Monday, June 30, 2008

New Daddy A Go Go video

Everybody's favorite rockin' daddy, John Boydston, just released a video from his Rock of All Ages CD, "School Bus Driver (The Stop Song)". Crank it up!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Free-for-All # 14

Dustin Type, Dustin and the Leftover Pancakes

Uncluttered, VERY happy rock and roll songs from LA-based children's music teacher Dustin Tiep. Lots of rip-roarin' guitar solos from Glen West on songs about colors, numbers, letters, pets, trains, and food. One of the best lines comes from "The Number Song (Something Special)": 'The number 16 likes expensive jeans'. Tiep's style (like a low-key Brady Rymer) and lyrical content make Leftover Pancakes one of the few CDs aimed at preschoolers that really hits its target audience.

Steve Pullara and His Cool Beans Band, Zooboogie!

Pullara's Broadway-like tunes celebrate a veritable encyclopedia of animals on Zooboogie! This Pennsylvania-based kids' music veteran covers habitats, animal features, and animal baby names, as well as getting in a little metaphor and simile practice. And listen for covers of Sammy Kahn and Jimmy Van Heusen's "High Hopes"; and "The Mouse", written by Denny Randell and Sandy Linzer for Soupy Sales!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I knew network TV was a bottomless pit of crap, but...

Here's a response from the Zero To Three organization about summer "entertainment" offered up by one of the major television networks:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yosi live @ Shipyard Park

The family and I saw Yosi tonight at Hoboken's Shipyard Park. Beautiful night, big crowd, and flying bicycles (see below).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

***Recess Monkey***

Wanna know just how far-reaching the Beatles' influence still is? How their catchy, timeless, fun, powerful songs continue to weave their way into the fabric of pop culture? This here kids' band built a replica of the Sgt. Pepper cover for their second album, used the White Album's sprawling double disc format for their third, and for their fourth, Tabby Road, well, 'nuff said.

But the comparisons go deeper than cover art and album titles. Recess Monkey's Tabby Road is wall-to-wall sensational pop songwriting by Jack Forman, Daron Henry, and Andrew Holloway, arguably the most prolific kiddie rockers in the arena. The tunes are spiced up with 12-string guitar, a very Moog-y keyboard, and all-over-the-place bass playing, a nod to McCartney's low-end inventiveness on the Beatles' mid- to late-career albums. Listen for hints of Weezer, Klaatu, OK Go, Todd Rundgren, Jellyfish, XTC, and Jeff Barry's poppiest pop tunes. Oh, and the Beatles. The songs? Well, they're about friends, pets, teeth, bikes, and monsters, lots of monsters (more about that later).

Several songs, like "Birthday Bite", "Pedal Power", "Dr. Wiggle", and "Under My Bed", are perfectly designed for live audience participation. You could pair "KC in the Clouds" with Paul McCartney's "Little Lamb Dragonfly", with its similar subject matter (loss of a pet), and similar sound to Wings' output from that era. "Messy Nessie" would go well with Alice Flaherty and Scott Magoon's 2007 picture book The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster: A Tale of Picky Eating.

"Dr. Wiggle" and "Under My Bed" would fit perfectly on Jellyfish's Spilt Milk, while guest guitarist Rob Hampton's solo in "Robin (Sugar Goblin)" is highly reminiscent of George Harrison's angular Rubber Soul/Revolver six string work. And "Kitty Sister", well, in a perfect world this tune would be one of those songs that stays at #1 all summer (if Andy Partridge isn't jealous, he should be!).

Back to the monsters ... side two of Tabby Road seems to be Recess Monkey's homage to Abbey Road's second side, as an overarching monster theme is tied together with short songs that crossfade and abut into and against each other. Monsters: You've got the under-the-bed variety, a pro-veggie creature, a Yeti, a sugar-loving goblin, a Loch Ness monster, a mummy, a dragon, a wolfman, and a truck (monster, of course).

If you're a lover of indie rock, if you dig powerpop, if the Beatles never leave your CD player, if you admire a spirit of inventiveness in your music, Tabby Road is a must-buy. Now, should we start looking for "Jack Is Dead" clues?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

***Jason Falkner***

Is it weird to be excited about a collection of songs meant for nighttime relaxation? I'm a big fan of Jason Falkner, and Jason Falkner's a big fan of the Beatles. I'm a big fan of the Beatles, too, but I'm not sure if the Fab Four or Falkner are fans of mine ... anyway, Jason Falkner's second CD of Beatles lullabyes was released today, and I'm pretty jazzed.

Now, naysayers will claim that Bedtime with the Beatles: Part Two is "muzak", or will ask "Why don't you just listen to the originals?" First, anything Falkner touches musically is way more interesting than most of what's out there. Second, these aren't meant to be "covers" as such, they're interpretations in lullabye form (see this review of his first Bedtime with the Beatles). Third, Falkner performs and produces everything himself: This ain't no "hit the drum machine button and play the synth" bull malarky.

Check out the Brian Eno-sounding "She's Leaving Home", the hummed "Hey Jude", and the perfect closer, "Goodnight". The most amusing thing about the project is the promo blurb issued by McCartney himself:

"I very much enjoyed the first 'Bedtime with the Beatles' and wish Jason all the best with this follow-up. It certainly works - it put me to sleep."

Whether or not that quote is legit, it's pretty damn funny.

Monday, June 16, 2008

New Digs

As some of you may or may not know, the Donnell Central Children's Room is no more. But here's the good news: I've transferred to The New York Public Library's Early Childhood Resource and Information Center, located at the Hudson Park Branch in the West Village. I've traded Midtown's steel & glass, harried businessmen, and confused tourists for tree-lined cobblestone lanes, bohemian New Yorkers, and friendly "hellos".

Early Childhood programming, materials, and research have increasingly become my focus over time, so the move fits perfectly. Oh, and three things I immediately liked about the area: There's a huge Keith Haring mural right behind the library, across one street is the exterior shot of the Cosby house, and across another street is one of our favorite pubs in NYC (I'll post photos later).

After several weeks of office shifting and a well-deserved vacation down the shore, I'm back in my new office where a massive stack of review CDs is about to teeter off my desk and onto the floor. Be patient, I'll get to your album if you sent one. I'll leave you with a picture of a New York Public Librarian leading a storytime in the adjoining Hudson Park in 1910...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

***The Beep Seals***

Normally, I reserve this blog for music created specifically for kids, with occasional sidetrips into grownup music when I'm feeling particularly sentimental or editorial. But I love indierock, I love harmonies, and I love Teenage Fanclub, which is why I have to recommend this band from Manchester, UK.

The Beep Seals just released Things that Roar on the tiny London-based Heron Recordings label, sounding like nothing less than the Zombies and the Beach Boys playing songs from the Beatles' Rubber Soul and Revolver. Any current group who put this much effort into three- and four-part vocal arrangements are tops in my book. And who did the band get to produce their debut album? Who else but Norman Blake from my beloved Teenage Fanclub, a pro at exactly this kind of melodic, jangly, harmony-filled superpop.

Check out this short clip of the Beep Seals performing live on Manchester's Channel M:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Drums of Thunder live @ Sinatra Park

This past Friday night we saw Drums of Thunder, a 4th- and 5th-Grade drum corp from Montclair, NJ's Hillside School, at Hoboken's Sinatra Park. The most awesome thing about the performance? Not the backdrop of Manhattan's Financial District, not the power of a three dozen-strong percussion team, but that one of the snare drummers had a full-on Kid 'N Play high top fade, circa 1988 (see photo below).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Family Music Festivals in and around NYC

Here's a link to Time Out New York Kids' listing of the six best summer music festivals in the New York City area:

Performers from Tom Chapin, to Suzi Shelton, to Miriam Makeba, to Father Goose, to David Weinstone and the Music for Aardvarks Band (below) will be rockin' the 5 Boroughs all summer long!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Americana Family Jamboree live @ Shipyard Park

Last Tuesday the family and I saw the Americana Family Jamboree at Hoboken's Shipyard Park. AFJ is the family-friendly alias of the Demolition String Band, a group that's part of the thriving bluegrass and old-time music scene in this area (mainly in Brooklyn). Even though our little one was more enthralled with the ornate fountain behind us, we all enjoyed an evening of singalongs like "Midnight Special", "Cotton Fields", and "Oh! Susanna".

Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday Free-for-All # 13

Recess Monkey, Tabby Road

Hooks galore on Recess Monkey's fourth CD for children! These three silly teachers from Seattle channel the Beatles (of course), Weezer, Klaatu, OK Go, XTC, and every pop song Jeff Barry wrote on their latest album, Tabby Road. Heck, "Kitty Sister" oughta be a number one summer smash! Lots of interactive fun, tons of singalong opportunities ... a certified chart-topper!!

Various Artists, Let the Good Times Rouler!

From the company who brought you Down at the Sea Hotel, comes Let the Good Times Rouler!, a collection of French folk songs in the Arcadian style (the precursor to Cajun music). Well-done albums of French songs for kids are hard to find, folks, but Secret Mountain does it up right. Recorded by a slew of France's roots and folk stars, Catherine Durand's "Le Train du Nord" is a standout track. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Hullabaloo, Tall as a Tree

Low-key, rootsy songs from duo Steve Denyes and Brendan Kremer. This is Del Mar, CA-based Hullabaloo's fourth kids' album, continuing their string of fun, sweet, and silly originals and covers for families. Check out the short ode to Mommies "Mom's the Word"; the traditional song medley "Hey Lolly, Lolly"; and "Sippy Cup", inspired by coffee cup-totin' grownups across the nation.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Books Now! Books Wow!

Remember that Monty Python sketch where the Royal Navy is given a groovy makeover via animated advertisements, or the "Catholicism Wow!" campaign in Dogma? This is kinda like that, 'cept with books!

Yet another library-related song, this one specifically celebrating the Children's Book Council's Book Week theme of 1972. Here are the first two verses and the chorus:

"When it rains, when it snows / when it's Spring and everything grows / when you've got a cold in your nose / Read books, now! Books, wow! / Robin Hood, Little John, fairy tales that start 'Once upon', great adventures, fiction and non! / Read books, now! Books, wow! / Cheer the hero, who's brave! / Boo the villain, that knave! / Face a lion in his cage / and escape by turning the page / Travel west! Howdy, Pard! / Get a ticket, it isn't hard / It's your local library card / Read books, now! Books, wow!"

"Want to learn how to cook? / How to bait your own fishing hooks? / Even how to write your own book? / Read books, now! Books, wow! / Books on stamps, books on snakes / books that scare and give you the shakes / and without those commercial breaks! / Read books, now! Books, wow! / When it's Sunday and Jerome / who's your best friend isn't home / You don't have a thing to do / and you're slowly going cockoo / Don't give up! Don't despair / don't go home and tear out your hair / Grab a book, a coke, and a chair! / Read books, now! Books, wow!"

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Summer Fun

If you're in the Hoboken, NJ, area this summer, stop by one of their Family Fun Nights featuring kids' music from our buddies Yosi, Princess Katie & Racer Steve, and others. Here's the link: