Friday, May 26, 2017

Have A Good Day, Courtesy of LARD Dog

Right this way for a ride to New Orleans.
LARD Dog and the Band of Shy are back with their latest free "song of the month." The eclectic collection of characters has concocted a carefree confectionary treat, entitled "Have A Good Day." It starts with some Satchmo scat and horns and includes a celebrity cameo (no spoilers). 

Continuing the LARD Dog philosophy, there are a ton of throwaway mentions, from MAD Magazine to ping pong to "slurp the noodle" (an ongoing LARD tradition in the Band of Shy). 

Best of all, you can "Have A Good Day" for free this month. That's right, the song is FREE for download until June 22. So click on over, submit your email, and extract some peppy encouragement.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Matt's First Playlist - Friday, May 26, 2017

One – Aaron Nigel Smith
I Like – Lard Dog
Hey Jude  – Caspar Babypants
How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
I, Wood – Molly Ledford & Billy Kelly

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, May 25, 2017

Big Buncha Buddies – Keith Munslow And Bridget Brewer
Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
Cow Cow Yippee – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones
Matt Damon Magnetized Me – The Salamanders
Rattlesnake – Caspar Babypants

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 24, 2017

Animal Kingdom – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
The Great Divide – The Okee Dokee Brothers
My Favorite Sneakers – In The Nick Of Time
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
The Only One – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
People Watching – Dean Jones
Skeleton Rag – The Salamanders

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Whizpops Herald Endangered Species Day With Ensemble Extinction Song

"We Are the World" was more than a song title, it was the start of a movement.

Photo Credit: Buffalo Field Campaign
People fondly remember the 1985 mega-fundraiser that drew attention to poverty and hunger.
Many have attempted to recreate that ensemble and the sentiment of the charitable endeavor.

Now there's a kindie version focusing on preserving creatures in our national parks, animal sanctuaries, and in the wild. Just in time for Endangered Species Day, the Whizpops are debuting a video for their song, "Extinction Really Stinks."

Last year, the Whizpops released RANGER RICK'S TRAIL MIX, VOLUME 1 to commemorate the occasion. This year, they up the ante with the video, featuring the talents of Aaron Nigel Smith, Jack Forman (Recess Monkey), Bill Harley, the Pop-Ups, and others).

Enjoy the music, listen to the message, and explain to your kids what the fuss is all about.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Quick Hits: Tim Kubart, LARD Dog Concert Dates

Once you win a major award, it changes how people relate to you. However it doesn't have to change the way you relate to people, especially children. Grammy winner Tim Kubart (see what I did there) continues his run of local performances this weekend at Flushing Town Hall at 2:15 pm. Next month, he has two concerts scheduled at the Paramount Hudson Valley Theater in Peekskill, NY, on Sunday, July 9.

Here is a brand-spanking new 2017 remix of "Superhero," featuring Sunny Side Up cohost Carly Ciarrocchi:

LARD Dog and the Band of Shy will be doing an autism-friendly performance of their multi-media extravaganza at 11 am on Saturday, June 10 at the People's Improv Theater in NYC. While my son has handled regular gigs thus far with no issues, this special performance will be delivered in a relaxed atmosphere where guests can talk and vocalize, exits and re-entry will be permitted, and there will be a"Chill Zone."  House lights will be on (dimmed) and no flashing lights will be used on stage. No balloons or interactive props will be used at this performance. Here is a trailer of a regular LARD Dog show – picture with the aforementioned accommodations.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, May 12, 2017

Breakfast For Dinner – Jojo & The Pinecones
Bubbles – The Salamanders
Don_t Let The Boogah Bug You Out – LARD Dog
Ferry Nice – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
Jersey Dinosaurs – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam
Must Be This Tall – Justin Roberts

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Mista Cookie Jar Amped on Serotonin

Forget Five Hour Energy drinks. Mista Cookie Jar (CJ Pizarro) knows that all the kids need is a boost of serotonin to get them motivated, pumped, and moving.

In fact, his new song is just that – "Serotonin."

Starting with a Li'l Wayne-esque auto-tune, the song deftly explains and illustrates how a person's body chemistry controls their emotions and physical state. In the event it sounds too technical, remember that the average age of the listener is not expected to be in double digits.

Chemicals. Dopamine.
Now what's dat
supposed to mean?
Dats a funny name
for the happy in your brain.
like when somebody says,
"I'm golden!"
There's a joy when you keep your heart and mind wide open.

CJ has recently done some collaborative work, but I was surprised to learn that "Serotonin" is his first solo song in one year. It's kind of like watching someone (or hearing someone) flex a muscle. Click on over and hear for yourself. And prepare for more as he opens the cookie jar later in 2017.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, May 10, 2017

All Around the Kitchen – Andy Z
By The Light – Red Yarn
Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
Do You Talk To Yourself – Dean Jones
Ghostbusters – Andrew & Polly
Happiness – Wilco
So Gazed Upon – Cat Doorman

Monday, May 08, 2017

Joanie Leeds & the Nightlights: Back in Brooklyn, Baby

There is no starter's guide for childhood. And even if there was, babies would just gnaw at it. By the time toddlers would be old enough to read it, they'll have already ripped it apart. And would any writer really trust helicopter parents not to censor the parts about "over-sensitive and over-protective" mamas and papas at bedtime? The happy replacement is, of course, family music – albums with kid-friendly instructional or informative songs that possess a sly parental edge. With parenthood comes experience. Now-a-mom Joanie Leeds, and her Nightlights, have returned with their first post-child CD, BROOKLYN BABY.

Ms. Joanie has stated that she intended to write another collection of themed songs, similar to WHAT A ZOO. The obvious choice of her current borough, Brooklyn, was, well, obvious. A baker's dozen of loquacious location-conscious GPS-setting, toe-tapping tunes later, her quintet produced BROOKLYN BABY (the title itself a play on words for her toddler daughter, which is also often used as a common rap saying).

Cognizant of the old stigma of Brooklyn being an "outer borough," the Nightlights navigate listeners away from Manhattan via "Subway" and the first track, "Ferry Nice." It's almost like the group is kicking for a licensing deal to promote the new Waterways transit service. Songs for those who can walk untethered under a turnstile include "By Myself" and "Library Book," which carries a little "9 to 5" vibe. "Brooklyn Baby" is a ballad (one of three on the CD) penned as a love song (one of two on the CD) to Joanie (and drummer Dan)'s daughter. Taking the classic novel "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" as a starting point, Joanie sings:

There's a tree, wild and free
And it grows in Brooklyn,
It grows in Brooklyn.
You're my Brooklyn baby,
But you won't stay a baby.

The anthemic power ballad "Love Is Love" spoonfeeds the concept of inclusion as by-the-book as possible, right down to a verse with "It doesn't matter if you have one mom or two / if you're a Muslim or a Jew / If your clothes are old or new." Staying close to her PJ Library roots, Joanie sews a bevy of semitic terms into "Shayne Punim" (Grandma will plotz!). "Rainbow Bagels from Outer Space" channels 1970s punk icons Blondie. In terms of rebranded material, there's a remix of GOOD EGG's standout track, "Hipster in the Making," which fits snugly and smoothly into this CD's wheelhouse, as well as a dreamy, faithful cover of the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning" to close your mental road trip.

My kids provide the truest acid test for any new music. In a bygone era, Life cereal wasn't good enough unless "Mikey liked it." Driving around with my six-year-old (Matt) and having him pick up enough of the chorus to sing "Ferry Nice" or "Rainbow Bagels from Outer Space" is one thing. Watching him play with his wrestling action figures and break into "Library Book" helps make my recommendation a thumbs-up. BROOKLYN BABY shows there's no performing rust, no lack of imagination or ingenuity, and certainly no musical postpartum depression from Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights.

BROOKLYN BABY is available on May 19 from Joanie Leeds' website, Amazon, iTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is the promo video for BROOKLYN BABY, featuring "Ferry Nice":

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, May 8, 2017

Fantastic – Lucy Kalantari
Fourth Day Of July – Red Yarn
Superman – Bob and Luc Schneider
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones
11 We Aren't The World (Safety Girl) – Wilco
20 More Dollars – Chibi Kodama

Friday, April 28, 2017

Salamanders Stake Music Cred in Montana

Children's music is everywhere! It's not just a bicoastal phenomenon, with fly-over stops in Chicago and other major cities. The Salamanders, the pride of Missoula, Montana, are back with their second CD, BUBBLES, to stake their claim as the top kids act along the Clark Fork River (look it up). Is it facetious to declare that the Salamanders put Montana on the map? Well, as far as children's music is concerned, the answer is a resounding golly. As in "Golly G. Gus," a track from BUBBLES.

For new century children's music goes, the Salamanders are as engaging and original as any regional group. They put their own spin on a number of universal topics, such as opening track "Let's Sing a Song." But really, who else is penning tunes like "Matt Damon Magentized Me," which complains:

I thought it would be so neat-o
To have the power of Magneto

Head 'Mander "Cowboy" Andy Hunt clearly structured the CD to have a mix of predictability and wonder. "Pirate Santa" revisits the concept of holiday gift-giving and places it on the High Seas. The mirth of babyhood is celebrated on "Mancub." The group even has the audacity to throw in a spirited "Skeleton Rag" instrumental.

The heart of the CD is the title track, "Bubbles," with all the fun and anticipation of producing a bubble big enough to fly away over the entirety of the United States. Or at least to Pittsburgh. And in the end, everybody cleans up in time for a "Lovely Goodbye." Everybody worries about their children using video games or toy light sabres as gateways to trouble, smoking, or worse – civil disobedience. The Salamanders promote their music as a gateway to creative expression and wisdom. Perhaps they're onto something up there in Montana (It is up, isn't it)? Time to consult Google Earth...

BUBBLES is available from the Salamanders' bandcamp page, Amazon, iTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is a live performance of the album-closing tune, "Lovely Goodbye":

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 28, 2017

Banana Bread – Caspar Babypants
Dance Like Yo Daddy – Meghan Trainor
Dodgeball – Justin Roberts
Feed The Machine – Nickelback
Island in the Ocean  – Bob and Luc Schneider
Only One You – Danny Weinkauf

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, April 27, 2017

Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
One After 909 – Caspar Babypants
Serotonin – Mista Cookie Jar
Why Did You Teach Me That Word – Keith Munslow And Bridget Brewer
Your Happy Place – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Because I Love You – Caspar Babypants
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
How Can You Tell If It's Going to Rain? – Andrew & Polly
L.A. Girlz – Weezer
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
Popsicle – Bob and Luc Schneider
Squirrel Fight – Michael & The Rockness Monsters

Monday, April 24, 2017

LARD Dog Unleashes Boogah Battling for April

LARD Dog and the House of Shy go big, big, big band for April's Song of the Month. The intrepid ensemble unleashes its exciting expected musical encounter, "Don't Let the Boogah Bug You Out" for listeners of all youthful ages.

The literal definition of a boogah is right on the tip of my finger. Or nose. Anywhere except my tongue. Yuck! The figurative definition of a boogah is anything that gets in your way, bums you out, or grosses you out. Dig?

The month is almost over so click now, don't wait for any further discounts or special offers.

Here is a link to the full (so far) four songs of the month from LARD and Company. "I Like," the first release, dug itself like an earworm into SiriusXM Kids Place Live's "13 Under 13."

You can even view an intensely surreal video for "I Like"! Where? Here!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 24, 2017

All the Pretty Horses – Cat Doorman
Expo Line – Andrew & Polly
Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
Lost And Loving It – Kepi Ghoulie
Me On The Map – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Mr Pickle – Michael & The Rockness Monsters
That Way – Chibi Kodama

Friday, April 21, 2017

Rockness Monsters Pop, Bop, and Roll On

A decade working with the Blue Man Group gave Michael Napolitano an above-average dose of the surreal. After a 10 year stint (and five CDs) as the Preschool of Rock, he's twisted his vision into Michael and the Rockness Monsters. Their new CD, FUNNY FACES, pits the ordinary ("Babies Cry") up against the extraordinary ("Squirrel Fight"). Your kids won't know what's coming next.

"Mr. Pickle" is a 1940s boogie-woogie jazz number as engineered by Frank Zappa. The novelty tune "Elevator Song," currently getting airplay on SiriusXM's KidsPlace, harkens back to Mayor Monkey once forcing Recess Monkey to live in an elevator. There are still many handprints that FUNNY FACES is blueprinted for messy little hands, from "Feet for Hands" to the prototypical "you are special" song, "Everything Anything." Michael even enlists his 92-year-old Aunt Jo to participate on the family-themed "So Happy."

Assisted by a host of talents (including Tim Sutton from Ratboy Jr, Tracy Bonham, Sonia de los Santos), FUNNY FACES was helmed by children's music über-producer Dean Jones. Side note – I referred to Dean in a conversation using that exact term and received the response, "He runs Uber?"

Growing up is a confusing time. Adults say one thing and mean something else. What exactly is a double entendré? What is an entendré, for that matter? Michael and the Rockness Monsters deliver a safe space with songs that sounds like fun for intrepid minds. With FUNNY FACES, Mr. N delivers his valedictorian project as he graduates from the Preschool (of Rock). And he's still kidding. In this case, that's a good thing.

FUNNY FACES is available on April 28 from Michael and the Rockness Monsters' website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for "Cosmic Vacation":

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, April 17, 2017

Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Fresh Spokes (Featuring Susan Lapidus) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
It's An Adventure – Keith Munslow And Bridget Brewer
One Day By The Riverside – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Picky Eaters – Danny Weinkauf
White Whale – Kepi Ghoulie
09 I Love You So – Spring Bees

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Spring Bees for Toddlers Of Any Season

Life – like everything else – starts at the beginning. Everything is taken care of. Stuff has to be learned, even basic things, like how to sit up. There are questions, so many questions (That man really doesn't have my nose, does he?).

Music – like everything else – starts at the beginning. You hear a song you like, you learn how to say "more" or "again." You start to hum the melody or sing along, even if you don't understand the words (or if it's even a child-appropriate tune).

Who starts you along the path of music appreciation is important. Music, like everything else, is best when shared with loved ones; patient people, willing to tolerate 50,000 choruses of "E-I-E-I-O" as if every time is the first time (thanks to Advil).

Kansas City musician (by way of Texas) Monte Holman built his first CD, SPRING BEES, like he did with his family – from the ground up. After the birth of his daughter, Bea, Monte found himself drawn into the process of children's music and thus amusing and educating through children's music. Which created that snake-eating-its-own-tail scenario as he began recording that music with friends (some from Royal Forest, Old Crow Medicine Show, and other bands).

The songs of SPRING BEES – like everything else – start at the beginning. "Used to Be" asks the universal question, "Have we met before?" as in "Were we destined to be parent and child?" The album doesn't stay quite so profound, as "Poopy Dogs" and "Burp" attest. "I Love You So" reminded me of Forest Hills, Queens-based comic/musician Davy Andrews with its incorporation of "Hey Diddle Diddle" and luscious chorus.

SPRING BEES – like everything else – start at the beginning. Since SPRING BEES are in their infancy, so to speak, it will be interesting to chart their progress. I recall a conversation I had with Roger Day about the genesis and evolution of his children's music career. "When my kids were little, I wrote songs about jumping up and pointing your finger," he said. "As my kids got older, I wrote about topics for bigger kids." Monte's Bea is still a little kid and that phase will be wondrous. We'll be waiting and watching to see her development, as well as what develops in the world of SPRING BEES.

SPRING BEES is available April 21 from their website, Amazon, and Soundcloud.

Here is the debut video, "Used To Be," by filmmaker Cody Ground:

Spring Bees - Used to Be from Cody Ground on Vimeo.

Monday, April 10, 2017

No Lack Of Musical Knack for Benjamin, Princess Backpack

There's a fine line between precious and precocious and Brooklyn's Benjamin Weiner (a fine name) jumps back and forth several times during his new children's music CD, PRINCESS BACKPACK AND BENJAMIN!

A large number of performers get into children's music after the birth of their own children. Exceptions exist, such as Raffi. There are other ways, however. And teacher/writer Weiner found mentorship from (Good Ms) Anna Padgett and Lloyd Miller. His concept is pretty simple – an ancient talking backpack (Princess Backpack) spends some time with us, rapping and listening to Benjamin sing. The backpack is from Backpackia but sounds British – with an indistinguishable accent pretty close to Weiner's actual voice (some vocal distortion might help, but might not have been practical for live shows).

Benjamin's acoustic tunes are the ones that stayed with me and felt the most genuine. Album-closer "When You Come Home" reminds the listener that "I'll be awake," no matter when the protagonist returns. "We Are Pandas" sounds like an innocent "come play with me" plea, until you realize that eating bamboo is not something that normal youngsters do – even ones with a full set of baby teeth. "Griffin as a Pet" somberly and gently informs kids that there are fantasy animals too fierce to be domesticated, even if they did exist.

Every month, 10% of album proceeds from PRINCESS BACKPACK AND BENJAMIN! go to a different children's charity. March was Free Arts NYC, providing arts programs and mentorships to kids who need them most. I'm waiting to see which charity gets the designation for April.

Weiner earnestly enters the children's music fray with a character companion (although not a full menagerie like Red Yarn. New York's kindie scene has a lengthy reputation of welcoming characters of approachable repute. Rather than badmouth Princess Backpack, I'm going to zip it. Any negative thoughts, I mean. Let's see what Weiner can pull out of this backpack and whether or not his act will indeed prove to be a charmer. At the very least, he can fill it with snacks and drinks for his young audiences.

PRINCESS BACKPACK AND BENJAMIN! is available from their website, Amazon, BandcampSpotify, Google Play, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the tune, "Princess Backpack Raps":

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 7, 2017

Inkpot – Kepi Ghoulie
Island in the Ocean – Bob and Luc Schneider
Look At Those Clouds – Danny Weinkauf
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
The Ultimate Frisbee – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam
Unhuggable – Caspar Babypants
Wind in Our Sail – Weezer

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Chain Reaction – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Don't Fence Me In – Andy Z
It's A Wonderful Life – Kepi Ghoulie
Loving Cup – Cat Doorman
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
Just Say Goodbye – Wilco

Monday, April 03, 2017

Quick Hits: Rockness Elevates, Wendy & DB Celebrate Earth

Michael Napolitano from the Preschool of Rock is all grown up. Well, he's as grown up as any grown up doing children's music can be. Now he's taking his burgeoning Rockness Monsters out for a second spin with their upcoming CD, FUNNY FACES. In the meantime, the first single, "Elevator Song," is available for purchase. It's the equivalent of a toddler tease, in that it's mostly a novelty tune. But it gives you an idea of Michael's sensibilities and what he tries to accomplish (movement, encouragement, humor) encapsulated in, well, an Otis elevator.

You can purchase "Elevator Song" at iTunes and listen at SoundCloud.

Here is the FUNNY FACE preview video:

When Charity and the Jam Band produced EARTH, their ecologically-conscious CD a few years ago, I figured that might be the tail end of the trend. In fact, it was only a resting stop. Now Wendy Morgan and Darryl Boggs (Wendy and DB to you) have released their entry, HOME/EARTH.

The 13 tracks include the title song, "Bugs That Give Hugs," "Plant A Seed," and other message-laden tunes for the very young. "Girl Superhero" kind of breaks away from the central theme, although not far enough that its parent couldn't scoop it up before it got too far.

The Wendy & DB Band averages about 25 years of professional experience, so they have the production chops to skillfully deliver the material. And a total of 20 percent from the proceeds of sales of HOME/EARTH will go to the Jane Goodall Foundation, VH1 Save the Music, and A Better Life for Kids.

It's hard to root against people with such good intentions, whose goal is to entertain children in the Chicago region and perhaps raise some money for charity while they "work." Wendy & DB seek to make their musical world a place that children can relax while they learn. They want everyone to feel at home since it's everybody's HOME/EARTH.

HOME/EARTH is available at on April 22 from Wendy & DB's website, CDBABY, and Amazon.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 31, 2017

California Kids – Weezer
Cow Cow Yippee – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Do You Talk To Yourself – Dean Jones
Hammer – Aaron Nigel Smith
I Can See Clearly Now – Jojo & The Pinecones
Me On The Map – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Our Lucky Day: Lucky Diaz Back at Symphony Space

Two years makes a tremendous difference.

The last time I saw Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, it was the summer of 2015 in Philadelphia at KindieComm. Matt was only 3 1/2 and although he's seen the videos I shot of the performers, he has virtually no memories of the event.

So when the group announced their East Coast 2017 tour would make a stop at Symphony Space, it was not much of a stretch to circle the date on the calendar.  We trekked uptown last Saturday and they did not disappoint. The five-person ensemble led a rousing full house through a selection of dance tunes (although not from their Spanish-language catalog).

The audience seemed familiar with the "greatest hits" slant of the 50-minute set. In fact, the band was pushing their GREATEST HITS CD (and nothing else, surprisingly) after the show. Ben was delighted to talk about Billy Joel, of all people, with Lucky. I guess I blame myself for wearing a "Billy Joel – Last Play at Shea Stadium" shirt.

The band enjoys playing the material and the banter seems friendly and focused. The interactions with the kids in the audience drew in the crowd, to the point that kids were crowding the aisles in attempts to win the dance contest. In that sense, a good time was had by all ages.

Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band are taking their act on the road to China in May. But have no fear, they will be back and touring the midwest in June and July, with a return engagement to Manhattan to play in Madison Square Park on July 27!

Quick Hits: Friday is Goose Day, Wayne Ready to Party With Kids

You can make it a good Friday, regardless of your faith.

Father Goose has released his new single, "Friday" and it's available for immediate download through iTunes.

Goose cuts a groove and guest performers (Elena Moon Park, Yami Bolo, and Itimo) join along. Father Goose calls himself the "King of the Dance Party" and he's set out to maintain that title, one song release at a time, this year.

Download "Friday" at iTunes.

I confess. Every now and then a children's musician crosses my desk with a long resumé who I've never heard about. That's the complexity of any genre but children's music in general. The majority of the performers do it for the music and for the kids. Fame and fortune do not magically land at the feet of every musician. And that's especially true when your audience truly believes the creatures in your songs, such as  "Willy the Wooly Mammoth," really exist.

Wayne Potash fits that description and his new CD, ROCK AND ROLL PARTY, is 16 tracks that will entertain and amuse young listeners. This time out, Wayne has re-envisioned the Who's "Boris the Spider" and the Aerosmith blues classic "Train Kept A-Rollin" for the post-diaper set.

Wayne seeks to teach some lessons along the way. The message gets a little muddled if you stop and think too hard though. I remember Sigmund and the Sea Monsters on Saturday mornings. Is that the inspiration for "Clawzy the Sea Monster," who "never tells a lie"? Otherwise, it's just a way to end the chorus with a rhymable tag.

You won't exactly come away from ROCK AND ROLL PARTY with a new appreciation for children's music. Wayne is not reinventing the wheel. Here's found a niche and an appreciative Massachusetts audience and is looking to expand his base. You can visit his site for samples of his other CDs as well.

ROCK AND ROLL PARTY is available March 31 from Wayne's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here's a video of Wayne singing "New Shoes":

Monday, March 27, 2017

Dana Jumps and Jams With Juniors

Aah spring, when children's recording artists seek to release new music to integrate into their live shows. This year is no different and I've received a trove of new CDs that I'll be writing about over the next month or two.

Starting at songs for basic listeners, Washington State's Dana Cohenour returns from a maternity break with her sixth album, DANA'S BEST JUMP & JAM TUNES. The 12 songs range from country to jazz to bluegrass. The tracks invoke animals ("Fish Tale" and "Barnyard Hoedown"), physical fitness ("Jump and Jive" and "Wiggle Workout"), and responsibilities ("Do My Part").

There's a tendency to shrug off performers who aim at the youngest among us. They aren't the most discerning critics. So Dana makes sure to lyrically target parents as well, as "Wiggle Workout" can attest...

Let’s take a breather, you know I’m older than you! 
Workin’ out gets sweaty and maybe smelly, too!
But that’s OK, we’re getting healthy as can be 

We eat things that are green, we even drink green tea! 

An educator as well as a parent/performer, Dana "road-tested" her material on her Music Playground students and is now poised to entertain new audiences. By new, I mean children under the age of 7. But those kids have parents as well. Otherwise, what brung ya here!?! Dana now falls firmly into that camp as well. DANA'S BEST features a Nashville studio full of top session players. She's busting to get back to work, which means getting kids back up on their feet. Listen, you can do it 24x7 or enlist Dana and take off an hour early. Your call. She's waiting.

DANA'S BEST JUMP & JAM TUNES is available on April 14 from Music Playground and Amazon.

Here is the video for Dana's song, "Jump and Jive":

Friday, March 24, 2017

Chibi Kodama: The Kids Are All Rock

Chibi Kodama is all about girl power. The band practically overdoses on pre-teen estrogen, despite the best efforts of titular head of the family John Cullimore. Long story short, he and his kids bonded over some age-friendly Weezer songs. And happily ever after, they've been producing Powderpuff Girlz power pop.

The Cullimore Family (John, wife Yvonne, and five daughters) have made music in this fashion since 2013. Their new CD, BETWEEN MAIN STREET AND NEVERLAND, smashes the line between listening to your parents and listening with your parents. The songs, including "Believe," "All That," and "Face and Fade" deal with the intra-personal dynamics of family and friendship, childhood fears, growing up, and why it's alright to just be yourself.

As the Cullimore clan expanded, the brood relocated to Knoxville, Tennessee. The girls are now facing a whole new series of challenges, which may seem pedestrian to typical listeners. Going from home-schooled to public school home rooms is indeed a new experience. The empowerment lyrics in "Me" serve as a mantra for anyone who steps foot into the social minefield of elementary and middle school for the first time:

I am not the sum of my mistakes
I am who I choose to make myself today
And I choose to see the world this way
Fresh and new with every step
Live this moment with forgiveness on your breath

Ben asked me "Where do I file Chibi Kodama?" and I had to explain that the band is a concept – there is no actual Chibi. It's akin to asking "Which one's Pink?" for the band Pink Floyd. BETWEEN MAIN STREET AND NEVERLAND (with guest producers including Jason Didner, Lucy Kalantari, and Heather Rosenberg Hirshfield among others) is uncommon rock for kids. That's not bad, it's different, and that difference makes Chibi Kodama kinda unique for the genre.

BETWEEN MAIN STREET AND NEVERLAND is available April 1 from Chibi Kodama's Bandcamp page, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the album's title track:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 24, 2017

Bop Bodiop! – Cat Doorman
Expo Line – Andrew & Polly
From Here You Can Almost See the Sea – David Gray
Ground Food – Ratboy Jr.
Save Myself – Ed Sheeran
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
2 If I Ever Was A Child – Wilco

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 23, 2017

How Can You Tell If It's Going to Rain? – Andrew & Polly
King of the World – Weezer
Oh Island in the Sun – Aaron Nigel Smith
Only One You  – Danny Weinkauf
Supermarket Flowers – Ed Sheeran
Unhuggable – Caspar Babypants

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
Rainbow Tunnel – Alison Faith Levy
Tae Kwon Do – Bob and Luc Schneider
What Do I Know? – Ed Sheeran
The Word – Caspar Babypants
20 More Dollars – Chibi Kodama

Monday, March 20, 2017

Lucky Diaz Lands at Symphony Space

Symphony Space continues its season of multiculturalism this Saturday, March 25 with an East Coast performance by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band. We saw the band play as a trio at KindieComm in Philadelphia almost three years ago, so it will be a completely new experience for my six-year-old.

Centered around the musical stylings and chemistry of real-life married Lucky Diaz and Alisha Gaddis, the Family Jam Band has won a Latin Grammy Award (for Children's Music) as well as a local Emmy for their PBS kids' series "Lishy Lou and Lucky Too." They are taking their show on the road again and traveling cross-country for a stop on the Upper West Side.

Just Kidding Kids has emphasized a world beat this winter, with appearances by Sonia De Los Santos and Elena Moon Park, Nation Beat, and 123 Andres. They have saved some of the best for the end of the season, with the easily-embraceable and instantly accessible songs of Diaz and Company.

Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band are appearing for the Just Kidding Kids series on Saturday, March 25 at 11 am at Symphony Space. Tickets are $17 ($14 for members).

Here is my video of Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band performing "Viva La Pachanga" at KindieComm 2014 at Philly's World Cafe Live:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, March 20, 2017

Alligator Get-Together – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Feels Like Summer – Weezer
The Grass Is Always Greener  – The Okee Dokee Brothers
One After 909  – Caspar Babypants
Perfect – Ed Sheeran
Picky Eaters – Danny Weinkauf
Rocketship – Stacey Peasley

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Quick Hits: LARD Dog Goes Flatiron, Okee Dokees Go Countin'

LARD Dog and the Band of Shy are back with their third entry in this year's "Song O' the Month" project. "Ode to Flatiron" depicts the enduring architectural splendor of one of New York City's true landmarks. I have a personal connection to the Flatiron building, as I used to pass it every week in my trek to pick up my son from his afterschool program on the lower East side.

The psuedo-classical/crypto-Depression song features opera stylings by guest vocalist Rebecca Pitcher (who played Christine on Broadway in "The Phantom of the Opera"). "Ode to Flatiron" gives a mini-history lesson...look out Lloyd Miller, LARD Dog is nipping at your Deedle Deedle heels.

The preview page includes many factoids about the Flatiron Building. When it was built (1902), the Flatiron was considered one of the world's tallest structures... at 22 stories. And its location (23rd Street) is the basis of the saying "23 skidoo." Although there's no proof there were any spy organizations on the premises, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo included.

Best of all, you can stream the song or download it for free (for the pittance of your email address). Simply go here and read all about it, during the month of March. Who knows what April will bring from the Band of Shy.

The Okee-Dokee Brothers have a new song "Countin' On Me," commissioned by the Minnesota Zoo. The lilting tune has a preservation and conservation theme. With the current Trump administration preparing to dismantle many environmental regulations, now it a particularly good time to pay attention to such matters.

The Brothers (Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing) have a history with the Minnesota Zoo going back three years, to their first appearance at the opening of a nature play area. "Countin' on Me" describes three species native to the State that the Minnesota Zoo has restored or is working to restore in the wild – bison, butterflies and trumpeter swans.

The single is available for purchase on iTunes. All proceeds from the purchase of the single will support the Minnesota Zoo and its wildlife conservation efforts. The Okee Dokee Brothers will be performing a special single release party on Saturday, March 18 at the Zoo.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 10, 2017

Castle on the Hill – Ed Sheeran
Hold on to Your Dreams  – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
Mama Don't Allow – In The Nick Of Time
Popsicle – Bob and Luc Schneider
Shake a Friend's Hand – Andy Z
Sleeping Dogs  – Randy Kaplan
The Word – Caspar Babypants

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 9, 2017

Born Again –  Red Yarn
Don't Grow Up To Fast – Keith Munslow And Bridget Brewer
Eraser –  Ed Sheeran
That Way – Chibi Kodama
The Ultimate Frisbee –  Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Because I Love You – Caspar Babypants
Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Look At Those Clouds – Danny Weinkauf
Mockingbird – Red Yarn
Thank You (feat. R. City) – Meghan Trainor
This Is How We Bring In The Sun – Justin Roberts

Kids Smitten With Kaplan's Mitten Trippin'

What if your only problem with a children's recording artist was that they were too damn clever? By that I mean, putting in stuff that not only goes over the kids' heads, but goes by so fast that most adults would miss it. They stare blankly even after hearing it a few times, or tracking back a few seconds in iTunes to make sure something was heard correctly.

Aside from that kerfuffle, I have no reservations about Randy Kaplan's new CD, TRIPPIN' ROUND THE MITTEN. He's been a longtime favorite ever since my older son was my younger son's age – for the uninitiated, that's more than a decade. Randy's MITTEN runs close to an hour and is filled with wacky and wonderful stuff like "Supernude," about a clothes-adverse youngster and "Comb Your Ear," a wistful remembrance of a mutt from Kaplan's past.

Randy is not adverse to the occasional cover song as well and his choices are remarkably diverse. There's the 1950s novelty "Mr. Bassman" with a science-oriented epilogue, "Mr. Spaceman," where he explains time/space travel dynamics to his car-trip-tired son. And the recent Maroon 5 tune "Sugar" gets a kid-centric rewrite about confectionary concoctions.

MITTEN is full of Kaplan-esque wordplay and unique situations. "Cat & Mice" allows Randy to rap about all the rotten things he and his friend (the prototypical kid who lived down the block) are gonna do when left unsupervised. Hence, a rap that includes Stardust Memories, A Night at the Opera, and Star Trek. "In "My Frigerator Broke," a desperate Randy tries to use perfectly good food for other purposes under dire circumstances:

Got tuna fish in my pocket
Butter up my sleeves
Eggs tucked in my dungarees
Socks are full of cheese
You might call me crazy
But this is not a joke
My frigerator, frigerator, frigerator broke
My frigerator, frigerator, frigerator broke

MITTEN wraps with the apocryphal "On the Phone on the Toilet,"  the Kids Place Live favorite, a child's paean to parents living immersed in the age of social media, and "Mommy Love Song," one of two charming songs featuring lead vocals by Julie May. Randy is entering the eleventeenth year of adolescence and we're all the better for it. You may take better-planned trips, or family trips, but Kaplan's MITTEN is one of the funner trips you can take your kids on.

TRIPPIN' ROUND THE MITTEN is available from Randy Kaplan's website, Bandcamp, Amazon, CDBaby, and iTunes.

 Here is the video for his song, "Crew Cut":

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, March 6, 2017

Amistad (Featuring Dan Zanes) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Big Buncha Buddies – Keith Munslow And Bridget Brewer
Colors – OneRepublic
Fantastic – Lucy Kalantari
Mr. Bassman – Randy Kaplan
Old Mother Goose – Red Yarn

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 2, 2017

Babylon – David Gray
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Love You Always – Lucy Kalantari
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
Sugar – Randy Kaplan
Your Happy Place – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Red Yarn Births More Deep Woods Music

American folk music has served as a storytelling and history preserving mechanism for generation. Its subcategories, including bluegrass, wistfully conjure up memories of mountain ridges, shady brooks, and running through the forest with your friends.

Red Yarn (aka Andy Furgeson), the roots revivalist/puppeteer (look up that hyphenate on LinkedIn) returns with BORN IN THE DEEP WOODS, his fourth CD and the conclusion of his Deep Woods song cycle trilogy. The CD chronicles music recorded during the pregnancy of his wife, Jessie Eller-Isaacs, of the couple's second child. Thus the presence of "Little Baby Born Today" and "Old Black Dog," which ends with the lyrics:

Big boogerman come flying 'cross the meadow
Swallows the world in his deep dark shadow
"Go away man, go away, man"
He can't have my baby
Cuz mama loves you...

BORN IN THE DEEP WOODS mixes six original songs with six covers of traditional songs, all presented in new arrangements with a first-rate ensemble of musicians, including multi-instrumentalist Dean Jones (tho not the album's producer). The CD was helmed by Adam Selzer, whose credits are a laundry list that includes Peter Buck (R.E.M.), the Decemberists, and John Wesley Harding. I would urge getting a hardcopy of the CD, which comes with full artwork and illustrations by Ryan Bruce.

Red Yarn infuses BORN IN THE DEEP WOODS with a harder edged sound than his past releases. There's more of a southern rock influence and guitar sound on "Born Again" (Allman Brothers) and "Old Mother Goose" (Black Crowes). Perhaps Andy wanted some more modern dance numbers to play at his concerts. But they are a welcome diversion from the somber reverence attributed to "Birdies' Ball" and "Leatherwing Bat."

Inclusion is a familiar refrain around the world, and children's music is no exception. American folk music is part of this country's frontier history. Red Yarn is on a quest to make sure root revival music doesn't become mired in amber, permanently crystalized and never explored. He has invested much time and passion into a deep dive to bring the past present, to make music for the future, his own progeny first and foremost. Dare you come for a run through the forest, by the crook, in the shadow of the mountains? If you do, be sure to bring the kids.

BORN IN THE DEEP WOODS is available March 10 from Red Yarn's website, Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp.

Here is a teaser video for Red Yarn's song "Born in the Deep Woods,":

Friday, February 17, 2017

StevenSteven Clue In Mind-Bending Kids Tunes

Okay so wait, that's Steve Burns, I mean Steve from "Blue's Clues," and like, he's singing about poop. Yes, pooping in the toilet bowl. And it's a kid's song. Well, yeah, it is. Thankfully not blue poop. That would be weird, right?

The psychedelic fairy tale that has been Burns' career takes a new turn this month as the multi-faceted performer teams with Flaming Lips' Steven Drozd to launch StevenSteven and their debut CD, FOREVERYWHERE. That's where you can find the aforementioned "OK Toilet Bowl," as well as the also pseudo-informative "If You're Ginormous And You Know it."

The Steves hyperactive imaginations have gone into overdrive, with the surreal '70s sound sensations of "Mimic Octopus (Secret Wizard Of The Sea)" and "The Happy Then Sad Then Triumphant Spider." If you were a fan of Harry Nillson's "The Point" or Donovan or more recently, Bob Schneider's THE L or Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's Grammy-winning INFINITY PLUS ONE, then your mind will readily grasp the phantasmagoric concepts behind FOREVERYWHERE.

Friends for a few decades now, the Steves decided it was high time to aim both barrels of their musical arsenal at children worldwide. Burns has a few generations of Nickelodeon acolytes giving him cred and the Flaming Lips draw listeners from the deep end of the indie pool. Working together, FOREVERYWHERE is trippy and tuneful and a thoroughly unexpected treat.

The duo are performing at an exclusive album release party on Sunday, February 26 at the Brooklyn Bowl (click through for details).

FOREVERYWHERE is available February 24 from StevenSteven's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is their debut video for the song, "The Unicorn and the Princess Rainbow":

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, February 17, 2017

Born – OneRepublic
Done With The Science Fair – The Not-Its!
Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
Mama Don't Allow – In The Nick Of Time
Perfect Illusion – Lady Gaga
Tiptoe Through The Tulips – Little Miss Ann And Amy D
2 If I Ever Was A Child – Wilco

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ghostbusters – Andrew & Polly
The Honey Bunny Song – Lard Dog
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
Out Standing – Hullabaloo
Rattlesnake – Caspar Babypants
Too Good To Say Goodbye – Bruno Mars

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Chain Reaction – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Farewell And Goodnight – Jojo & The Pinecones
Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Look At Those Clouds – Danny Weinkauf
Mystery – Dean Jones
One  – Aaron Nigel Smith
Raise A Ruckus – Hullabaloo

Hullabaloo Celebrate 3,000 Shows With Volume 2 Of Best Songs

As the kindie movement rolls into its second decade, some venerable performers are reaching milestones. Hullabaloo, the team of Steve Denyes and Brendan Kremer (friends since kindergarten), finds itself approaching their 3,000th live show (slated for February 26). The date is conveniently slated as the release of the band's BEST OF HULLABALOO VOLUME TWO.

Usually children's music retains a regional sound. However the San Diego-based duo have given Hullabaloo a bluegrass/country feel. Steve's unique vocal stylings and their mastery of banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and other non-electric instruments have powered Hullabaloo to a sweet spot where few other kindie artists inhabit.

VOLUME TWO features 15 songs dating from 2009-2015. "Dog Song" frets over a lost pooch and bemoans that an ad in the paper won't help because "he can't read." The mournful "I'm Hungry" lists a litany of found food items in what must be the world's most unkempt couch. "Raise a Ruckus," the title track from their 2012 CD, is a countrified rocker that updates a Grand Ol' Opry standard.

The ode to camaraderie "Best Friends Forever" bridges the band into 2016's I CHEW, which celebrated inclusion and diversity at the same time. "I Wear Pink" is Steve's autobiographical take on growing up playing with his older sister's dolls. A host of kindie stars provided backup vocals, including Peter Alsop, Dean Jones, Laura Doherty, Papa Crow, Jim Cosgrove (Mr. Stinky Feet), the Singing Lizard, Randy Kaplan, Mista Cookie Jar, Red Yarn, and Dan Elliott (Pointed Man Band). The collection comes to a swift (35 minutes) conclusion with the ballad "You Are Loved."

Hullabaloo is what happens when two grown men decide that kid's music is just as much fun to perform as it is to hear. Steve and Brendan have stuck a pin this moment in time for them – 3,000 concerts and 13 CDs – but don't look to be slowing down any time soon. BEST OF HULLABALOO VOLUME 2 is a choice sampler of a band still figuring out what it wants to be when it grows up. Or if it's more fun to stay a kid.

BEST OF HULLABALOO VOLUME 2 is available on February 24 from Hullabaloo's website, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for their song, "You Are Loved," which features Steve teaching American sign language for the lyrics:

Friday, February 10, 2017

Quick Hits: Free Valentines Music and Video

Valentines Day and children's music are two concepts that don't necessarily go hand in hand.

But there are ways to make them work together and provide fun for all ages.

Justin Roberts has released a video for "Valentine (I Don't Want to Be Yours)," from his latest album, LEMONADE. View it here and enjoy:

You can download Justin's song as well as tunes from other artists such as Recess Monkey, courtesy of Beth Blenz and Sugar Mountain PR, through the actual day (February 14). Here's the playlist link.

Enjoy love-themed songs from Little Miss Ann, Raffi, and Frances England. And then go find some other stuff by those artists and share it with the little ones you love.

Erica Rabner is also offering a Valentines song for download – "Valentine's Day" (wonder where she got that title) is up for download at Soundcloud. You can also click through to her debut album, PB & JAMS.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Ben's Snow Day Playlist -Thursday, February 9, 2017

Banana Bread – Caspar Babypants
Dream A Little Dream – Jojo & The Pinecones
Expo Line – Andrew & Polly
Island in the Ocean – Bob and Luc Schneider
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones
You Better Believe – Train
12 Just Say Goodbye – Wilco

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Ann and Amy Keep On for the Kids

Contemporary kindie (children's independent) music is not just folk music. If your thoughts immediately drift to Dan Zanes, scan over to his supporting band – people like Elena Moon Park and Sonia De Los Santos. As much as Prez Trump and his ilk squeal and complain, the world is changing. And so is the complexion of the people making and performing for children.

Little Miss Ann (Ann Torralba) and Amy D (Amyliza de Jesus) share a common background – Filipino-Americans with backgrounds in music and education. Ann hails from Chicago and Amy is from Nashville. Working with children has given them a chance to incorporate world influences as well as local cultures into their songs. Their new CD, KEEP ON, let's them reach the little ones with "Shake & Sing" and "The Senses Song." But they dive deeper with calypso on "Hill and Gully Rider," featuring guest artists 123 Andres and Tim Sutton from Ratboy Jr. (Tim, Ben keeps asking when the next Ratboy Jr. CD is coming).

Once again, the sorcerer waving a wand over this production is kindie über-producer Dean Jones. Much like an Uber driver, Dean steers KEEP ON clear of any potholes or false notes. As Ann and Amy point out in the liner notes, "Dean plays just about every instrument known to man." For anyone who grew up with (or only know) "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" as a Tiny Tim novelty ditty, the ladies forcibly and daintily reclaim it as a gentle love song, complete with a toy piano.

KEEP ON is not going to rock your world. It's not even going to rock your socks off. At a mere 29 minutes, it's an appetizer to get your child's attention or provide some gentle background to a family activity. Ann and Amy merge their voices into a sweet harmony that any amateur can use as a background refresher for "Where Is Thumbkin?"

The best children's music is kept simple, minus any bold-faced headlines or bald-faced alternative facts. KEEP ON encourages kids to "Keep On Keeping On" despite feeling sleepy or discouraged. The strong roots of the folk movement segue gently into the realm of kindie on its 10 tracks. KEEP ON singing, keep on playing, keep on learning, just keep on going forward.

KEEP ON is available on February 17 from Little Miss Ann's website, CDBABY, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is a video of "Someday, Some Morning" (lyrics by Woody Guthrie, music by Jeff Tweedy):

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Friday, February 3, 2017

By The Light – Red Yarn
Do You Talk To Yourself – Dean Jones
Dodgeball – Justin Roberts
How Can You Tell If It's Going to Rain? – Andrew & Polly
Kid Of The Week – The Not-Its!
Lost and Found – Train
The Only One – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could

After 40 Years, Best of Raffi A Long Time Coming

I'm going to keep this review as politically correct as I possibly can. Suffice to say that there are polarizing figures in all walks of life – political, sports, the arts. Amazing as it may sound, the uttering of one iconic children's music performer – Raffi – conjures up a whole host of emotions in adults. "Oh that's little kid music," "Today's kids don't want to hear that," "Wow - what a blast from the past, is he still around?"

It's hard to believe, yet at the same time it seems so obvious, that Raffi has been an integral part of the children's music scene for more than 40 years. So the release of BEST OF RAFFI would appear, on the surface, to be very overdue. Yet he took a long sabbatical from recording children's music, only to reappear in 2014 and release two CDs (LOVE BUG and OWL SINGALONG) in a 14-month period.

The saga of Raffi includes his sojourn into advocacy – In 1997, Raffi developed a holistic philosophy called Child Honouring. He cultivated A Covenant for Honouring Children (Raffi’s poetic declaration of our duty to the young), along with its nine principles. The Covenant and Principles are both circulated widely in public health and education circles. There's also Red Hood Project, a movement for online security for children and youth. Concerned about the effects of digital media, especially on children, Raffi wrote Lightweb Darkweb: Three Reasons To Reform Social Media Before it Re-Forms Us in 2013. The book offers three reasons for social media reform: safety, intelligence, and sustainability. Raffi highlights children’s developmental needs as a key missing consideration in the digital revolution.

While doing this review, I found myself singing along to such witty silliness:

Ring ring ring ring ring ring ring banana phone
Ping pong ping pong ping pong ping panana phone
It's no Bologna, it ain't a phony
My cellular bananular phone

It all comes around full circle to the music, and songs that bring a smile to generations, now referred to as Beluga Grads. "Bananaphone," "Everything Grows," "Down By the Bay," "One Light One Sun," and "Baby Beluga," his most well-known song. Raffi remained steadfast that he would not overly commercial his material and refused to produce a film based on "Baby Beluga," as well as other offers. It's conceivable that the world's best-selling children's entertainer could have made a mint with such ventures. But integrity, once sacrificed, cannot be repurchased. Unlike these classic songs, which you can now get in one simple collection.

BEST OF RAFFI is available February 10 from Raffi's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the title track from last year's "Owl Singalong":

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, February 2, 2017

Breakfast For Dinner – Jojo & The Pinecones
Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
Dancin' In Circles – Lady Gaga
Must Be This Tall – Justin Roberts
Oh My My – OneRepublic
Play That Song – Train

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Drink Up – Train
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
Forever Young – Andrew & Polly
I Can See Clearly Now – Jojo & The Pinecones
Step Outside the Box – Stacey Peasley
24K Magic – Bruno Mars

Monday, January 30, 2017

Friendship Trumps Howard Stern's View of Presidency

As a 30-year listener to Howard Stern, I was eager this morning to hear his take on Friday's executive order banning immigrants from seven countries, issues by President Trump.

I sat through nearly four hours of phony phone calls, Wack Pack mayhem with longtime caller Steve From Florida, and a surprisingly emotional interview with sports broadcaster Joe Buck, until Robin Quivers got to the news.

Twenty minutes in, we got the following exchange, about the political activism on display at the SAG Awards on Sunday night.

Robin: Julia Louis-Dreyfus pointed out that she is the daughter of an immigrant who fled religious persecution by the Nazis.
Howard: No Baba Booeys, huh?

Howard has gone out of his way not to badmouth his longtime friend of the show Donald Trump. He even felt it was necessary to chastise media outlets who played selected clips of Trump's radio appearances during the election cycle that pointed out the candidate's sexist attitudes about women.

In doing so, Stern is performing an elaborate game of Limbo – how low can Trump go without Stern giving his true opinions and offering commentary. Robin is not baiting him; she often gets criticized for reporting "old news," and this was certainly one of the most important and pertinent topics of the day.

It's going to be interesting to see how long Stern can maintain this guise. Is he angling for an invitation to the White House? Walking a tightrope to not agitate his most left-wing Hollywood friends? (Even Jimmy Kimmel called one Trump cabinet nominee a "piece of shit".)

But in avoiding controversy by not alienating his "friend" Donald Trump, Stern is terribly disappointing many fans. It's one thing to become intensely politically correct. Or to avoid booking controversial or opinionated guests like Gilbert Gottfried. Or to mend fences with Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O'Donnell to book more mainstream celebrities.

By not taking sides in this debate, Stern comes across as a coward. Yes, he is a "comedian" doing a "morning radio show." But his opinions reach millions of fans, listeners, and politicians.

What does Howard's father, an Army veteran, think about a Nazi gaining the ear of the President? What does his mother, a champion of integration, think about a ban on immigrants from countries that have not produced any terrorist attacks on American soil?

With every new ridiculous executive order and edict, Trump brings this nation closer to becoming a banana republic. While intensely worried about being judged an illegitimate president, his every action makes that truth becomes more self-evident.

We need voices speaking out about what is happening. And Howard Stern's silence is deafening. And telling at the same time.

All the Jazz That Fits With Jojo & the Pinecones

Jazz hands everybody! Or rather, how about a hand for jazz? There seems to be a mini-comeback of the genre inside the venue of children's music. Between Lucy Kalantari, Jazzy Ash, Lori Henriques, and now JoJo and the Pinecones, there's a whole spectrum to educate your kids. I was fortunate enough to see the group perform at Hootenanny earlier this month (with Lucy, Jazzy, as well as Tim Kubart).

Joelle Lurie and musical partner Benjamin Gallina (whose website is a mnemonic for "brangelina") crafted their new CD, NIGHT & DAY, as part of their residency at Lincoln Center Education. The album is a amalgam of new and reinvigorated standards such as the title track and "Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'." For anyone who watched Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, the piano break in "Dream A Little Dream of Me" will remind you of the late Johnny Costa.

There are so many recordings of "I Can See Clearly Now" that it's pointless to make comparisons. But JoJo and company strive to make it downbeat and upbeat at the same time. You won't forget it's an album for your kids with such selections as "I Spy" and the cheery "Breakfast for Dinner," which is a rap short of being a Mista Cookie Jar song. Pizza for breakfast? Somebody is gonna give the tots some intriguing ideas.

NIGHT & DAY is designed in two sets, "Night" and "Day," with seven lighter, playful tracks that segue into seven to wind down from the hustle and bustle of school, homework, and chores. JoJo & The Pinecones take their childhood experiences and memories and run them through a tapestry of American Jazz stylings. Just when you think jazz is exclusionary, for a certain class of people, or just too cool for your tastes, along comes the closing track, "Farewell and Goodnight," a Smashing Pumpkins tune transformed from grinding guitars into a bluesy, horn-filled lullaby. Good night indeed. But not farewell.

NIGHT & DAY is available from JoJo & The Pinecones' website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for their song, "Breakfast for Dinner":

Thursday, January 26, 2017

RSVP for Stacey Peasley

One of my January highlights thus far was Hootenanny in Brooklyn. I got a chance to network with way too many performers and personalities. I trekked two hours through a bone-chilling snow storm that paralyzed parts of the East Coast (delaying SiriusXM/Recess Monkey's Jack Forman and preventing an appearance by Josh and the Jamtones). I heard about exciting new projects and danced with Grammy winners (and nominees). Several musicians also plugged just-released or upcoming CDs. Which brings me to this column.

Stacey Peasley, the pride of Natick, Massachusetts, recently released RSVP, her latest children's music CD. A teacher (and stage mother), Stacey uses her songs to amuse as well as entertain. She walks that fine line between talking down to youngsters and talking to them. Tunes such as "Step Outside the Box" and "Allergies" tackle cultural sensitivity and sensitive systems. "Hand Me Downs" heralds the arrival of "new" second-hand clothing. The title track recounts a laundry list of friends and acquaintances around the country who are receiving an invitation to a birthday party – also serving as a metaphor for agreeing to hear the rest of the CD.

Breaking the Dean Jones producing monopoly is a challenging venture, but They Might Be Giants' drummer and composer Marty Beller more than ably manages the task. The Johns have taken a sabbatical from the children's scene while Marty has chosen to stick his toes further into the kindie pond (as has bandmate Danny Weinkauf).

Stacey continues her performing and teaching ventures in the Boston area. This dozen new tunes should more than suffice for her students and audience members, young and old alike. RSVP (with its signature artwork by Jill Howarth) instinctively calls out for a response, literally and figuratively.

RSVP is available from Stacey's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for her song, "Soapy Bubbles":

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, January 26, 2017

Find A Way – Stacey Peasley
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
My Magic Helicopter – Danny Weinkauf
Rattlesnake – Caspar Babypants
Right Side of the Bed – Ratboy Jr.
Washington, DC – The Not-Its!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Auntie Kayte Sings Fairy Tales

Last week, Auntie Kayte released "RUFUS THE UNICORN AND OTHER UPSIDE-DOWN FAIRYTALE SONGS." Aimed squarely at preschoolers, the CD is a collection of character-based story songs featuring the title character as well as "Pirates Are People Too."

There's a lot of positive reinforcement for the tots. For instance, here's lyrics from "A Princess Can Be Smart":

A princess can be a doctor, and a princess can be a mom.
A princess can travel the world, and a princess can stay home.
A princess can be an inventor, a teacher or a nurse
She can speak a foreign language or write a rhyming verse

California-based Kayte has a kind heart, sunny disposition, and clear voice. Her music is part of a larger stage show, involving costumes and drawings. But songs are always part of a child's gateway to viewing live performances. So take that for what it's worth.

You can order RUFUSE THE UNICORN from Auntie Kayte's website.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ben's Playlist - Monday, January 23, 2017

Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Done With The Science Fair – The Not-Its!
Fresh Spokes (Featuring Susan Lapidus) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
The Grass Is Always Greener  – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Me Too – Meghan Trainor
Press Play – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Rocketship – Stacey Peasley