Monday, March 19, 2007

***Randy Kaplan***

Straight outta Park Slope, Brooklyn, Randy Kaplan presents an eclectic collection of covers and originals on his newest CD, Five Cent Piece. Released on his own Yellow Thing Records & Books label, Five Cent Piece runs the musical gamut from Judy Garland to the Stones, from Woody Guthrie to Jonathan Richman. Now, remember, kids' albums aren't meant to be the only source of musical history, so the fact that Kaplan includes a song made famous by the Rev. Gary Davis, two songs by legendary lyricist Yip Harburg, and another from the Bye Bye Birdie soundtrack doesn't mean he meant for you to ONLY listen to his version. It's an invitation to explore, to find out more about music and it's history and sources.

Kaplan's performance and style could most easily be compared to Arlo Guthrie; and, coincidentally or no, he covers songs by Woody and by Arlo, plus his 10-minute "You Can't Always Get What You Want" resembles Arlo's album side-long "Alice's Restaurant". The bohemian bluegrass/dixieland played by Kaplan and his extremely cohesive and talented band tie together the varying song sources into a unified package, so that Jonathan Richman's "I'm a Little Dinosaur", Elizabeth Cotton's "Freight Train", and "We're In the Same Boat, Brother" (made popular by Leadbelly), all sound like they were performed at the same sitting. Plus, his rendition of "Over the Rainbow" has to be THE sweetest you'll ever hear.

His originals are wildly original, showcasing Kaplan's love of the narrated song: a shark interrupts bathtime with a request to "Shampoo Me", the "Mosquito Song" details a conversation with a certain bloodsucker, and the "Roaches" that occupy Kaplan's apartment are into Kafka's "The Metamorphosis". And kids'll get a big laff out of his original lyrics to "Donut Song".

Dig the packaging and layout: Kaplan's profile graces the giant nickel design on the CD itself, while several street signs and storefronts in the foldout will be recognizable to Brooklynites. Lots of time and effort by Kaplan and fellow musician Tom Johnson went into the cover, which almost always means great music waits inside.

A sort of East Coast companion piece to Mr. David's The Great Adventures of Mr. David, Kaplan's first kids' CD (hopefully not his last) after releasing five for grownups will no doubt be equally loved by tots and their adults. Take the F Train over to the Perch Cafe in Brooklyn and check out a performance by this unique artist. And tell him to keep up the good work.

2 comments:

Wendy said...

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