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.