Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I'm a Rock Star

Today I've got some rockin' good music for my fellow bathtub singers. I recently received a copy of I'm a Rock Star by Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights. In this small world of Kids' Music, it turns out that Joanie was roommates with a close friend who studied Musical Theatre with Joanie at Syracuse.

This is Joanie's second album for kids. Like many artists who wind up in the kids' music genre, Joanie did her time in NYC club scene. She is still performing and recording music for adults, but she seems to have been bitten by the kids' music bug (possibly while working for Gymboree in Manhattan).

I'm a Rock Star lives up to it's name. It's rockin' and current sounding. The songs have a young, fresh perspective that, to me, conjures thoughts of American Idol. Not because the singing is amateur, Joanie has a powerful, well-trained voice, but because it has that unmistakable pop sound that makes A.I. so popular. You can hear hints of country, blues, jazz and latin music blended with a hearty dose of pop/rock. Joanie even riffs on the classic Christopher Walken catch phrase with her tune "More Cowbell."

Lyrically, I think Joanie has done a good job tapping into the minds of school aged kids. There is humor and imagination is songs like "It Was the Elf" and "Popcorn." There is a sweet side to this album as well. "Give Me a Hug" and "Put a Little Smile on Your Face," can tug at your heart strings.

The Mike Brady Wrap-up: The one thing that writing this blog has shown me is that the world of kids' music is vast and full of great albums waiting to be discovered. I'm a Rock Star is my first introduction to Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights. This "City Kid" is making a name for herself in the Big Apple rockin' out with the kids by day and moonlighting as a Singer/Songwriter by night. You can hear this in the songs on I'm a Rock Star she knows what parents want and delivers it in a way that it exciting for kids. It was fun listening to I'm a Rock Star, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it too!

Kid Quote of the Day: "I didn't mean to stick the bean in my nose, it just kinda went up there." ~Will (age: 3)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why Does Gray Matter?

Today's album review is for Why Does Gray Matter by Roger Day. The sub-title on the cover reads "... and other brainy songs for kids!" and I think that sets the stage for this clever and pop-y CD. From start to finish, this album is full of songs that celebrate that wrinkly gray organ that we all have upstairs.

This is my first introduction to Roger Day, so I can only speak about his most current CD release. Day has an impressive history both in kids' music and in the wider folk/rock music scene. Like many performers in kids' music, Roger Day had a successful career playing for the grown-up crowd and shared the stage with my greats in the world of folk/rock music (The Indigo Girls, The Crickets and Nanci Griffith just to name a few). After starting a family, he focused his musical mind on the smaller set and has four albums of kids' music for his fans to enjoy.

Musically, this album is upbeat, exciting and well produced. The musicians who accompany Roger Day's acoustic guitar work help drive the songs and provide that, all too crucial, beat that gets the kids up and dancing. His website lists The Beatles, U2 and The Clash as influences, but if I were to play the "sounds like" game, I'd say that I hear a bit of Tom Petty (minus the nasally voice) and Elvis Costello (minus the gravely voice).

As I stated before, this is a very clever "concept" album. The brainy theme places the target audience on the mature side. Gray matter, right brain/left brain and "Sara Bellum" might fly over the head of your average preschooler (pun intended), but careful elementary school listeners would have a lot to learn and enjoy.

The Mike Brady Wrap-Up: I am always encouraged hear kids' music that doesn't pull punches and dumb down the content just because the audience is young. As a teacher, I am constantly blown away by the brilliance of young minds. I think people too often mistake naivete for a lack of intelligence. Roger Day certainly doesn't. Why Does Gray Matter is not your average sing-along, nursery rhyme album. I am sure younger listeners would enjoy the peppy music and catchy tunes, but some of the concepts might be too heady (there I go again). Cheers to Roger Day for this great album, and here's to future success in the world of kids' music.

Kid Quote of the Day: "Hi, Me Oh Ni!" (translation: Hi Mr. Nick) ~Hallie (age: 2)