A few times a year, I pull back and look at just how much new family music is coming across my desk here at Rock Father HQ - not only physical CDs (which still prevail in the kids and family realm), but also digital albums. The pile is never-ending, and that's one of the reasons why I've started the Kindie Scene 6 column - a quick look at six albums that are available for your enjoyment right now. This week, I'm highlighting four recent releases along with two that technically came out last year - all of which are worth your time. It's sort of a "Women Who Rock Edition," so let's take that theme and roll with it. Also, this time around, all six albums are Rock Father-approved!
If you think that I've crossed over to The Dark Side, you may be correct... or just completely mistaken, as I've probably been riding shotgun with Vader for more than thirty years at this point. You see, there's KIDZ BOP - a Global phenomenon that I was 100% against for the longest time... or was I? Then it really hit me that KIDZ BOP is no different than the KIDS INCORPORATED record I spun for a good portion of my own childhood, one that was spun-off of a television series as an extension of it's own "brand." With its kid-friendly cover versions of Top 40 hits, and being the number one music brand for kids, KIDZ BOP does have a place here on THE ROCK FATHER... and the latest edition, KIDZ BOP PARTY POP!, was released earlier this month as a sonic aperitif to the forthcoming KIDZ BOP 26 (out July 15 via Razor & Tie).
Twice in the past month this has happened to me - that uneasy feeling when a new album arrives by one of your favorite artists and doesn't manage to live up to expectations. It always puts me in that weird spot where I almost don't want to say anything at all, if only because I don't want unfamiliar listeners to avoid giving other albums from an artist's back (or future) catalog a spin... but then there's just the reality that as a reviewer, I have to do the same thing I've done in varying capacities since 1992, and lay it out - tell it like it is, and offer up my opinion. After all, as PRIMUS once said, "they can't all be zingers."
Hailing from Orange County, California "by way of New Orleans," it's no surprise that JAZZY ASH has crafted a new album steeped in the musical heritage of her southern roots. With the release of HOME, Miss Ashli has evolved a bit since I first posted about her "Leaping Lizards Music" program here on The Rock Father nearly a year ago, assembling what stands out in the Kindie realm as what's almost certainly the first (and only) NOLA-style jazz band geared toward kids and families. And it's really well-done, with each member of the six-piece band also serving as a music educator.
It's incredible to think of any musical artist being able to release a staggering 34 full-length albums over the course of their career, but in an incredible 56 years of recording for Smithsonian Folkways, that's exactly the number that ELLA JENKINS recently reached, with the release of "123s & ABCs."
When ROBERT M. CHARDE sent me a copy of his new family album, FOR LITTLE EARS OF TENDER YEARS, my immediate response was to admire the cover art - a well-dressed, quite dapper-looking banjo-playing iguana that wouldn't be a bit out of place adorning an album by LES CLAYPOOL or PRIMUS. While the cover art was surprising, it wasn't as much of a surprise as the music contained within.
Over the past year, I've started seeing a increase in storytelling albums arriving for families. Taking a very theatrical approach, these albums tend to have a very "live" feel, and one of the latest to cross my desk is MYTHS OF ANCIENT GREECE by HELEN SLATER. It's nearly impossible for me to avoid clarifying that yes, this is a family album by the Helen Slater, who I watched countless times as a kid in SUPERGIRL and THE SECRET OF MY SUCCESS. That said, she's been releasing music for over a decade, and this is her first album geared toward "children of all ages."
Before I even started listening to BOSSY FROG PRODUCTIONS' latest release, 15 SONGS EVERY KID SHOULD KNOW (AND WILL LOVE!), I was already reworking the title into other variations. "15 Songs Ever Parent is Tired Of (So Play 'Em Again!)"; "15 Songs You Already Have 15 Versions Of (So Here's 16!)"; "15 Songs We Probably Won't Have to License Because They're Probably in the Public Domain (No Royalties!)"; and my favorite, "Hey! At Least it's Not KIDZ BOP (Make the Pain Stop, Act II)". In reality, 15 SONGS isn't bad... but it's not great, either.
I have a problem with RECESS. No, not the music contained on the new album from Chicago's JUSTIN ROBERTS, but with use of the word "recess." It just might be the most-overused word in the Kindie Rock realm right now... so much so that it's fast-approaching the same level of annoyance that I have for the word "amazing." RECESS is not only the title of Roberts' new album (and a song on the album), but then we have the band RECESS MONKEY... a company called RECESS MUSIC... the opening track on MR STEVE's recent STEVESONGS album was "Recess Rocks," you get the idea. And that's not counting the mainstream music world, where MUSE has a song called "Recess," and then in the hip-hop realm, MISTAH F.A.B. has THE RECESS. Yep, "recess" has officially joined songs with "stinky" and variations on "Five Little Monkeys" (I've heard 666 of those this year alone) as something that really grinds my gears like Peter Griffin. Recess is over. So how about that new Justin Roberts album?
This album brought tears to my eyes. From the spoken word declaration, "I Am the Light," ALASTAIR MOOCK establishes SINGING OUR WAY THROUGH: SONGS FOR THE WORLD'S BRAVEST KIDS as an album unlike any other in recent memory - not because of the terrifying journey that spawned it, but because of the inspiring way that Moock and his family are using their experiences to bring joy to the lives of others. Their tale began last July, when one of Moock's five-year-old twin daughters was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia... Childhood Cancer.
There's been a lot of buzz surrounding the long-awaited debut album from SHINE AND THE MOONBEAMS. In fact, it was probably a year (or more) ago that I caught wind of a Kickstarter campaign that was seeking to help get the album off the ground and onto stereos. A soul album for families, SHINE YOUR SHINE is finally a reality, the end result of recording sessions that took place this past January in New York City.
There's a lot to love on HOLA HELLO, the latest release from New York-based songwriter/bassist MARIANA IRANZI. The Argentina native has assembled a multi-national crew of co-conspirators and guest musicians for her 13-song, family-friendly set. Players and collaborators from the USA, Uruguay, Panama, Portugal, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Belgium, and Israel are all represented alongside Iranzi, who carries the flag for Argentina (and for rock).