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.