Tag 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.

 

Advertisements

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: Kids Music

Justin Roberts

Here are more favorite kids albums to fuel your family dance parties. Enjoy!

1. The Alphabeticians “Junior

from their website: “They are two guys (Mr. Hoo and Mr. E) who love playing quirky, funny, upbeat songs for kids and families.  Think They Might Be Giants meets The Velvet Underground meets Schoolhouse Rock.  Or something like that”.

2. Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell “Turn Turn Turn” A collaborative folk collection from two amazing musicians, singalong style.

3. Alice DeMicele “If I Were An Otter: Songs for Kids of All Ages” Earthy, soulful, acoustic folk music.

4. Laura Veirs “Tumble Bee” This Portland musician sings traditional tunes with several guest artists, including Colin Meloy (lead singer of the Decemberists).

5. Justin Roberts “Recess”  Energetic pop music with catchy and meaningful lyrics.

Blink of an Eye

frances_england_pk1_medBlink_Eye_England

Blink of an Eye, Frances England’s newest children’s album, is beautifully written, feel good music at its best. Since its release in early August, it’s quickly become a staple at my home and work. The songs are honest, fun, sincere, happy, nostalgic and sweet. This is an album both you and your kids will love.

All songs are written by Frances England and she confesses to have written some of them while making pasta or waiting for her kid’s class to end which just makes her more amazing to me. Guest vocalists include Elizabeth Mitchell (“Blink of an Eye”, “Look How the Light Dances With Trees”), Molly Ledford (“Bicycle Built for Two”), and Caspar Babypants (“Blink of an Eye” and “Little Wings”).

Favorites include “Place in the Sun”, Tell Me It All” (about the frustrations of being young and unconditional friendship), “A Bicycle Built for Two” (a lovely duet about taking a ride in the fresh air with a loved one), “Day You Were Born” (a love song to a child), and “Salt Water Spin” (about bravery). The happy percussion accompaniment on several songs (“Blink of an Eye” and “Move Like Saturday Night”) is infectious, prompting listeners to tap or drum along on the nearest surface. And the lyrics– England’s words capture the experiences of kids and parents so well that everything- even a simple bike ride- seems more endearing, more precious. My only complaint? I wish she had included the written lyrics in the package. Here’s a sample:

from Day You Were Born
“On the day you were born/the sky opened wide/Filled up with colors bright and lovely/we felt it inside…Come back to you, back to you, back you you…Always come back to you”.

from Tell Me It All
“Sometimes it hurts/and sometimes you cry/Sometimes it’s not so easy to be young, to be small, to be you. Sometimes you just need a friend/to sit down beside you/Who won’t talk, who won’t ask/who’ll just wait for you–I”ll wait for you…Tell me it all”

Cool Mom Picks writer Christina says:
“With her pretty, lilting voice which reminds me a bit of Norah Jones, and engaging lyrics that are uniquely her own, Frances England is an artist I always want to hear more of. Blink of an Eye is filled with mostly-acoustic songs that remind me of all those times my kids do or say something that knocks me out and I think: I want to remember this moment forever.

In other words: It’s a beautiful album when you need a break from all that jump-around-in-the-car-seat music, but if you’re as sentimental as I am you might just want a tissue nearby for that first listen”.

I couldn’t agree more. She also has an adult album out, called “Paths We Have Worn” Can’t wait to hear it!

Friday Favorite: Kids Albums That Rock!

Girl_musicAs a parent and youth librarian, I’m a big fan of children’s music that doesn’t prompt parents to want to hide in a corner /jump out a window. The following are my current “Top Ten” favorite kids albums (including local Portland, Oregon rocker Mo Phillips). Maybe I’ll do a separate post with honorable mentions because it’s so hard to choose (Jack Johnson and Friends Sing-a-longs and Lullabies , They Might Be Giants, For the Kids (various artists) and Caspar Babypants would definately be included).

I grew up in the 70’s listening to artists like Marlo Thomas, Peter, Paula and Mary, Burl Ives, Schoolhouse Rock, The Beach Boys, and Pete Seeger. You can probably tell that now I favor folk and rock music a bit, and although I recognize the value of nursery rhymes and albums like this one, I rarely choose them when I’m reaching for something to inspire a living room dancy party with my kids. For more ideas on children’s music that doesn’t suck, check out the excellent blog Zooglobble!

1) Catch the Moon by Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell 2007
“Folk”
Both of these artists individually have other albums for kids, but this is one of my favorite collaborations.

2) Family Time by Ziggy Marley 2009
“Reggae”
This one is probably in my top 3 for family listening. It’s just that happy and fun.

3) Fascinating Creatures by Frances England 2006
“Acoustic Pop”
I’m not embarrassed to admit this album has temporarily replaced Alicia Keys in my car and yep, I listen to it even without the kids along. I can’t wait to hear her new album, “Blink of An Eye” coming out August 6!

4) Songs for Wiggleworms (2000) and
5) Wiggleworms Love You (various artists) (2005)
“Classic”
Well-known, more traditional children’s songs done with class.

6) Putumayo Kid’s albums (various titles and artists)
“World”
Where do I begin? I haven’t heard a Putumayo kid’s album I didn’t like. These are the ones I grab to play before and after story time- even if I’ve never heard it before, I know it’s going to be good listenin’. My favorites include Jazz Playground, Dreamland, and Brazilian Playground.

7) Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie by Elizabeth Mitchell 2012
“Folk”
I love every Elizabeth Mitchell album out there, but this is a recent one I have played a billion times.

8) The Best of the Laurie Berkner Band 2010
“Children’s”
If you’ve ever attended a preschool story time, chances are you’ve heard Laurie Berkner. My toddler loves “Bumblebee Buzz Buzz” so much he asks for it several times a day. Her songs are silly, catchy, and totally in tune with little ones.

9) Robot Rodeo by Mo Phillips 2010
“Rock” He’s a creative, funny, weird, talented local rocker who reminds me a bit of Jack Black and whose album Robot Rodeo is a favorite. Frankly I’d listen to anything he does. He gets kids. His music is worth checking out and if you’re a local, get your kids to a concert!

10) Catch That Train by Dan Zanes and Friends 2011
“Folk/rock”
What the what? Apparently musician Dan Zanes has teamed up with Elizabeth Mitchell. The result is “Turn Turn Turn” and I can’t wait to hear it. Check out this video where Dan tries to teach you how to play the song “Catch That Train”. Oh, if only I had a guitar…