Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Mother's Day Post (On The Heels of Father's Day)

Faithful readers of Singing in the Bathtub might begin to notice that I have one fan who out shines them all with her faithful devotion and thoughtful comments. An album review or a random musing is not complete until it is christened by my dear mother, Anne.

My singing voice, my love of music, my career in the field of early childhood education and many of my lesson plans can be attributed to her influence (also, some may say, my good looks!).

When I was just knee-high to a grasshopper, I attended the Congregational Church Nursery School in Westborough, MA. At the time my mother worked as an assistant teacher to defray the tuition, but by the time my younger sister and I were in elementary school she went on to be the director of the school.

(Here is the class of '83, can you pick me out?)

Sadly, this year the church decided to close the school down, and my Mother, for the first time in almost 30 years, will no longer be passing her wisdom and love onto a new crop of preschoolers come the fall. Though all good things must come to an end, I feel grateful that I can pick up this mantel and continue the work that we both feel so passionate about. And with each new post that I add to this blog, I will keep watching and waiting to see my comment counter read "1 comment."

Kid Quote of the Day: "Nicholas, do you want to say the Pledge of Allegiance?" Anne asked her two year old son. As they came to the end of her prompting him to recite each line she said, "One nation under God..." "No, Jesus!" ~The Wee Nick (age: 2 transcribed from an audio cassette)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What does it take to make YOU shake?

Every now and then I come across a kids' song that is so simple, so elegant, so perfect that I have to say, "Why didn't I think of that?" This happened when I popped in The Flannery Brothers latest CD, Love Songs for Silly Things:

This album kicks off with "Let's Start Dancing" which asks the seminal question, "What does it take to make you shake?" A bit like the classic Sly and Family Stone song, "Dance to the Music," each of the instruments is introduced and as the beat grows so did my smile.

This album features the classic keyboard sounds of Dan Flannery, the acoustic guitar strumming of his brother Mike, and the sweet harmonies that come when family members band together. They capture the child-like humor and point of view on songs like "Broccoli Yet," "Best Pillow In The World," and "One Wasn't Enough." The music is light-hearted and funky, simple and unadorned and features some great Doo-Wop-esque vocals (one of the brothers has a nice deep bass voice). The liner is full of funny images, like the band paddling a canoe with their instruments. I'm glad to see them encouraging safety with their life jackets on, but those poor instruments will never be the same. Somewhere there is a picture of me and my brother flying like superman just like Mike and Dan on the cover!

The Mike Brady Wrap-up: Funny, funky and full of vegetable references, Love Songs for Silly Things is a great collection of songs. There is an effortless quality to both the song writing and the production of this album that makes it feel like you're hanging out with Mike and Dan while they jam in the living room. If you're ready to "Jump Up and Down," while you eat your veggies, I highly recommend Love Songs for Silly Things!

Kid Quote of the Day: "Nicolas was my boyfriend, but now we broke up," Alanna said with a small pout. "What does that mean?" I asked. "When I asked if he wanted to play Sleeping Beauty, he stuck out his tongue and ran away." ~Alanna (age: 4)

Friday, June 11, 2010

I'm bwasting off into psace!

Let me start off by explaining the title of this post. My second year teaching I met a boy with a most unusual speech impediment. The "W" substitution for an "L" is pretty common at 4 years old, but he also inverted "S" and "P" whenever they were put together. I'd be playing on the rug with several students when I would hear a gravely little voice shout, "I'm bwasting off into psace!" and see him dart across the room. I think about it to this day when I see/hear/read anything about space. Tracey and I affect this impediment every now and then. It's fun. You should try it!

What does this have to do with kids' music you might ask? Well, today for your consideration I have a review of Recess Monkey's latest album: The Final Funktier

It's a bit hard to tell online, but this album has a snazzy foil embossing for the disco ball and title. Pretty cool! Recess Monkey is a Seattle based trio of elementary school teachers. Those who read my review of their last album Field Trip, will know that these guys love a concept album. This CD takes that concept into the stratosphere (puns intended). Funky beats and spacey references abound on this CD.

Like every good rocket ship ride, this album starts with a countdown in the song Liftoff which leads into the funkiest track on the album, Moon Boots. There are lots of sound effects and scratchy radio voices to get those little imaginations going. Recess Monkey has a knack for coming up with great hooks with easy words (lots of ba ba ba's, do do do's and sha na na's). Be prepared to get some of the songs stuck in your head and find yourself humming them in the grocery store (maybe that's just me).

When I played The Final Funktier in my classroom there was a whole lot of shakin' goin' on. The kids really liked Ukulalien since they are familiar with my Ukulele. I really liked the humuhumunukunukuapua'a reference (look it up). Jet Pack was also a big hit. The radio drama-esque Space Elevator Music is a funny intermission featuring effortlessly funny Jack Foreman conversing with the "band manager" Mayor Monkey, or MayMo for short.

I am fortunate to have some footage of RM playing Moon Boots featuring kids' music guru Tor Hyams:

The Mike Brady Wrap-up: It's no secret that I love Recess Monkey. Their music is great, the fact that they are teachers shows that they have their thumb on the pulse of what's going on in your average elementary school kid's mind, and they are genuinely nice guys who put on a great show. I'm sure if you give The Final Funktier a listen, you'll agree. RM really outdid themselves on the production, concept and design of this album. A lot of care went into this one and it shows.

Kid Quote of the Day: You guessed it: "I'm bwasting off into psace!" ~Alexander (age: 4)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Razoo! is Candian for Dance Party

School is winding down, the "armpit" weather has settled in over SoFlo and it's about time I started tackling the pile of CD's that followed me home from Kindiefest. I'm going to kick things off with a review of Splash n' Boots' new CD, Razoo!

I met this husband and wife team on my first day at Kindiefest. From the great white north, these two are making a splash (pun intended) as "Canada's Children's Music Group of the Year!"

Razoo! is a fun and tuneful collection of songs. Nick and Taes harmonize well together, and Nick's acoustic guitar lays the foundation for the rich arrangements on the CD (including everything from accordion to vibroslap).

I popped the CD in on the ride home from the airport and Tracey's first comment while listening to the song "Nature Sings" was, "This sounds like Rent." There is a theatrical quality to Splash n' Boots' music, and a beautiful choir backing them up. I am partial to some of their more rollicking songs like "Morning," "Razoo!" and "Barnyard Hardcore." This is music that puts a bounce in your step and makes you want to dance.

Okay... now for my obligatory Canadian jokes. Nick and Taes prove the old addage that Canadians are like Americans but more polite. It's fitting that in their "Superhero" song he is "generous and polite." It also made me smile to read in their liner notes, "We can't thank you enough... well one more wouldn't hurt- Thank You!!!!!!"

The Mike Brady Wrap-up: I played Razoo! for my after school class and it was a big hit. Sadly with this young crowd, it's hard to illicit comments beyond "I like it," or "It is good." I miss the elementary aged reviewers from the Arts Academy. I did however manage to have the kids sit down and draw some pictures based on the music they heard. This particular drawing was from a 5 year old girl who loved the song "Nature Sings." She took the time to learn how to write both Nick and Taes's names which is high praise from a 5 year old!

It was nice to meet Splash n' Boots and to listen to Razoo! On a rainy summer day, when it's too wet to play outside you and your family might wanna join the Razoo, which I think is Canadian for "Dance Party."

Kid Quote of the Day: "Here you go Henry. This is the sound we're after," I said as I played through Henry's piano piece. "You mean you are chasing a sound?" ~Henry (age: 5)