Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, January 29, 2016

Sunshine Family – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips  (feat. Aaron Nigel Smith)
That Way – Chibi Kodama
Best Friend – In The Nick Of Time
My Heart Is Open – Maroon 5 Feat. Gwen Stefani
A Million Miles Away – Rihanna
Everybody Out There – Paul McCartney

My Goodness, It's Michael and the Rockness Monsters

For many performers, children's music goes from a hobby to a passion to an occupation. Some try to emulate the success of Music Together, which binds the product (CDs) intrinsically to the program. I will forget a few, but Laurie Berkner is the latest to take that route, which includes Music for Aardvarks, Kira Willey (yoga), and New Jersey's Preschool of Rock.

The risk/reward ratio has an exponential curve – your core audience must be constantly cultivated with concerts, videos, local public relations, and word-of-mouth. Kids who age out of the lowest levels of the program can stick around for music lessons. But it's an endless cycle that can wear out the most dedicated instructors, who sometimes farm out the hands-on activities and stick to the administrative side.

It takes a lifelong immersion to surrender completely to the process. Among the most disciplined of these disciples is Michael Napolitano, the founder and director of Preschool of Rock. The son of a professional touring drummer, Michael began his musical adventure at 18 months old. Smash-cut to 10 years performing with the Blue Man Group and jump-ahead eight years to present day, with Preschool of Rock established at more than one dozen NJ/NY metropolitan locations.

Ben (15) occasionally asks "Where's the next Music for Aardvarks CD?" I explain that he's aged-out of that program. Thus, even if we got new music, it would be more suited for his little brother (5). Michael has left the constraints of Preschool of Rock for a while to devote himself to MICHAEL AND THE ROCKNESS MONSTERS. It's a children's CD without instructions for parents and isn't that a blessing.

Under the direction of ├╝ber-producer Dean Jones, Michael lets loose a whimsical narrative-free compilation of characters and concepts. After listening to literally dozens of CDs that Jones has produced over the past few years, it's no wonder his services are in such high demand. The Rockness Monsters don't hit any wrong notes or jagged chords because they've been crafted to near-kindie perfection under his skilled hands.

The album's first track, "Pirate Song," delivers a sing-along "yo ho ho" chorus replete with multiple chances to scream "Aaarrrrrrrr!" Michael espouses that Black Sabbath is his favorite band. The closest thing to heavy metal on this disc are "In a Band" and "Rock It!"

More of the songs are in the toe-tapping juvenile jaunty vein of "Single Digits," where the protagonist bemoans the cold weather and recounts all the locations he'd rather be. For out-and-out fantasy, there's also "Dinosaur Haircut" and the reggae-tinged "Cosmic Vacation," where the best places to visit are all in the mind. Understandably (and since the CD is "Presented by Preschool of Rock"), Michael can't get completely away from the winding down concept with "Humming Song."

MICHAEL AND THE ROCKNESS MONSTERS doesn't break any new ground. But it allows Michael an opportunity to erase the dotted line between quality and quantity of musical expression that comes with a time-dependent kids music program. I wouldn't doubt that a few of these tunes show up in Preschool of Rock's curriculum. But they're fine on their own, which is a good placement on the risk/reward ratio for Michael.

MICHAEL AND THE ROCKNESS MONSTERS is available February 26 from the band's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the debut video from the album, "Pirate Song":

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cheese World – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Colores (featuring Oz Noy) – Hot Peas N Butter
How Great Can This Day Be – Lori Henriques
Spatula vs Sun – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
On Air – The Pop-Ups
SOS – Rihanna

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Animal Kingdom – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Fresh Spokes (Featuring Susan Lapidus) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Music is Everywhere – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
Lightning Bolt  – Pearl Jam
We Are The Kids – Walk The Moon
Paper Airplane – Recess Monkey

Monday, January 25, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, January 26, 2016

All Around the Kitchen – Andy Z
Sourwood Mountain  –  Red Yarn
Permanent Vacation  –  5 Seconds Of Summer
Road Trip  –  In The Nick Of Time
Mama  –  Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips
Up 2 U  –  Walk The Moon
Ground Food  –  Ratboy Jr.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, January 25, 2016

All the Pretty Horses – Cat Doorman
Danceology – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Mama Don't Allow – In The Nick Of Time
Animals – Maroon 5
Shut Up And Dance – Walk The Moon
Brain Freeze – The Not-Its!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, January 22, 2016

Mayim – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Favorite Book – The Bazillions
Hey Jude – Caspar Babypants
I'm Not the Sharpest Tool – Dean Jones
Amistad (Featuring Dan Zanes) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Different Colors – Walk The Moon
Kid Of The Week – The Not-Its!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dad Is Takin' a Nap – Keith Munslow
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
20 More Dollars – Chibi Kodama
Snaggletooth – Dean Jones
Washington, DC – The Not-Its!
Umbrella  – Train

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Start Of The End –The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Ahava –Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Tomorrow's People  –Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
My Heart Is Open –Maroon 5 Feat. Gwen Stefani
If It's Love –Train
Done With The Science Fair –The Not-Its!

Listen! The Not-Its! Return for Sixth Rock Romp

There's always something going on with the Not-Its! and that's alright. As Yoda would say, "Are alright, the kids."

The Not-Its! are into their second decade of entertaining children and parents with their full-throttle "real rock band" sound (the band released its first album way back in 2009). The group's sixth studio CD, ARE YOU LISTENING? will have kids dancing and singing with their "outside" voices.

Yes, that's six albums in seven years. Did I mention the band has 10 children between its five members (Sarah Shannon, Danny Adamson, Tom Baisden, Jennie Helman, and Michael Welke)? Where they find the time to be this creative? Well, Seattle does love its coffee...

While tackling the usual assortment of real-world kid issues, the Not-Its! don't scrimp on the guitars and drumbeats. Instead, they dig right in and drag the tots with them. "Don't Fear the Dentist" starts with a Black Sabbath-esque riff circa "Iron Man." Academic requirements get a grunge/garage anthem in "Done With the Science Fair." You won't find a happier, happening, independent-thinking figure than the tutu-and tie-wearing "Kid of the Week." I'm surprised there hasn't been a message song like "Washington, DC," with its chorus, "Can you hear me?" and the following ironic verse:

I'll meet the President. I don't need an appointment.
Hanging on the White House lawn with the Secret Service looking on.
Talking foreign policy. Maybe we won't agree.
Then we visit the C.I.A. I introduce myself but they already know my name.

ARE YOU LISTENING? is not a "cool-down" CD. Don't expect much in the way of soft ballads (there isn't one). The Not-Its! are too busy providing solid rock for kids, who get enough of the sweet-and-mellow stuff from other outlets. The tune about elders, "Granddad Is A Spy," harkens back to a Ramones song being slowed down from 45 to 33 RPM so Pop-Pop can understand the lyrics.

I'm on the record saying that if I had to live in another part of the United States, I would chose San Francisco. However, based on the voluminous number of children's musical acts from the Seattle area (including Caspar Babypants, Recess Monkey, Harmonica Pocket, with Lori Henriques and others 173 miles away in Portland), I am honestly reconsidering my selection. Are you listening? With the Not-Its!, that's a mission. And that's alright.

ARE YOU LISTENING is available February 19 from the band's website, Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp. See the band at Symphony Space on Saturday, January 23.

Here is the new video from the band's song, "Dance With Me":

Monday, January 18, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Extraordinary – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Sugar – Maroon 5
Flannel Jammies – The Not-Its!
The Bullfrog – Red Yarn
Hey, Soul Sister – Train
DJ All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, January 15, 2016

Amnesia – 5 Seconds of Summer
All In A Day – Alastair Moock & Friends
Don't Fence Me In – Andy Z
Domino Town  – Dean Jones
The Word – Caspar Babypants
Water Under The Bridge  – Adele

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, January 14, 2016

Everything I Didn't Say – 5 Seconds of Summer
This Land Is Your Land – Alastair Moock & Friends
Ghostbusters – Andrew & Polly
One After 909 – Caspar Babypants
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
I'm Not the Sharpest Tool – Dean Jones

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Mayim – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Other Days – Andrew & Polly
Mystery –  Dean Jones
The Tale Of The Sun And The Moon – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Best Friend – In The Nick Of Time
Sunday Morning – Maroon 5
Alligator Get-Together – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke

Monday, January 11, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy
Gettin' My Ya Ya's Out – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Archaeology – Danny Weinkauf
Bionic (feat. Shiz & Lady Asha) – Father Goose
This Love – Maroon 5
I Love the Beach – Keith Munslow

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, January 11, 2016

Pj Party – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Rest Easy Now – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Odd Socks – Dean Jones
Toothloser – Gustafer Yellowgold
My Favorite Sneakers – In The Nick Of Time
Harder To Breathe – Maroon 5
Go Jump in the Water – Keith Munslow

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, January 9, 2016

Loving Cup – Cat Doorman
Secret Fox – Gustafer Yellowgold
LA Christmas – Andrew & Polly & Mista Cookie Jar
Super Hero Rock Band – The Bazillions
Just Be – Kira Willey
20 More Dollars – Chibi Kodama

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, January 7, 2016

Forever Young – Andrew & Polly
Ahava – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
That Way  – Chibi Kodama
Uh Huh – Dean Jones
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Dance For The Sun (2015 Remix) – Kira Willey
Mama Don't Allow – In The Nick Of Time

Honoring Birds and Celebrating Heroes

National Bird Day was January 5.

Birds are wild animals.

During our recent vacation in DisneyWorld, we saw the "Flights of Wonder" live show in Animal Kingdom. They specifically point out that you won't see parrots riding miniature bikes or wearing funny hats during the performance, because they are indeed wild animals, worthy of their dignity.

In celebration of the 14th annual National Bird Day, Born Free USA is asking people to look at captive ('pet') birds from their point of view and to make thoughtful choices when it comes to their well being. The website is asking people to sign their "Captive Bird Video Pledge " (click through to link).

But wait – there's an incentive! Raffi is offering an autographed copy of his upcoming CD, OWL SINGALONG. One lucky signee will win (and two will win non-autographed copies). You have until Tuesday, January 12 to enter.

Give a hoot – don't promote captive birds.

And in two days, it's time for a hero. An inner hero.

Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam are releasing "My Superpower," a tribute to real and imaginary idols as well as the personal strength within all of us.

Jason concocted the tune while helping to plan a hero-themed children's event. Riffing on Superman and Batman, he free-associated to Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Theresa. Before he knew it, lyrics and music merged. And Jason decided not to wait until the spring to share "My Superpower" with the world.

The song has special poignance for the Jungle Gym Jam. After working on four tracks for the band's upcoming CD, bassist Lou DeMartino lost his life after a fatal asthma attack. A musician who had just started a kindie career, DeMartino had fallen in love with performing for kids and families. In his memory, the Jungle Gym Jam will donate half of all proceeds from download sales of "My Superpower" to the Asbury Park-based Light of Day Foundation, one of Lou's favorite charities.

Download "My Superpower" starting this Friday, January 8 from the band's websiteBandcamp, Amazon, CDBABY. Google Play, and iTunes

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, December 6, 2016

The Bright Side Of Me – Alastair Moock & Friends
Take Me Away – Sunshine Collective
She Looks So Perfect – 5 Seconds of Summer
All Around the Kitchen – Andy Z
Fun – Coldplay Feat. Tove Lo
Hey Jude – Caspar Babypants

Monday, January 04, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Bullfrog – Red Yarn
Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Biggest Brother – Tim Kubart
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy
Amazing Day – Coldplay
Sons and Daughters  – The Bazillions

Willey Mindful of Yoga for Kids

Yoga and kids music. What could go wrong? You're asking someone who isn't part of the equation.

I know people who do yoga. I know people who swear by yoga. My own son did yoga for several years (he stopped due to school time constraints and an instructor who subsequently relocated without letting ex-pupils know).

 There seems to be a mini-explosion of children's recording artists who double as yoga instructors. We are more commonly acquainted with Bari Koral (who hosts a "Yogapalooza" event), but there's also Bethlehem, PA's own Kira Willey. Selected PBS affiliates run Kira's yoga-for-kids interstitials. And at the urging of SiriusXM Kids Place host Mindy Thomas, she produced a series of "Backseat Yoga" exercises that run on the station.

Kira is releasing a collection of yoga "shorts" for short-attention-span children, MINDFUL MOMENTS FOR KIDS. For our older son, who leads a fairly stressed life (early wake-up for school, long bus rides, homework, and after-school activities, not to mention a hyper little brother who attaches himself to big bro), these exercises are just the ticket for a quick breather.

The 30 moments are broken into sections such as "Calm," "Focus," and "Energize." You get the basic concept from titles like "Count to Five," "Be a Bumblebee," "Imagine You're a Tree," and "Do Nothing Moment." The arrangements contain simple instrumentation and plain, spoken directions in a sweet, encouraging tone. Kira has the confidence from years of experience and tried-and-true technique and is delighted to share these meditations, whether families choose to use them in the home or on the road.

MINDFUL MOMENTS FOR KIDS closes with two songs, "Dance for the Sun" and "Just Be," which is close to an anthem for meditation, if such a thing is possible. And she's on the road, singing and leading yoga to receptive audiences in the PA/NJ area – just click through to Kira's site for upcoming events.

MINDFUL MOMENTS FOR KIDS is available on January 15 from Kira's website, Amazon, iTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is the video for Kira's PBS kid's yoga series, "Fireflies Musical Yoga":

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, January 4, 2016

All In A Day – Alastair Moock & Friends
Somebody Somewhere – Sunshine Collective
Voodoo Doll – 5 Seconds of Summer
My Teacher's An Alien – The Bazillions
Adventure Of A Lifetime – Coldplay
Tomorrow's People  – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could