Friday, October 31, 2008

"The hottest band in the world!"...Happy Halloween!

In celebration of the absolute greatest Halloween costume for us kids ... ever ... KISS! So, were you Starchild, the Demon, Space Ace, or Catman?

KISS - "Shout It Out Loud"

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another reason technology is so cool...

Remember this classic Halloween album from years ago? Well, unless you're a hard-core audiophile who still owns a turntable, you ain't gonna hear it 'cause it still hasn't been released on CD.

***Breaking News!***

Chilling Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House has just been made available on iTunes as an mp3 download! This album doesn't contain any music, but it does present a great collection of Halloween sounds. Many grandparents and parents will remember this record from the mid-'60s and the early '70s, when it was re-released.

The sound effects were culled from Disney's vaults, and include creaks, groans, screams, and screeches from short animated films and Disney park rides. Side one of the original album was narrated by Laura Olsher, and side two was pretty much the sounds from side one without the narration. Watch out, though: the track "Chinese Water Torture" contains potentially embarrassing, politically incorrect "Asian" dialogue.

Here's Haunted Dimensions' super overview of the history of the album. Spooky, silly, and hair-raising fun!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

***Eban Schletter***

Last-minute Halloween musical treat: Eban Schletter's Witching Hour! Watcha got here is one of the best-produced Halloween albums you'll ever hear. Schletter has composed tons of music for film and television, including Mr. Show and Spongebob Squarepants. On this project, he enlisted the talents of musicians and actors like Grant Lee Phillips, Dave "Gruber" Allen, and Dave Foley to add to the songs, skits, incantations, and stories ... spooky and otherwise.

The cool thing about this album is that it's currently being presented live on stage at the Steve Allen Theater in Los Angeles. Not a toddler album, for sure, but your 8-11 year olds will love it. Boo!!

Monday, October 27, 2008


After recording five CDs of kids' music that sounds sorta like Justin Roberts for slightly younger audiences, Steve Roslonek (aka SteveSongs) releases his first DVD collection, The Marvelous Musical Adventures, on the Rounder Records label. Roslonek also recently translated his relentlessly sunny and upbeat style and songs to television, landing a gig on PBS KIDS as the singing "Mr. Steve."

The Marvelous Musical Adventures is loaded with music and fun, including a ten-song live concert with SteveSongs' full band, eight music videos featuring live action and animation, a seven-song bonus music CD, and two short segments from PBS KIDS. After everything's said and done, this DVD/CD set is a pretty incredible deal for the money ($12.99 from Amazon, $11.99 from Rounder), considering the amount of entertainment crammed into this one package.

If you and your kids like silly and fun, upbeat, old-school kids' music, you'll dig The Marvelous Musical Adventures of SteveSongs.

Friday, October 24, 2008


We were talking earlier about "Naptime Music," tunes that are not really lullabies, but songs to contemplate while you're watching clouds float by or just taking a break from the annoying skronk of the world in general. Sunflow's Under the Stars is another great example of that genre, an album that features soothing lyrics, loads of harmonies, and knowing nods to Emitt Rhodes, Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney & Wings, The High Llamas, and Barry Manilow. Personally, this is the kind of record that makes me want to plug in my bass and sing that fourth or fifth harmony part.

American Nancy Falkow and Dubliner Fran King, both accomplished popmeisters in their own right, teamed up to create Under the Stars with help from fellow melody maker Duncan Maitland. All three are based in Ireland now, which may account for the lyrical images of oceans, rain, rivers, and seas that populate several of the songs on Under the Stars.

Fran and Nancy trade off lead vocals on every other song, singing their own compositions. Under the Stars kicks off with the co-written, impossibly beautiful "(When You're In) Slumberland," Fran's Harry Nilsson homage. I just can't believe people are still allowed to write songs this good! Next is Nancy's sweetly jaunty "I Wish You Love," reminiscent of Nilsson's late '60s tunes (Sunflow love Nilsson!), and not a little similar to The Jellydots' "Pretty Little Baby." Fran follows with his very Paul McCartney-like "Eve's Lullaby (My Little One)," a song so tasty the ex-Beatle would trade his knighthood for it.

Nancy's "Sleepytown" is a quietly acoustic tune that contains the awesome line "Bumpy, rumbling stones will sooth your soul / Just a little break from rock and roll", after which waves wash up on a shore, fading into Fran's "Daisies & Orchids." The song begins serenely and builds into another McCartney-ish tune, with a chorus straight outta Paul's Flowers in the Dirt era. And Nancy's "Rock-A-Bye Dreams" is another mostly acoustic tune that would (and should) be a chart-topper on American country radio.

Fran's breezy "August Moon" features the baion beat that so fascinated Leiber & Stoller and Pomus & Shuman (check out "Spanish Harlem," "There Goes My Baby," "Save the Last Dance for Me," and "This Magic Moment"), and a chorus that would have been right at home on McCartney's Red Rose Speedway. The sweeping "Now Sleep" is Nancy's exploration of the connection between parents and their children, and the comfort kids take in mom or dad's arms at bedtime. The album ends with Fran's soft Tin Pan Alley tune, "Dreamboat," and Nancy's dreamy waltz, "Goodnight."

I've talked a lot on this blog about music being a powerful entity, a force that transcends genre, era, or listener age. This here album is so full of good vibes and beautiful melodies it's a shame you have to cobble it with a label like "children's music" ... so we won't! Under the Stars is music, folks ... dig it, and buy copies for all your family.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'll send the medical bills to Yo Gabba Gabba!

Steamboat has developed a very cute but very intense obsession with skateboarding ever since he saw the episode of Yo Gabba Gabba! where Tony Hawk skates through his Dancey Dance segment. I brought home Hawk's autobiography, Occupation: Skateboarder, so Steamboat could check out the photos, and one of his favorite was Hawk with a gigantic scrape on his lower hip (a booboo, according to Steamboat). But Steamboat is also adamant about how you always have to wear a helmet and knee pads and elbow pads.

Here we are hanging out in a local coffee shop, reading an old skateboarding book I found. We had just watched the "Careful" episode of YGG! that features a kid skating throughout a 1-to-10 counting segment (great, now Steamboat is convinced he can skate).

Monday, October 20, 2008

***Beethoven's Wig***

"Beethoven's wig / Is very big..." So began Richard Perlmutter's series of fun-filled classical music explorations back in 2002. This year's Beethoven's Wig 4: Dance Along Symphonies is all about dances, from waltzes to polkas, from two-steps to habaneras. Even if kids have never heard a graduation march or the theme to Masterpiece Theater, they'll dig the music and parents will get a giggle out of lyrics like "I want my diploma / I want it right now," and "People upstairs, downstairs, all around the house / They never miss tuning in, it's de rigueur."

One of the cool things about Perlmutter's projects is that he goes all out musically: world-class orchestras, singers, ensembles, and musicians from around the globe contribute music to Dance Along Symphonies. So, while Perlmutter is singing goofy lines like "Be a good doggie good doggie now Rover," you still get to experience the lilting melodies of Johann Strauss, Jr.'s "Annen Polka," as performed by a professional orchestra.

A few times on the album Perlmutter's lyrics perfectly match the music being played. During "Oh No!" you can see the steam engine bearing down on the poor damsel tied to the train tracks in a grainy silent film as Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" plays, and Georges Bizet's "Habanera" from Carmen provides the perfect tip toe music during Perlmutter's "Midnight Snack."

And, don't worry, Dance Along Symphonies isn't a complete sillyfest. Instrumental versions of all 12 songs are included so that kids and their families can enjoy the sheer beauty of Emile Waldteufel's "Les Patineurs" and Johann Sebastian Bach's "Minuet in G," and the joyful power of John Philip Sousa's "The Washington Post" (played by every single marching band that has ever existed) and Julius Fucik's "Entry of the Gladiators" (the tune that introduces the clowns at a circus).

This is a fun CD to play loudly and sing along with. "Forever we're marching, marching, marching!"

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Free-for-All # 21

Didi Pop, Didi Pop

Cute tunes from L.A.-based singer/songwriter Deborah Poppink. This is her first CD for kids, but her resume includes compositions for film and television, including The X-Files. Produced by Brad Jones (The Shazam; Bobby Bare, Jr.; Imperial Drag; David Poe) and performed with a crack team of Nashville musicians, Poppink's debut children's album is full of songs about pets, etiquette, the alphabet, and poop!

Funky Mama, Moo Juice

Kansas City, MO, musician Krista Eyler brings her rootsy rock and roll style to her third CD for kids, Moo Juice, with tunes about family, food, and dancing. Toddlers can hoist their juice cups to the rockin' "Sippy," dance to the Cajun flavor of "Potty Train," air guitar to the four-to-the-floor "Let's Drive," and join in with the a cappella activity songs "Can You Hear Me? / 1-2" and "Down Down Baby."

Jeanie B! and The Jelly Beans, Joy

Joy is the third kids' CD from Chicago-area musician Jeanne Bonansinga. A few overly-cutesy tunes are redeemed by songs that seem tailor-made for XMKids Radio, including the anthemic "I Just Wanna Play," the rave-up "When I'm Older," the rockin' "Bubble Wrap," and the Jimmy Buffett-esque "Hot Summer."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

2008 Parents' Choice Awards

The 2008 Parents' Choice Awards for children's audio were announced October 2, and the four Gold Award-winners were Putumayo's African Dreamland, Frances England's Family Tree, Gunnar Madsen's I'm Growing, and Ralph's World's The Rhyming Circus. Seven Silver Awards were also given out, along with nine Recommended Awards, 19 Approved Awards, and two Classic Awards.

Here's the complete rundown of all the Parents' Choice winners this year:


  • The Treblemakers Children's Choir - Singing With Treblemakers: Songs for Young Singers (originally released in 1998)
  • Jack Pearson - Singin' in Our Own Back Yard (originally released in 1995)

  • Putumayo - African Dreamland
  • Frances England - Family Tree
  • Gunnar Madsen - I'm Growing
  • Ralph's World - The Rhyming Circus

  • Little Groove - Building Blocks
  • Jack Grunsky - Catchy Tune
  • They Might Be Giants - Here Come the 123s
  • Linda Severt - Grinning Streak
  • Lois Young - Jelly Bean Soup
  • Trout Fishing in America - Big Round World
  • Sweet Honey in the Rock - Experience...101

  • Dan Zanes - Nueva York!
  • Joanie Leeds - City Kid!
  • Putumayo - Sesame Street Playground
  • The Chickadees - Songs from the Great Outdoors
  • Danielle Sansone - Two Flowers
  • Hullabaloo - Tall as a Tree
  • Hayes Greenfield - Music for a Green Planet
  • Lisa Loeb - CAMP LISA
  • Astrograss - Let Me Stay Up All Night

  • Jorge Anaya - A Bailar! Let's Dance: Spanish Learning Songs
  • Leeny and Steve - Be Nice
  • Daria - Grandchildren's Delight
  • Tom Freund - Hug Trees
  • Kaley Willow & Wy Griffith - Miss Willow's Fence Row
  • Anne Meeker Miller - Rainbows, Railroads and Rhymes
  • Smart Start - Birth and Beyond
  • Susie Tallman - A Child's Christmas: Holiday Songs and Carols
  • Dominic Bakewell - Monkey Shoes
  • Mark Wilder - Lovely Vibes
  • Baby Loves Everything - The Dino 5
  • The Kerplunks - The Kerplunks
  • Jim Cosgrove - Upside Down
  • Jeff Jones and the Earthtones - Sing a Little Song, Do a Little Dance
  • Janyse - The Magic of Think
  • Hot Peas 'N Butter - Vol. 4: The Pod Squad
  • Jay Mankita - Eat Like a Rainbow
  • Koolkidz - Songs For Koolkidz
  • Steve Pullara and his Cool Beans Band - Zooboogie

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New Video by Sunflow

Now, this video is more like a karaoke presentation than a full-fledged video (very basic graphics are displayed as lyrics flash by), but DIG THIS TUNE! Nancy Falkow and Fran King comprise the duo known as Sunflow, and their debut kids' album Under the Stars just came out. This first single is just the tip of the pop iceberg ... stay tuned for a full album review. Until then:

Sunflow - "I Wish You Love"

Thursday, October 09, 2008

***Little Miss Ann***

On what may be the kids' album with the grooviest title of the year, Chicago's Ann Torralba uses a mix of world, folk, and rock influences to create one of the best children's CDs of 2008. On her first CD for kids as Little Miss Ann, 2006's Music for Tots, Torralba featured a more folk rock sound. Well, the reverse is true on Clap for Love: rock is definitely emphasized over folk, as Ann and her full band flesh out originals and traditional tunes.

The easy going welcome song, "Good Morning," sweetly kicks off Clap for Love. Then, wow! the powerful "Stand Up" jumps out of the speakers, proclaiming lines line "Stand up all you children / For things that are in your heart." A swirling organ and fist-pumping chorus deliver a message of the importance of empowerment and social conscience.

The quieter "Mockingbird" is all about individuality, followed by an absolutely rockin' version of the traditional "Over in the Meadow." The loping title tune features a banjo ukulele and demands audience participation ... for love! And dig the very Ring Starr-like drum rolls in the instrumental bridge.

"This Little Heart of Mine" is a great pop reworking of the old spiritual, and the rowdy "Wheels on the Bike" is another audience participation song. The sounds of a drum circle surround the South African hymn "Siyahamba," sung in both Zulu and English. Hints of Bruce Cockburn's world music style flavor the traditional "All Around the Kitchen," and the purely sing-along tune "Count by Fives" includes an enthusiastic performance by a First Grade class from Burley Elementary.

A key to the album's success is Jon Williams' production: great drum sounds and warm, organic instrumentation throughout, very reminisient of the whole mid-'70s L.A. crowd like James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, The Eagles, etc. Clap for Love is for an older audience than Music for Tots; in fact, the same fans of Little Miss Ann's first CD will now dig her second, kinda like fans of A Hard Day's Night turning on to Rubber Soul.

This is a beautiful album to be coming out in these times of increasing loss of uniqueness and personal conviction. It's very cool that a kids' artist will make a call-to-arms to the under-10 crowd, while entertaining them all the while ... have fun, but get involved. Groovy!

Monday, October 06, 2008

***me 3***

Here's a perfect example of why reviewing "children's" music is at the same time frustrating and exciting: this here album was recorded specifically for kids, but I guarantee that more grownups than children will dig this CD. So, while me 3's "The Thin King" might not make it to the best-selling rack at your local megablob retail outlet, it's thrilling to see artists like Jason Kleinberg creating such adventurous, intelligent, and downright catchy music for children.

San Francisco-based Kleinberg is heavily involved in that city's music scene, playing and recording with groups like Diego's Umbrella, 86 The Band, Our Lady Of The Highway, Beulah, and The Pine Box Boys. Seems the children of Kleinberg's friends liked his solo CD Must Have Fun so much, he decided to enlist Bernie Jungle and Adam McCauley (also known for his kids' book illustrations) to play on an album for kids, and voila! me 3 was born. Coincidentally, the children's musician most likely to draw artistic comparisons, Mr. David, lives nearby in San Jose.

You can hear hints of Weezer (specifically "Beverly Hills") in the lead-off track "Apple," while the pop brilliance of "Tulip" and its chorus of "Too-woo-woo-woo-woo-lip" guarantee multiple plays. The space-age rock of "Come On" is a little similar to the sound of Tray Batson's Baron Von Rumblebuss project, and the jug band/Kid Rock hybrid "Doug the Mole" tells the story of ... well, a mole ... named Doug.

Kleinberg gets all philosophical and stuff with the sea shanty waltz "Thinking is Fun," the sunny "I Don't Know!" and the quiet ballad "When It All Began," while "Peeling Paint" and "Cows" are just great fun. The title track is a majestic tune that tells the tale of a make-believe ruler, and "Sunlight" conveys through a child's eyes the simple amazement found in the Sun.

What makes this album special is that Kleinberg steers waaay clear of cliched kids' music subjects and dumbed-down lyrics, but he doesn't sing adult love songs or write about the frustrations of being a grownup, either. He has faith in his young listeners that they will "get" these songs about imagination, wonder, humor, beauty, and wordplay. Spin this one for your toddlers, your kids in college, and your grandparents. And sneak a listen yourself.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Mr. Leebot news...

Just got word that the new Mr. Leebot album is due Spring 2009, and judging by the five tracks I got a sneak listen to, this one's gonna be even more solid than his first CD Activate!, and dives even deeper into New Wave territory. Totally awesome!