track, "Five Blankets On," and "Moonboots." The CD is a departure from the generally genial Phillips, adding an almost ethereal quality with the gentle uke leads.

The enclosed booklet (I'd advise purchasing that rather than a straight MP3 download) contain lyrics as well as chord changes for all 12 tracks. You also get guest appearances from fellow Portland artists Red Yarn, Little Sea, and Lincoln Crockett. What does the album concern itself with? Mostly flights of fancy like "Jump Inside a Book" and "Ode to Bed." As far as "Moonboots," did you know that they're made out of french toast? True story:

Got me a new pair of moonboots.
And I'm gonna fly.
Cause that's what I wanna do.

got you a silver pair too.
And you're gonna fly.
Cause that's what you wanna do.

These boots are made outta french toast.
The moon is made outta french toast.
This song is made outta french toast.
Your ears are made outta french toast.

Mo is ably assisted by a bevy of musicians, including a different Zac Brown (we discussed it). There's a gentle timelessness to the music, principally due to the absence of guitars. The fanciful illustrations are by Lynsee Sardell (check out her artwork). SPECTACULAR DAYDREAM is a rainy day tranquility antidote, for when you'd rather roll than rock. There are not many lessons to be learned here, unless you yearn to uke. But you will be entertained by the wistful, otherworldly nature of the tunes.

You can buy SPECTACULAR DAYDREAM through Mo Phillips' website, Amazon, or iTunes.

Here is the instructional video for "Moonboots":

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, December 22, 2016

Alligator Get-Together – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Banana Bread – Caspar Babypants
Brain Freeze – The Not-Its!
Christmas Eve on the Woodstock Green – Ratboy Jr.
People Watching – Dean Jones
The Ultimate Frisbee – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Junie B. Jones the Musical – CD for Girls and Boys

It's tough to get boys to read. Comic books used to stem the tide but they were overtaken by videogames more than a decade ago. Graphic novels hold only a fraction of the male audience that previously read Batman and Spider-Man. DIARY OF A WIMPY KID caused a sensation (and a slew of imitators) but my younger son Matt is not in that demographic yet.

In the meantime, I was stunned when Matt expressed interest in the Junie B. Jones series of books. We were passed along a copy of the 17th book, where the character graduates from kindergarten. This was at the same time that he was moving up to first grade as well. With his birthday fast approaching, he asked for more books in the series. I see Matt advancing past the books at some point, but there are many more in the series – and now a live-action musical.

JUNIE B. JONES: THE MUSICAL CAST ALBUM, written by the team of Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler, is being released next month. The production is being performed around the country by different companies and a "junior" production for school kids is also in the works.

For the uninitiated, Junie B. Jones is a rambunctious first-grader (in line with an older Ramona Quimby). She has a mother and father, a baby brother, and a host of supporting friends and family members. The stories are simple – Junie becomes a first grader, must make new friends, and deals with having to get glasses. Author Barbara Park (and illustrator Denise Brunkus) allow Junie to explain her actions, even when she is clearly being manipulative, spiteful, or just plain wrong. And there is generally a happy resolution to every story.

JUNIE B. JONES THE MUSICAL tackles several storylines from the first grade books, including a kickball tournament. Kids theater productions generally run one hour and the CD is 30 minutes, so newcomers may want to read a few of the books or see the stage show. I was able to fill in the blanks in my head, but younger listeners may need another medium to accomplish that task.

The Goldrich and Heisler production is friendly and breezy and the vocals (principally Lori Casteel as Junie) are winning and earnest, with nary a hint of world-weariness or sarcasm. I could tell that Matt was enjoying the CD when we left the car and he continued to sing the opening track, "Top Secret Personal Beeswax." His older brother also sang along, but he just likes to provide harmony.

We're a musically-based family and I appreciate the synergy between theater and music. When the primary mechanism is reading, it's a pleasant bonus. Literacy is a key component of Matt's curriculum. Usually music is an incentive to get him to read. In the case of JUNIE B. JONES, he's already into the books and the musical is an added surprise. I'll be on the lookout for a production in our area in 2017.

JUNIE B. JONES THE MUSICAL CAST ALBUM will be available on January 13 from Amazon and other etailers. Follow the Facebook page or Ticketmaster to find out where the production is being performed.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, December 16, 2016

Chain Reaction – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Clap Your Hands – Red Yarn & Mo Phillips
Eyes on the Prize – Cat Doorman
I Don’t Wanna Live Forever – Taylor Swift, Zayn Malik
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Must Be This Tall – Justin Roberts
Thank You (feat. R. City) – Meghan Trainor

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ring in the Holidays at LICM With Leeds & Nightlights

As the holidays boil to their inevitable eruption point, it's good to have the kids blow off some steam in a somewhat controlled environment. Such a space is the Long Island Children's Museum. Such an occasion is this weekend's holiday party featuring Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights.

An award-winning songwriter and performer, Joanie has also recorded secular music (translation = religion-specific) for Jewish children, some for the PJ Library. Her song "Family Tree" with Jonatha Brooke was honored as top children's song by the USA Songwriting Competition in 2013 (note to USA site - you need a clear link to past winners).

The LICM concert venue is small and welcoming. Kids can sit in a close-up "low" section or at a comfortable (not so) distance. Check my YouTube channel for performances there by Brady Rymer and Billy Kelly in past December visits.

The concert is almost a bonus, as your kids can also peruse the exhibits at the LICM, such as Bricks & Sticks (investigate, build, and shape a three-dimensional world using a variety of building blocks and interactive software), Building Boom with KEVA Planks, Feasts for Beasts (explore the amazing ways animals find and eat their food), and ToolBox (construct your own creations at the carpentry bench with hammers, nails, pliers, and more).

Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights present “Holiday Parties” Saturday, December 17 at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Fee: $9 per seat with museum admission ($7 per seat for LICM members), $12 theater only.

Here's a video of Joanie performing solo in Union Square Park this past summer:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

All In A Day – Alastair Moock & Friends
Frozen Penguin – Caspar Babypants
Ghostbusters – Andrew & Polly
Only One You – Danny Weinkauf
That Way – Chibi Kodama
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones

Justin, Not Naptime Players Entertain in NYC

One of the benefits of having a child with almost total recall is being able to ask a question with the confidence of receiving an absolute answer. When I asked Ben how many times we had seen Justin Roberts, there was a split-second of calculation (I don't remember the exact number, but it was impressive). Just counting venues, there's Symphony Space and New Victory Theater as well as World Cafe in Philly.

We returned to Symphony Space on Saturday, December 10 for a performance by Justin and the Not Ready for Naptime Players. The last time Justin played there (November 2015), it was a stripped-down three-man show with Liam Davis and Gerald Dowd. Going further back (April 2015) was our last show with the full band. So we were stoked and ready to see full-band versions of songs from the latest CD, LEMONADE.

The band brought out some rarely-played songs, such as their ballad "Wishing You A Holiday" and a rocking "Jingle Bells." Since it was coincidentally Justin's birthday, "It's Your Birthday" drew special significance from the crowd.

I would normally shoot 3-4 videos from the one-hour show. That's been my procedure at this venue and other facilities for the last 10+ years. However midway through my third recording, I felt a tap on my shoulder. "Excuse me, sir..." This has happened before. The ensuing conversation can go two ways, either "You're blocking my child's view" or in this case, a staffer informing me that "house management prohibits videos except of your own child enjoying the show."

I don't know who instructed him to shut me down but I didn't protest. I matter-of-factedly stated I've recorded songs before – for my blog – including this performer and this venue. Then I turned off the camcorder and enjoyed the rest of the performance. Which was very entertaining.

The show wrapped with the band doing an encore. "We're from Chicago and we're quite happy with how the baseball season ended," Justin said. Then the band launched into a spirited rendition of "Pop Fly." A reminder that as we prepare for winter, spring training is just around the corner. And summer music and sunny songs are just a playlist click away.

Purchase Justin's latest CD, LEMONADE, from his website.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, December 13, 2016

All the Pretty Horses – Cat Doorman
DJ All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Every Day's A Holiday – Alastair Moock & Friends
Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Look At Those Clouds – Danny Weinkauf
The Only One – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Wind in Our Sail – Weezer

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, December 12, 2016

Bop Bodiop! – Cat Doorman
Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
Jersey Dinosaurs – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam
King of the World – Weezer
Love You Always – Lucy Kalantari
Rattlesnake – Caspar Babypants
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy

Monday, December 05, 2016

Justin Roberts: New Kangaroo Video and Tour Dates

It might be December but the sun is still shining warmly on Justin Roberts. With multiple awards, a second children's book coming in January, and an acclaimed new CD (his 13th), the vaunted recording artist is keeping busy.

Justin recently received plaudits as one of the "top 10 kid's CDs" for 2016 from Ohio's School Library Journal. The rarified air on the list includes Lisa Loeb, Frances England, Recess Monkey, the Okee Dokee Brothers, among others (but not Secret Agent 23 Skidoo).

To support his latest CD, LEMONADE, Justin has released a new video for the song "Me and My Kangaroo" (viewable below). It's a speculative discourse between a fantasy marsupial and his daydreaming mammal manufacturer.

Justin has embarked on a winter tour that will bring him to New York's Symphony Space on Saturday, December 10 and the Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School in Pennsylvania on Sunday, December 11. Further out, Justin and his Not Ready for Naptime Players will trek to Malibu, Des Moines, and Birmingham. Click here for more tour dates.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, December 2, 2016

Big Things – Lucy Kalantari
Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Don't Fence Me In – Andy Z
Hammer – Aaron Nigel Smith
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
Rainbow Tunnel – Alison Faith Levy
20 More Dollars – Chibi Kodama

Dan Zanes' Holiday Show, Reflecting on Civil Rights

Families are all about traditions.

Dan Zanes and his extended family of musical friends will return to City Winery this Sunday, December 4 (11 am) for his 6th Annual Dan Zanes & Friends Holiday Sing-A-Long. This year's edition features special guests and a multicultural selection of holiday songs.

During his tenure in children's music, Dan has constantly redefined his role. He's been called a folkie, an archivist, and a storyteller. If I had to describe Dan Zanes as a musician, I wouldn't call him a self-made man, I'd call him a handmade man. Now he's rebranded himself as "21st Century All Ages Music," as per his website. Dan's world is a house party, just don't expect to hear "House Party" at every show.

The Holiday Sing-A-Long is a sensory friendly show, with a comfortable environment for all children. Much thought has been given to those with special needs, meaning there will be a manageable degree of stimuli and a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere.

The holidays are the perfect time to introduce a child to live music – they are bombarded with traditional favorites as well as contemporary remixes. Why not take the opportunity and open a door to a world of possibilities?

People who don't feel comfortable singing or dancing need not worry about being coerced. And all families will receive songbooks when they arrive, so they may participate in the concert.

Click here for information about tickets to Dan Zanes & Friends Holiday Sing-A-Long at City Winery.

Here's a lead I thought I'd never write:

The Lincoln Financial Group ha underwritten an audio anthology for children, WE STOOD UP: REFLECTIONS ON THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. The album is free for download for teachers, libraries, and community groups. And that's exactly where it belongs. This is an earnest collection of spoken word histories and recollections on the battle for desegregation in the United States. Maya Angelou's great-granddaughter Caylin Johnson does a reading of "Caged Bird." The late Julian Bond makes his points, as does Congressman John Lewis.

Is this a perfect holiday gift. No. Is it a stocking stuffer? No. But Lincoln Financial believes (rightly so) that these are important stories, songs, and poems to share with new generations. And this CD, released as part of its Lincoln's Legacy initiative, is a linchpin during the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment.

WE STOOD UP: REFLECTIONS ON THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT is available for download through this link.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, December 1, 2016

Because I Love You – Caspar Babypants
Fantastic – Lucy Kalantari
L.A. Girlz – Weezer
Picky Eaters – Danny Weinkauf
So Gazed Upon – Cat Doorman
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
Your Happy Place – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Lucy Kalantari and All That Jazz

Children's jazz is one of those Russian nesting doll scenarios – the primary genre is music. The subgenre is family. The smaller doll is children. And inside that you find jazz. Right now, there are a number of artists promoting jazz music for kids – Cat Doorman, Lori Henriques, Jazzy Ash, and Lucy Kalantari.

With her new CD, BIG THINGS, Kalantari uses a lush Roaring Twenties sound for some sui generis concepts – "Love You Always," "Birthday," and "My Neighbor" come to mind. She even works in some calliope music with "Balloon." Opening track "Fantastic" won the Independent Music Award for Children's Music Song.

Lucy's voice (and instrumentation) is like a gramophone playing from the past. And that's far from being an insult. I grew up watching the Little Rascals. Lucy's music harkens me back to watching those dangerously-unsupervised children careen down a steep hill on a homemade fire truck. Again, that's far from being an insult.

With her strong, friendly voice (and purple hair), Lucy immediately sets a welcoming tone. And her accomplished band, including opera singer Adelmo Guidarelli and cellist Jessica McWilliams, flesh out period-appropriate arrangements that stand out from traditional toddler fare. BIG THINGS has been available for a few months but it sounds like it's been around for years. Kalantari is a Millennial Era chanteuse and there are not enough of them. For the record and for the last time this blog post, that's far from being an insult.

BIG THINGS is available from Lucy's website, CDBABY, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is a video for her song, "Our Garden":

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, November 30, 2016

California Kids – Weezer
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
Put It On Me – Austin Mahone feat. Sage the Gemini
Right Side of the Bed – Ratboy Jr.
Small Bird – Caspar Babypants
This Is How We Bring In The Sun –  Justin Roberts
12 Just Say Goodbye – Wilco

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, November 28, 2016

Cow Cow Yippee – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Ground Food – Ratboy Jr.
Hold It Against Me – Austin Mahone
How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
Happiness – Wilco

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, November 24, 2016

Matthew's 6th Birthday Playlist
Brand New – Austin Mahone
Chain Reaction – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
How Can You Tell If It's Going to Rain? – Andrew & Polly
Oh Island in the Sun – Aaron Nigel Smith
That Way  – Chibi Kodama
11 We Aren't The World (Safety Girl) – Wilco

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Quick Hits: Sugar-Free Allstars video, Billy Kelly Live Kids Comedy

Spell-check is my friend and arch-nemesis. Especially today, when I am trying to promote the gramatically-challenged new video from the Sugar-Free Allstars, "Grumpopotamus (and the Crankosaurus Rex)."

What's worse than one cranky kid around the house? How about two? Okay, that's the gist for the song from their recent self-titled CD. There's also a cameo from Monster Truck, the star of an earlier video from the disc. For two guys from Oklahoma (Chris “Boom!” Wiser and Rob “Dr Rock” Martin), the SFAS make a lot of joyous noise. While your cranky kids are waiting for the parade to start this Thursday, settle them down with this video:

Speaking of Thursday and the impending Thanksgiving vacation, if you're in the New York are and feel the need to laugh appropriately (and perhaps inappropriately), bring the kids (in fact, send the older ones) to see Billy Kelly perform standup comedy geared for a younger audience.

See him at Governors Comedy Club/The Brokerage in Bellmore on Saturday, November 26 at 3 PM (Tickets $12 (Kids ages 8 and up) and at Jalopy Theater on Sunday, November 27 at 2 PM (Tickets $5 kids, $10 adults, $25 family ticket).

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Survivor Series Thoughts: Looking Ahead to 2017

Although a long card at 3 1/2 hours, I give WWE Survivor Series a thumbs up.

Best Match: Tag Team Elimination Match

Worst Match: Brian Kendrick vs Kalisto

2K games makes deals with wrestlers not currently employed by the WWE, and then WWE somehow works them into the ring. Ultimate Warrior, Sting, and now Bill Goldberg. A true mercenary who wrestled for nothing but the money (and later for the fame as a superhero good guy), Bill Goldberg walked away with no regrets. He came back for one year and left with a bitter taste.
But time heals all wounds. And in the intervening years, Goldberg got married and fathered a child – who learned all about the lore and legacy of Bill Goldberg but never saw his father, live, in the ring.

That all changed when 2K made the deal for Goldberg to appear as part of WWE 2017

Goldberg came back, did a promo, and got over with the live crowd. It was a truly visceral response. Clearly there has been some recalculation on the part of WWE concerning Bill Goldberg, since his first in-ring promo a month ago, where he said "Brock Lesnar – You're Last."

In the real world, Goldberg would have done exactly what he did tonight – back up his words with a 1:27 squash of Brock Lesnar. Then he hugged his wife, kissed his son, high-fived the fans, then brought his son into the ring to celebrate with him before leaving triumphant.

And he would fade away and disappear.

But this being pro wrestling, the storyline continues tomorrow night. The finish will draw eyeballs to RAW. The WWE will either open the show with a Paul Heyman rant, or tease that Heyman and Lesnar are in the building and demanding airtime. Or they will just show up and Lesnar throws around everyone like a maniac, causing a no decision in the main event. 

Or they do nothing. Not this week, not next week. Nothing until perhaps the Royal Rumble. But at some point Brock Lesnar is going to return, and he is going to return pissed. And nothing will placate him except another match... with Bill Goldberg.

And that match will be at.....WrestleMania.

Okay, I'm watching.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Double Giving Offer from Cricket Magazines

We constantly drum into our kids' heads that the holidays are about spending time with loved ones, not presents. And when it comes to presents, it's better to give than to receive (like they really believe that)...

Speaking of giving during the holiday season, Cricket Media presents "Double Giving." You've heard of cleaning your oven while you sleep? Cricket is offering a chance to be charitable at no additional cost and with no added cost or effort on your part. Wait, tell me more, you must automatically interject.

Buy a subscription to one of their publications – BABY BUY (under 3), LADYBUG (ages 3-6), SPIDER (ages 6-9), or SPIDER MAGAZINE (ages 9-14) and Cricket Media will deliver a subscription to a literacy program in an underserved community.

The two selected programs are Libraries Without Borders, which supports community development in 20 countries around the world through the promotion of literacy and the Parent-Child Home Program, which provides under-resourced families with the necessary skills and tools to help their children thrive in school and in life.

Nobody loses! Everybody wins! Literacy is promoted! Society applauds! And you can sleep at night. Well, you can sleep better. Just from clicking on Double Giving (and getting your credit card ready). If you don't, well, I'm texting somebody about a lump of coal for your stocking...

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, November 18, 2016

Dodgeball – Justin Roberts
Expo Line – Andrew & Polly
Fresh Spokes (Featuring Susan Lapidus) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Get Loose – Father Goose feat. Little Goose
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
Popsicle – Bob and Luc Schneider
To and Fro – Cat Doorman

Caspar Babypants Starts a Winter Party

Nostalgia is back with a vengeance this year. There are reboots of MacGyver and Lethal Weapon on TV and a stage version of Terms of Endearment features Molly Ringwald (!) in the Shirley MacLaine role. Musician Chris Ballew remains forward-thinking, however. He recently announced to fans of his '90s band, The Presidents of the United States of America (PUSA) that the group is no longer touring because – gasp – they are no longer a band. "Never say never," he remarks in the post, "Thanks for all the singing and clapping and happy times and WE LOVE YOU!"

Never fret though, as Chris continues in his second career as children's music performer Caspar Babypants (CBP) . Returning for his second CD this year (!), WINTER PARTY, the artist known as CBP is far from PUSA territory. The holiday-themed album features Chris's elaborate reinterpreted versions of "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" and "Jingle Bells." Chris took the Scottish translation of "Auld Lang Syne" – "Days Gone By" – and broke it down so the sentiment and thoughts could be easily digested by younger audiences.

Artwork for the CD is provided, as always, by Mrs. Babypants, the talented Kate Endle. The CBP discography has a comfortable, consistent iconography, in large part due to the friendly accessibility of the illustrations and packaging.

WINTER PARTY is not all cover tunes – "Animal Christmas Lullaby" closes the CD with a track designed to double as a lesson (and nap) plan. CBP uses his fertile post-punk imagination to create characters such as "Frozen Penguin," to the strains of the French tune, "Alouette."

I did not realize how much of a pervasive musical presence CBP has been in our lives until Ben (15) started listing his favorite songs. Since the typical CBP CD contains between 15-20 tracks, this went on for a solid minute before I changed the subject. Although Ben has aged out of the CBP demo, his selections provide a roadmap for his younger brother. That's enough reason to start the holidays early (although not until after Halloween, please).

WINTER PARTY is available from Caspar Babypants' website, Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play.

Here is the video for "The Twelve Days of Christmas":

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, November 17, 2016

Eyes on the Prize – Cat Doorman
Forever Young – Andrew & Polly
Free Ride Everyday – Lori Henriques
Jersey Dinosaurs – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam
L.A. Girlz – Weezer
Must Be This Tall – Justin Roberts
People Watching –  Dean Jones

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Bright Side Of Me – Alastair Moock & Friends
By The Light – Red Yarn
The Grass Is Always Greener – The Okee Dokee Brothers
One Day By The Riverside – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Only One You – Danny Weinkauf
2 If I Ever Was A Child – Wilco

Friday, November 11, 2016

Father Goose New EP Shakes, Rattles, and Raps

Father Goose in the house!

Following some medical setbacks, Father Goose (Wayne Rhoden) is back on the trail, doing live shows and producing music. Assisted by Little Goose and Lady Asha, the Goose Man has released 7, billed as a four track EP with two bonus tracks (although an additional track would have made it completely symmetrical).

"When the Bough Breaks" get a reworking as a bedtime tale, "Anansi Story." New listeners are in for a delight, from the title track's speed-rapping to the horns and sound effects of "Radio Jock Goose Man Jack."

Goose hails himself as "the king of the dance party" and this quick collection is a bookmark of things to come. It's an appetizer that should get even the sternest toes a'tapping. At 15 minutes, it zooms by. I had to check the iPod (yes, people still use them) to make sure there wasn't a long, low building intro that led to an unheard track. No, I'd heard it all. But it wasn't quite enough.

Most of the material is repurposed from IT'S A BAM BAM DIDDY (his last CD). But you can get the EP for half the cost of downloading that album. In other words, you can get 7 for less than $6 on iTunes or CDBABY. "Get Loose" indeed. Father Goose is prepared to start the party; are your kids ready to groove?

Here's Father Goose and his Goose Trotters band performing "Bam Bam" in Madison Square Park this past summer:

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Too Silly to Fail: Billy Kelly's Comedy for Kids

Good clean fun. Even at the squeakiest-clean children's events, there have always been little hints of anarchy or "adult" content. Perhaps double (shudder) entendré. But as long as the first entendré is explicitly for kids, and the second one is pretty oblique, what's the worry.

Years ago, we saw the Wiggles in NYC. Captain Feathersword was playing musical cues on guitar. And, at one point, he played the familiar few bars of "Stairway to Heaven," eliciting knowing guffaws from most of the adults and stares of bewilderment from the tykes. There's nothing wrong with that – after all, it's the parents who bought the tickets. Let us have a chuckle here and there.

But wait – what if, instead of an hour of children's music (with one of two adult-oriented references subtly laced into the content), it was an hour of children's comedy (with nary an adult-oriented reference)? Illustrator/musician Billy Kelly has answered that challenge with his first comedy album, accurately entitled MY FIRST COMEDY ALBUM.

Comedy for kids is rarefied air – the last performer to attempt this high-wire act was Eric Herman with 2014's ADVENTURES OF JUPITER JACKSON. But that CD was mostly sketches and songs. Billy is going the straight stand-up route (with a couple of short acoustic guitar bits thrown in). Tragedy is easy, goes the old adage, and comedy is hard. Billy makes it sound easy, as he's built a rapport with audiences of all ages through decades (a couple of them) of musical gigs.

Reviewing comedy is infinitely harder than music – you can describe a song. But all you can do with comedy is TELL a couple of the jokes. And that misses the inflection, the timing, and the atmosphere. Billy describes seeing a "For Sale" sign and making a purchase. Suffice to say, the joke is in subverting audience expectations of what he bought, and adding a few flourishes to build the punchline.

In these uncertain times, we all need something that can make us laugh. Innocently. Without subtext. Without a hidden agenda. Billy Kelly to the rescue. Now that we've heard MY FIRST COMEDY ALBUM, it will indeed be interesting to see what roads Billy heads down next. If his mission is to make America laugh again, he's starting with the youngest constituency and working his way up. Laugh yourself blue (or red, depending on your state...of mind).

Billy will be doing two live stand-up shows in the New York region later this month during Thanksgiving weekend. See him at Governors Comedy Club/The Brokerage in Bellmore on Saturday, November 26 at 3 PM (Tickets $12 (Kids ages 8 and up) and at Jalopy Theater on Sunday, November 27 at 2 PM (Tickets $5 kids, $10 adults, $25 family ticket).

MY FIRST COMEDY ALBUM is available from Billy Kelly's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is a short video for one of Billy Kelly's comedy bits, "Billy Kelly Buys a Dozen Eggs":

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, November 4, 2016

Forever Young  – Andrew & Polly
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
Me On The Map – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Picky Eaters – Danny Weinkauf
Superman – Bob and Luc Schneider
The Ultimate Frisbee – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, November 3, 2016

Crazy Mountain Road  – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Ghostbusters  – Andrew & Polly
Hammer  – Aaron Nigel Smith
Island in the Ocean  – Bob and Luc Schneider
Look At Those Clouds  – Danny Weinkauf
My Favorite Sneakers  – In The Nick Of Time
Small Bird  – Caspar Babypants

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Quick Hits: New Vids from Alex & Kaleidoscope; Mista Cookie Jar & Alphabet Rockers

We're just past Halloween and the full holiday rush has yet to descend. Just the right time to relax and be grateful. Appropriately, Alex and the Kaleidoscope have a new video for their song, "Gratitude." A slightly twangy, slightly danceable feel-good number, the song features Brady Rymer and Shawana Kemp (Shine and the Moonbeams), who I just met this past weekend at the Symphony Space Just Kidding Kickoff.

The Alphabet Rockers and Mista Cookie Jar are well aware of the hip-widening affects of Halloween candy. Thus they are concentrating on the hypnotic beats of hip-hop to work off those garbage calories (yes, even in Snickers despite the peanuts).

Their new joint video, "Yummy Yummy Fresh" is all about the fruits and veggies. It's social message, festive dancing, and special editing so the kids don't zone out. Or zone diet. Or whatever it is the kids do when they ignore stuff that's supposed to be good for them. So take five (really closer to three minutes) and give them an (educational) break.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Because I Love You – Caspar Babypants
Brain Freeze – The Not-Its!
California Kids – Weezer
Circle Of Friends – Vanessa Trien & The Jumping Monkeys
DJ All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones
Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, October 31, 2016

Don't Wanna Know (Feat. Kendrick Lamar) – Maroon 5
Eyes on the Prize – Cat Doorman
How Can You Tell If It's Going to Rain? – Andrew & Polly
Mama Don't Allow – In The Nick Of Time
Rattlesnake – Caspar Babypants
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones
Willie And The Hand Jive – Vanessa Trien & The Jumping Monkeys

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, October 27, 2016

All Together Now – Vanessa Trien & The Jumping Monkeys
Banana Bread – Caspar Babypants
Every Day's A Holiday – Alastair Moock & Friends
Expo Line – Andrew & Polly
Picky Eaters – Danny Weinkauf
Wake Up – Red Yarn & Morgan Taylor
You Can Count On Me – Lisa Loeb

Not Kidding, Just Kidding A Boon at Symphony Spce

More than a decade ago, we made the trek from Queens into Manhattan, drawn like moths to a flame by the lure of good independent children's music (i.e., kindie). My son Ben was three years old and he'd been listening to the standard kid fare – Sesame Street and the Wiggles (whom we'd seen live the previous month). Now it was time to dare, to try something new – a live kids music event that wasn't packaged and choreographed. There would be interaction. There would be an opportunity to perhaps speak with the musicians. It was Dan Zanes. It was Symphony Space.

We have returned again and again. With Ben. Then with his younger brother (Matt). Ben has mostly aged out of the theatrical events but still loves the live music experience. They are both looking forward to Justin Roberts returning to New York on December 10. In the meantime, the Just Kidding Kids series has kicked off this month with a host of activities (live theater, book club, musicians). JKK program director Darrin Critz has booked a bevy of experiences for youthful audiences. Acts from the West Coast (Lucky Diaz) as well as classic German puppetry (Sandglass Theater) fill the 2016-2017 schedule.

This weekend, it's the Lightwire Theater – taking the story of "The Ugly Duckling" and bringing it to life in a high-tech production that uses electroluminescent wire to create glow-in-the-dark 3D puppets and props. It's a unique type of artistry that's sure to dazzle young viewers. And just the sort of thing that Symphony Space has been bringing to New York area audiences for longer than I can remember.

It's through regular trips to Symphony Space (and the Upper West Side, where their grandfather conveniently lives) that my sons have developed an appreciation for live theater, interactive audience experiences, and many genres of music. They treat performers like "normal" people and over the years, repeat visit have translated into musicians remembering MY kids. I've often done the comparison and said, "I don't think Paul McCartney would recall Ben seeing him at Barclays Center five years ago."

Other acts coming this season include Portland's folk revivalist Red Yarn (Andy Furgeson) on Feb. 4 and Oklahoma's two-man power duo the Sugar-Free Allstars (Mar. 11). Next month, there's a show for the whole clan – the Big Family Quiz Thing (Nov. 13). And the adjacent Kids Book Club brings in Newbery Honor-winning author and illustrator Grace Lin for a discussion and reading from "When the Sea Turned to Silver" on Nov. 5.

Just Kidding shows include "Social Space," where community vendors provide activities, giveaways, and more at the back of the Peter Jay Sharp theater. Plus you never know who you might run into – local artists support their peers. At a Recess Monkey concert a few years back, Jason from the Pop-Ups was just another excited audience member. So head on down (uptown) to Symphony Space in the next few months, and bring the kids. No kidding, it's a lot of fun. Click through on any performer for ticket information.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Marlowe Mixes In Kids, Brady Rymer's New Map Video

You know the Junos? If you live in Canada, it's their equivalent of the Grammys – except for Canadians, you see. Anyway, Juno nominated Marlowe & the Mix have released LIVE IN COLOUR and have brought their brand of high energy power pop across the border. The dance quotient is incredibly high, if only due to the presence of the "Mix Kids," younger artists that Marlowe mentors and puts front and center on the CD.

Marlowe Stone had a revelation about music for children in 2013. Once kids "age out" from the Wiggles, they are still too young for Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato. She decided to branch out into that gap, creating Marlowe & the Mix as a "gateway" between kiddie music and teen favorites.

On second CD for children, Marlowe & the Mix sound somewhat like Kidz Bop originals, with
"Show Your Glow" and "Video Game Insane" being Exhibits A and B. And the upbeat attitude reaches its crescendo with the empowerment anthem "Allstars Shine On" that closes the CD. Marlowe hit #1 on iTunes Canada recently, so now the States are clearly her next target. She's ready to mix it up and so are the Mix kids.

LIVE IN COLOUR is available Marlowe & the Mix's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Brady Rymer has a new video shot all along the back roads and fields of the little town of Southold on the North Fork of Long Island, NY. As Brady told NAEYC last month, "The inspiration for the song came from a book: Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney. I loved the idea of children knowing and finding their place in the world: appreciating where they live, learning about their special spot — and “me on the map” is such a singable phrase, I just went for it. I played harmonica, a classic American folk instrument, on the song because it expresses so well the lyrical themes of country, land, pride."

As I described it in my review, "Me on the Map" would not sound out of place on any Bon Jovi CD from the past 15 years. It's a little bit country, it's a little bit folk, it's a little bit kindie.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, October 21, 2016

All In A Day – Alastair Moock & Friends
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Lets Keep the Band Together – Lisa Loeb
Only One You – Danny Weinkauf
Small Bird – Caspar Babypants
The Ultimate Frisbee – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Loeb and Behold: Feels Like Teeny Spirit

If there was ever a singer/songwriter who seemed always to teeter on the precipice of the kindie music scene, it was Lisa Loeb. First, there's the natural recording style of most of her compositions. Next, there's her college music partner Elizabeth Mitchell, who has spent the past decade-plus building quite a catalog and reputation. Lisa dipped her toe (with a little encouragement) and finally jumped into the Web stream with the birth of her own children.

As the marquee artist of the Amazon Prime Music label for kids, Lisa's second Amazon exclusive release, FEEL WHAT U FEEL, is now available for download. It's a dozen songs to make your kids happy and get them to sing along in the back seat, without making you want to bite through the steering wheel.

The title track (featuring comic actor Craig Robinson) is an upbeat "I'm okay/you're okay" message/dance song. It serves as the flip side for the other duet with Robinson, a cover of the '70s classic "It's All Right To Cry." There's generally only slow dancing associated with that tune. Film and TV star Ed Helms lends his bluegrass banjo twang to the jaunty "Wanna Do Day," chronicling a plethora of kid activities that comprise a typical child's schedule, which is not necessarily what one particular kid sees as optimal.

Remembering experiences – both positive and negative – is the theme of "I Was Here," which describes a child dealing with allergic reactions, playing in the rain, and staying home with a cold, as well as walking home with mom and having ice cream. "Wiggle" is a girl-group tune straight from the Brill Building. "Let's Keep the Band Together" is written from the perspective of a girl having so much fun playing music that she doesn't want it to end:

Let's keep the band together
Why should we break it up
We've always known each other
Why should we interrupt what we've got goin' on
Let's write another song and play.

Lisa and her collaborators, Rich Jacques and Kyler England, are not looking to re-invent the Big Wheel. FEEL WHAT U FEEL may make you nostalgic for the 70s but it doesn't feel like an anachronism. Which is good, since their target audience has no idea what an anachronism is. They just feel what they feel.

FEEL WHAT U FEEL is available exclusively for streaming on Amazon Music – both Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music, and for digital download or physical purchase through Amazon Music.

Here's the video for "Mary Had a Little Lamb" from last year's NURSERY RHYME PARADE collection:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bop Bodiop! – Cat Doorman
Feel What You Feel  – Lisa Loeb and Craig Robinson
Forever Young – Andrew & Polly
People Watching – Dean Jones
Press Play – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
This Land Is Your Land – Alastair Moock & Friends
Your Happy Place – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Quick Hits: COBBLESTONE touts Hamilton, Ghost Spooks Munslow

Li-Manuel Miranda has made American history hip with HAMILTON. Translating that excitement down to a middle-school level has gone to COBBLESTONE magazine, a publication from Cricket Media.

I remember getting CRICKET magazine when I was a kid (decades ago). While never quite my thing, I did leaf through every issue looking for articles that interested me. It's still around, although it almost skipped a generation in my home. Now COBBLESTONE seeks to infiltrate my abode with its Hamilton-esque edition. The mag is also promoting a "Rap Into History" challenge, inviting kids of all ages to create an original rap or song about their favorite figure in U.S. history (runs through November 4). Use hashtag #RapIntoHistory and @CricketMedia. Winning entrants might even find themselves and their subjects receiving coverage in a future issue.

Subscribe to COBBLESTONE and get 35% off plus get the Hamilton issue for free. It features background on Hamilton, his childhood, development, and military background, his famous duel with Aaron Burr, and coverage of the musical. Did you know that Hamilton was instrumental in the creation of the Coast Guard? That's a factoid you can read about. Past issues have highlighted the road to civil rights and why Washington, DC was chosen to be the nation's capital.

'Tis the season to be spooky. Musician/illustrator Keith Munslow is back with a timely new Halloween song, "Jilly the Ghost," a collaboration with Bridget Brewer.

The protagonist is – what else – a member of the deceased and haunts the neighborhood. Like every good Halloween song, it comes and goes in just over a brisk two minutes. That makes it imminently replayable for the kids. Keith is working on his next full-length kids CD, due to arrive early next year. Until then, here's a quick glimpse of what's in store.

Available at CDBABY and iTunes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Do You Talk To Yourself – Dean Jones
Hammer – Aaron Nigel Smith
Jilly the Ghost – Keith Munslow
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
That Way – Chibi Kodama
This Is How We Bring In The Sun – Justin Roberts
Unhuggable – Caspar Babypants

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, October 18, 2016

All Around the Kitchen – Andy Z
California Kids – Weezer
How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Picky Eaters – Danny Weinkauf
Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
To and Fro – Cat Doorman

Lisa Loeb: Feeling At Home With Children's Music

There's a popular term that's entered the lexicon – "facepalm," which is when a person brings the palm of their hand to their face, as an expression of disbelief, shame, or exasperation. I tend to facepalm whenever I mention the name of a performer and say, "I just reviewed their new children's music release."


"I just reviewed the new Amy Lee CD for kids."
"For kids? For real?"

"I just reviewed the new Caspar Babypants CD. It's Chris Ballew, from the Presidents of the United States."
"Wait, Caspar... is he doing a punk thing now?"

Add to the collection the esteemed Lisa Loeb, who recently released her fourth recording for children, FEEL WHAT U FEEL. This is in addition to continuing to tour her music for "grown-ups" and touting a new line of eye glasses (you saw that coming), as well producing a storybook app. Oh and she's got two kids of her own, hence the lateral move to kid's music.

Lisa answered a few questions via e-mail about her latest venture and how she decided to travel down this enchanted road. Her children's recording career started more than a decade ago, when Lisa recorded CATCH THE MOON with college recording partner Elizabeth Mitchell.

Prior to CATCH THE MOON, did you have any familiarity with current children's music? I guess, other than Elizabeth Mitchell... And was she your entry point into recording music for kids?
I listened a lot to Gustafer Yellowgold CDs as well as the videos. I also listened to the music I listened to growing up, including “Free To Be You and Me,” and “Really Rosie.” Those albums that sounded a lot like grown-up albums – but with more imagination and storytelling – were always fun and satisfying to hear.

FEEL WHAT U FEEL is your second children's music CD in two years. Do you feel more of an affinity with kid's music these days because of your own children?
I’m on a roll. I have so much to share that it seems like I can’t write fast enough. It’s not really related to me having kids, but that I feel so creative and open in this genre. It’s funny though, the kids' music and grown-up music are starting to kind of merge, as it’s all coming from the same place and same level of songwriting and production – and both kids and grown-up audiences seem to respond positively. I try to work to the same high level for any genre I'm working in.

Do you think it's important to strike a balance between "fun" kids songs and "meaningful" kids songs?
It’s all relative. I like writing “meaningful" songs more than “fun" songs, but I have to remember that it’s more fun to play “fun” songs live than “meaningful” songs. The kids really have a good time during the “fun” songs, which makes them more “meaningful.”

You've had some amazing career longevity. Do people approach you at live shows and say "My parents played your CDs for me and now I'm playing your music for MY kids”?
Yes! And grandparents and aunts and uncles, too.

Chicken-or-the-egg question – Did you know Craig Robinson before he covered STAY for HOT TUB TIME MACHINE II or did you meet him because he covered the song?
I knew Craig before that. He actually called me to see if I was cool with him changing all the words and wearing my glasses and re-enacting my song. He asked me to be a part of the movie too, and I did! I acted in the scene as a cat wrangler on my own video.

How did you decide to cover "It's All Right To Cry?" with Craig?
I was writing “Feel What U Feel,” the disco funk jam, with my collaborators, Rich Jacques and Kyler England. It was sounding like an auxiliary song to another song, and not a song that might live on its own. Then I realized that “It’s All Right To Cry” would make a perfect partner song, and that Craig and I should do both. I connected with him and he enthusiastically agreed. His voice is perfect for this song (originally performed by Rosey Grier on "Free To Be You and Me" in the 1970s). I think Craig's performance is powerful.

Did you write any of the songs on FEEL WHAT U FEEL with your kids? Do either of them take music lessons or play an instrument? Could you see something akin to a family band down the road?
I didn’t write with my kids. I do write sometimes with my daughter. She comes up with great ideas. They don’t take lessons yet, but do have instruments all over the house they can play whenever the feeling strikes – piano, guitars, bass, drums. We will start with some formal lessons soon. Plus, both my daughter and son get a lot of music instrument lessons and exposure to all kinds of music at their schools.

In the 1990s you were established as a versatile singer/songwriter. Do you find it somewhat ironic that there's now a Lisa Loeb "brand" with kids music, eyewear, and books? Meaning, there are kids whose exposure is primarily through "Camp Kappawanna," "Silly Sing-Along" book, and your children's CDs.
I don’t think it’s ironic at all. It’s all things I’ve been passionate about and created in my world to share with others.

Finally, do adults show up at your concerts for children, even though they don't have kids?
Yes! And that is so much fun when it happens.

FEEL WHAT U FEEL is available exclusively for streaming on Amazon Music – both Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music, and for digital download or physical purchase through Amazon Music.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, October 17, 2016

Bionic (feat. Shiz & Lady Asha) – Father Goose
Dodgeball – Justin Roberts
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
Ghostbusters – Andrew & Polly
Hey Jude – Caspar Babypants
King of the World – Weezer
Oh Island in the Sun – Aaron Nigel Smith

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, October 12, 2016

All the Pretty Horses – Cat Doorman
DJ All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Fresh Spokes (Featuring Susan Lapidus) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
L.A. Girlz – Weezer
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
Must Be This Tall – Justin Roberts
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
One Day By The Riverside – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could

Monday, October 10, 2016

No Time Like the Present for Justin Roberts' Lemonade

Thirteen seems to be the new magic number for children's music. Recess Monkey recently released their 13th CD (NOVELTIES), Caspar Babypants is perched to release his 13th CD later this year, and now Justin Roberts is cresting the trend with LEMONADE, his 13th children's music album.

LEMONADE also continues a pattern of musicians returning to their roots and playing either solo with guitar, or with a band playing acoustic instruments and nothing electric. For the dozen tracks on the CD, listeners get the "original" Justin Roberts sound; intriguing characters such as "Eight-Legged Octopus" and "Me and My Kangaroo" and politically kid-rect sentiments like "Valentine (I Don't Wanna Be Yours)":

Don't get me wrong, if there is candy in the envelope
I'll open it, and pretend to care about your card
Oh yeah oh yeah
That purple heart was pretty great, but
Unless it's chocolate, that kiss can wait now

Justin kept a pretty grueling schedule for the past two years. In addition to touring with the Not Ready for Naptime Players (Gerald Dowd, Jackie Schimmel, David Winer, and Liam Davis, who also doubles as CD producer), he published a picture book ("The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade"), wrote his first musical ("Hansel and Gretel"), and created a concert/theatrical event ("The Mysterious Hat") that debuted off-Broadway. When I spoke with him last spring, he was already planning to keep things simple for his next release. "My first couple of albums were fairly standard little kid stuff, but as I started playing that material with a band that became the Not Ready for Naptime Players, I started to write more with the band in mind," he said. "Now I'd like to get back to the folk and vocal harmony concepts."

We got a preview of LEMONADE at Symphony Space with "Must Be This Tall," a yearning for height that every child can relate to. The trademark Roberts' stutter-sing is in full effect on "Dodgeball," which had my kids singing "d-d-d-dodgeball" throughout. "How Lucky We Are" slips through as a ballad about camping in the backyard that also serves as a quiet paean to being together and doing group activities. That's the facet that cements Justin Roberts' reputation as a consummate family entertainer – a non-offensive double entendré that works for both kids and parents, and you can also use it to hum a baby to sleep. And then refresh yourself with some LEMONADE.

LEMONADE is available October 14 from Justin's PledgeMusic site and iTunes.

Here is a video of the stripped-down Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players performing "Kick Board Baby" at Symphony Space last fall:

Friday, October 07, 2016

Quick Hits: New Videos from Justin Roberts and KB Whirly & MIsta Cookie Jar

A neat thing about kids is that their reactions are genuine. Even when they fake enthusiasm, there's always that split second right before they go into an "act" when you can, y'know, just tell they aren't into something.

Happily, that wasn't the case when the preview copy of Justin Roberts' new CD, LEMONADE, arrived a few weeks ago (review pending). In the meantime, here's the video that accompanies the title track. It provides a glimpse into the acoustic nature (a throwback to his earlier recordings) of the CD. And you can pre-order LEMONADE from Amazon.

KB Whirly and Mista Cookie Jar team up for the sunny new autumn single, LOVE LIGHT SHINE (produced by Josh and the Jamtones' Patrick Hanlin). I heard a little Sly and the Family Stone, I sensed some Michael Franti, I tapped my toes and swayed gently in place.

They are calling LOVE LIGHT SHINE a very important public service announcement. And with everyone putting out their Halloween decorations, we could all use something upbeat that doesn't feature scary clowns.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, October 7, 2016

Amistad (Featuring Dan Zanes) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Done With The Science Fair – The Not-Its!
Fourth Day Of July – Red Yarn
Look At Those Clouds – Danny Weinkauf
Me Too – Meghan Trainor
People Watching – Dean Jones
12 Just Say Goodbye – Wilco

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, October 6, 2016

Clap Your Hands – Red Yarn & Mo Phillips
The Great Divide – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Jersey Dinosaurs – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam
NO – Meghan Trainor
The Only One – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
What Kind Of Fruit  – Dean Jones
11 We Aren't The World (Safety Girl) – Wilco

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, October 5, 2016

By The Light – Red Yarn
The Grass Is Always Greener – The Okee Dokee Brothers
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
I Won't Let You Down – Meghan Trainor
The Ultimate Frisbee – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam
7 Happiness – Wilco

Monday, October 03, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Chain Reaction – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
The Word – Caspar Babypants
Your Happy Place – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam
2 If I Ever Was A Child – Wilco

Friday, September 30, 2016

Deedle Deedle Dees Rocket Through History

History is making a comeback! The hottest ticket on Broadway is Hamilton. Among the hottest online sites is Epic Rap Battles of History. One of the hottest TV shows is Drunk History. And who was cultivating this trend way, way before any of these Johnny Come Latelys? Lloyd Miller and the Deedle Deedle Dees, that's who.

Last year, Lloyd embarked on his "Singalong History" series with GLORY! GLORY! HALLELUJAH!, which centered on the Civil War and that tumultuous period in our country's evolution. This followed the Dees' three CDs that began their travels down the passageways of time. Volume 2, THE ROCKET WENT UP! further advances their brand with a veritable pinball machine's worth of content, from legendary magician Harry Houdini to Typhoid Mary to swimmer Diana Nyad. I guffawed out loud at "I Remember You, Lucy," a song that sounds like a love ballad until you realize it commemorates skeletal remains.

Über-producer Dean Jones helms the disc, guaranteeing further hijinks. Rachel Loshak, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, and others make guest appearances and contributions. Thomas Edison attempts to out-rank Nikola Tesla (Skidoo) on "Tesla V. Edison" (and fails):

Edison: I'm the inventor the whole world will remember.
Tesla: Whatever you say, boss. Here's what's funny – 
You don't have friends but you do have money.
Edison: Yeah? Well at least I'm not a neat freak.
Tesla: Clearly. Did you change your pants this week?
Edison: The world won't even know who you are.
Tesla: I don't know. Have you seen my new car?

Miller and fellow Dees Chris Johnson and Ely Levin have a deft sense of what kind of history kids might enjoy, or ways to engage them through song. "Dissolve" takes on the difficult topic of Nobel Prize winners melting down their medals while the Nazis were on the march. Indeed, there's even a horn section. Another rap tune, "Ada Lovelace," quickly delivers some girl power to the woman who wrote the first computer program. And kids get their say on the quirky "Stephen Hawking, Can You Fact-Check This?"

The CD was a long time in coming (five years) and the band issues a statement of purpose on "This Is For You," delivering a positive affirmation of their goals. This is driven further home in "Super Strong," talking about personal achievements such as public speaking and recovering from surgery. The Dees overriding sentiment is that history does not have to be dull or dry; these were people and times that can come alive in contemporary terms (hence rap). Healthcare workers dealing with Ebola and Zika even get their own anthem, "Every Time I Stand Up (I Feel Like Falling Down)." Shakespeare said, "What's past is prologue," which kinds of indicates that our best days – and the coolest songs about our past – are still ahead. Strange dees, indeed.

THE ROCKET WENT UP! is available from the Deedle Deedle Dees' website, CDBABY, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the song, "Houdini":

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, September 30, 2016

DJ All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Don't Fence Me In – Andy Z
Free Ride Everyday  – Lori Henriques
Only One You – Danny Weinkauf
Tae Kwon Do – Bob and Luc Schneider
Uh Huh – Dean Jones
Young at Heart – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, September 29, 2016

Don't Stop – 5 Seconds of Summer
Every Day's A Holiday – Alastair Moock & Friends
How Can You Tell If It's Going to Rain? – Andrew & Polly
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
Superman – Bob and Luc Schneider
Thank You (feat. R. City) – Meghan Trainor

With Kids Music CD, Amy Lee Goes from Goth to Gosh

Ah, child-bearing. When a rock star's fancy turns to children's music. That's a fairly sexist statement but it cuts across gender lines – Johnny Cash recorded one of the most famous children's music records of its time. Now Amy Lee (of Evanescence fame) has joined the pantheon, releasing DREAM TOO MUCH, a collection of 12 songs from her (and her son's) childhood.

As a band, Evanescence generated a controversy regarding the potentially faith-based message of its music. By delving into kid's songs, Lee goes from faith to faithfulness. While the recordings are bubbly and ethereal, they do not go overboard or stray far from the originals. "Rubber Duckie" is a ukulele skiffle and "Stand By Me" gets a girl group revamp. Title track "Dream Too Much" provides an amusing contradiction to itself, pointing out there's no way to dream too much.

The CD skews for three-and-under, which is reasonable to surmise, since Lee's son fits that demographic. "I'm Not Tired" is an anti-lullaby and "Little Bird" fits perfectly into Lee's high range. "The collection closes with "Goodnight My Love," a duet between Lee and her father, former DJ and guitar player John Lee. "The End of the Book" sounds like it came directly from a child's mouth:

The end of a book isn't the end
It's the beginning that comes
You can pretend pretend pretend 
And read it again

It's easy to dismiss someone's first entry into children's music as an easy one-off, a curio that doubles as an audio lock box for their child's happy memories. However that's where Lee's faithfulness works in her favor. She doesn't sound forced, the new material does not come off as contrived, the song selection is endearingly scattershot, not what a committee would pick to maximize impact; tailored to Lee's already-existing following. DREAM TOO MUCH is a realistic portrait of modern parenting presented by a mom who's a rock star and her father, the mentoring musician.

DREAM TOO MUCH is available exclusively from Amazon Music.

Here is the video for the title song, "Dream Too Much":

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Brain Freeze – The Not-Its!
The Bright Side Of Me  –  Alastair Moock & Friends
Don't Fence Me In  –  Andy Z
Expo Line  –  Andrew & Polly
Good Old Times  –  The Okee Dokee Brothers
Groove  –  Lori Henriques
Popsicle  –  Bob and Luc Schneider

Monday, September 26, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, September 27, 2016

All In A Day – Alastair Moock & Friends
Bile Them Cabbage – Red Yarn
Calling All the Kids to the Yard –  Cat Doorman
Don't Fence Me In – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Everything I Didn't Say – 5 Seconds of Summer
Island in the Ocean – Bob and Luc Schneider
Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, September 26, 2016

Ice Cream Time Machine – Todd and Cookie
My Favorite Sneakers – In The Nick Of Time
Run For The Sunshine – Sunshine Collective
Shake a Friend's Hand – Andy Z
So Gazed Upon – Cat Doorman
Unhuggable – Caspar Babypants
Washington, Dc – The Not-Its!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, September 23, 2016

Banana Bread – Caspar Babypants
Eyes on the Prize – Cat Doorman
Hamsterdam – Ratboy Jr.
Oh Island in the Sun – Aaron Nigel Smith
This Land Is Your Land – Alastair Moock & Friends
Up To Something Good – Sunshine Collective

Bob Schneider: When The L Fits, Hear It

I get it. Recording music is fun. Recording music with your kids is more fun, because you're including them in the process and sharing their energy and vitality and ideas. It's become almost a cottage industry within children's music. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's daughter Saki enthralls young girls in the audience (trust me, witnessed several times first-hand). Danny Weinkauf turned his son Kai into a Kids Place Live superstar. Chibi Kodama's John Cullimore has perfected the home assembly line of turning kids-into-musicians with his girls.

You can add Austin musician Bob Schneider to the list. He and (now) 11-year-old son Luc have released I WILL FIND YOU NO MATTER WHAT through Amazon Prime Music as part of the etailer's new children's music initiative, which includes upcoming collections by Lisa Loeb and Amy Lee.

The collaboration, under the aegis of "The L," was not originally intended as a structured kids CD. Bob recorded two songs with Luc when the lad was four years old ("Vacuum Cleaner" is clearly one of those early ventures). Over the years, more tunes were recorded. In that sense, I WILL FIND YOU... is a musical family album. Which is appropriate, coming from the son (Bob) of an opera singer. He's just passing the torch from generation to generation.

Oh yes, what of the music itself? The songs range from the organ- and pots-and-pans bop of "Popsicle" to the campfire lullaby "I Love You." There's a little vocoder on "Island in the Ocean."And Luc's plaintive vocals summon smiles on the ballads "Happy Face" and "Christmas Pony." It's not hard-charging, high-energy pop, except for "Monster Truck," which initiated the following backseat conversation between my kids:

15 year old: What's he saying?
5 year old: Monster truck.
15 year old: (Incredulously) No, he's not (listens) Oh yes, he is.

The prolific Schneider (more than 2,000 songs written and 18 solo albums) stretches his wings far enough to make room for Luc. The L may be a one-off or the first of a series. As with most projects involving children, as they age and their interests change, it's hard to predict with any certainty. I WILL FIND YOU... is a wistful walk through childhood imagination, as distilled through the perspective of an actual child. No matter what, you can click through and hear for yourself.

I WILL FIND YOU NO MATTER WHAT is available exclusively through Amazon Prime Music

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, September 22, 2016

Alligator Get-Together – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Me On The Map – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Right Side of the Bed – Ratboy Jr.
Small Bird – Caspar Babypants
Take Me Away – Sunshine Collective
To and Fro –  Cat Doorman
Wind in Our Sail – Weezer

Look! Up in the Sky! It's the Laurie Berkner Band!

Sting is releasing his first CD of original pop music in more than a decade. It's an opportunity to introduce new fans to his catalog. Due to his career longevity, the majority of Sting's solo and recordings with The Police fall under the heading of "Classic Rock." Whether or not he trends with younger audiences depends upon how hip they find the 64-year-old former punk.

The Laurie Berkner Band has released SUPERHERO, its first CD of original children's tunes in eight years. Unlike Sting, Berkner and Company may not win back any lapsed fans – that's literally an eternity in kid's music. It's not like they've been on hiatus. Between FOOD SONGS and MOVEMENT SONGS and LOVE, there's been a ton of cover (and recycled) songs in the marketplace to remind people that Laurie Berkner is more than the first lady of children's music, she's a hearty brand.

Similar to Caspar Babypants on his website, Laurie writes liner notes (possibly not available with the download) for each song on SUPERHERO. For instance, "Tallulah Jones" came from her love of rhyming pure silliness. "I love the name Tallulah," she explains, "Plus, I'd really like to see a 10-foot egg":

Hello hello I am Tallulah Pegs
I’ve got a 10 foot house
Filled with 10 foot eggs
And I’ve got music in my legs

Laurie is ably backed by longtime keyboardist Susie Lampert, drummer Bobby Golden, and some guy named Brady Rymer on bass, who also duets on "Opelika Alabama."  Ziggy Marley also duets on My My Marisol" and yoga-mindfulness expert Kira Willey provides violin and vocals ("Swing Me") on the CD.

When Laurie started on this children's music thing, she was doing kids parties with no kids of her own.  Now her own daughter, Lucy Mueller, joins the family business on "Elephant In There." Some recording artists find themselves evolving and "growing" their sound as their families age. That's true to an extent with SUPERHERO, which clocks in at just under one hour. "1-2 Hands" is a speedy blur of a concept about bodies. "Face To Face" is a facial recognition song that I can see as part of her "The Music in Me" program.

Harkening back to her earliest recordings, there's a dance remix of "We Are the Dinosaurs" that older siblings can enjoy, too. But the bread and butter of the LBB audience are still the little people who weren't even conceived the last time Sting released a pop album. SUPERHERO mines all that toddlers desire and feel, which is Laurie's strength as a singer/performer. In a callback to "Hello Dolly," it's so nice to have Laurie back where she belongs. Others have tried to fill the vacancy in the intervening absence. But Laurie Berkner is back to reclaim those shoes... and pig hats.

SUPERHERO is available at Laurie's website, Amazon, iTunes, and other fine digital retailers.

Here is a video of the Laurie Berkner Band performing the new song, "Bicycle":