Category Archives: Children’s Music

Album Review: Junie B. Jones The Musical

 

(Disclaimer: I was given a promotional copy of this album for review).

 

cdjacket-junieThe Junie B. Jones book series by Barbara Park has sold over 60 million copies worldwide. Junie B. Jones fans may delight in the recently released album Junie B. Jones: The Musical cast album, (released on January 13, 2017) especially those that have attended a performance. Geared toward 3-9 year olds, the musical stars Junie B., a spunky first grader who has normal elementary school issues with friendships, classroom expectations, and getting glasses for the first time.

 

Marcy Heisler who teamed with Zina Goldrich for this “first ever recording of the hit musical” explains: “No matter what age you are, Junie B. and her quirky, honest, heart-on-sleeve, whip smart take on things is something sure to resonate. She reminds us we are all in first grade sometimes, even as adults- maybe even especially as adults. I think both adults and children appreciate how real Junie B’s triumphs and struggles are”

 

That may be, but I find this album really hard to digest. I’m generally not a fan of adults singing like kids, even when it’s a musical with kids as main characters. Admittedly, I’m reviewing the album without the opportunity to see how the play as a whole integrates with the musical numbers and perhaps that’s unfair. Part of the magic of musical theater, after all, is being in the audience and witnessing the exchange between character, narrative and audience. Even with that recognition, most of the songs are challenging to listen to from beginning to end, slickly imitating bits of other, more famous harmonies and musical styles. This can successfully serve to introduce young children to various styles of music, such as gospel (track 7) and broadway (track 9) but other kids musicals I’ve seen (Elephant and Piggie’s “We Are in a Play” comes to mind) do this in a much less annoying and more original way. There are a few exceptions- track #2 “Lucille, Camille, Chenille”, track #7 “Now I See” and track #15 “Writing Down the Story of My Life” are catchy, well written tunes. My guess is that like the Junie B. Jones book series, listeners will either really like or dislike this musical cast album. Fair or not, the album as a whole doesn’t work well enough for me to give it more than one listen.

 

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Album Review: Wonderful You

vanessa-trien
courtesy of VanessaTrien.com

Disclaimer: I received a promotional copy of this album for review.

With so many great kindie musicians (especially here in the Pacific Northwest) a new children’s album has to really rock for it to keep my attention. I recently had the chance to preview Wonderful You by Vanessa Trien & the Jumping Monkeys. This is the Boston-area musicians’ fourth children’s album, and it’s available starting October 14.  This album and Vanessa’s vocals are reminiscent of kindie music queen Laurie Berkner, especially songs like “Magic Wand” and “One Foot in Front of the Other”.  Special guests on this album contribute some of the best performances, and include Alastair Moock, Barbara Brousal, and Rani Arbo.

Many of the songs have a strong, danceable beat and address common childhood themes like imagination, friends, and feelings. I found the songs “Wonderful You” (jazzy and fun with rhyming lyrics) “Chi Chi Bom Bom” (featuring nice bluegrass accompaniment) and “Willie and the Hand Jive” most appealing. Some of the others could be better (“All Together Now” features children’s voices which I’m rarely a fan of, “Monkey Jump” is too frenetic and repetitive). While there are some great songs on here, others just have too much going on to be revisited. I suspect they are more enjoyable in a live performance. Overall, this album was a mixed bag for me.

Friday Favorite: Cuddlebug Parade album

Note: I received a promotional copy of this album for review.

Cuddlebug paradeIf you have a young child in your life, consider sharing Michal Peanut Karmi’s album “Cuddlebug Parade” with them.  All 18 songs are unique and range from silly to sweet to pure joy (“Pizzapants”,“Six Little Pickles”, and “Where’s Your Belly Button” are some of my favorites).

An L.A. based kid’s musician and entertainer, Peanut’s warm, gentle voice and exuberant personality combined with skillful ukulele playing make this album delightful. Some adults may find her voice a bit high-pitched but this is endearing not annoying for me. As a children’s librarian, I like the activity songs she includes like “Stompin’ at the Market” and “In the Pot” and may use those in a storytime program. The first half of “Where’s Your Belly Button” could be a great closing song for a Baby storytime program.

Peanut includes Spanish and Hebrew in some songs, adding to the distinct sound of the album. Little ones 4 and under will find themselves singing and clapping along- especially fans of Laurie Berkner, Elizabeth Mitchell and Frances England. I recommend this album for any preschool, library or home collection.

Friday Favorite: The Perfect Quirk album

perfect quirk(Disclaimer: I received a promotional copy of this album for review.)

Described as his “quirkiest album yet” Secret Agent 23 Skidoo’s latest album, The Perfect Quirk, is a family hip-hop album perfect for tweens. The feel-good, danceable mix of songs will appeal to kids and parents who are looking for good music packed with positive messages for kids (especially those not yet ready to embrace mainstream hip hop and rap music).

These tracks are all about familiar “kid” experiences, from imaginary friends and pillow fights to more serious issues like TV addiction. The song “Unwind” is one of my favorites, evoking memories of carefree summers spent with friends, exploring nature (“sky got more colors than a bug’s eye”) and playing games. Several tunes, “Pointed Back” and “Guess What” have lessons about making mistakes and being proud of yourself. This is an album worth checking out.

Friday Favorite: The Friendship Show (Ruby’s Studio)

friendship show rubys studio

Here’s the thing. I spend a lot of time watching kids shows with my two and four year old. We also spend alot of time reading, but tv is how I get things done- cooking dinner, laundry, getting ready for work, etc. And much of it is okay- but somewhat lacking. However, we recently stumbled upon a unique show to love–The Friendship Show. It is a breath of fresh air in a world full of mediocre animated characters-that-frankly-we-could-care-less-about. It’s reminiscent of Mr. Rogers, but with a refreshingly modern twist (and more crafts). Hostess Ruby is captivating and full of positive messages for the toddler and preschool set.

Here’s a description:

“Emphasizing the “golden rule”: Do to others what you would have them do to you, The Friendship Show explores ways to build empathy and conflict-resolution skills – with the goal of growing and maintaining one of the most valuable things in life: great friendships.  Join lovable host, Ruby, as she welcomes kids into her magical art studio for a day of creativity, fun, and friendship.”

We can’t wait to view “The Safety Show” and “The Feelings Show”. Ruby’s Studio also offers books and more. The Mother Company and its blog is worth checking out as well. Have you stumbled upon good videos for kids? I’d love to hear your suggestions.