Friday, October 8, 2010

The Softer Side of Kids' Music

On the eve of John Lennon's B-day, it seems fitting to review some music by an artist who kicks off his new CD with the Beatles' classic Hello, Goodbye (though I guess Paul is officially responsible for writing this one).

David Tobocman's latest release is entitled Lemonade School and features 10 originals plus the previously mentioned Beatles tune and the Mr. Rogers classic, It's You I Like. It's a bold move to open your album with a cover song from (arguably) the greatest music group of the 20th century. I think Tobocman does an admirable job. I enjoy the ukulele foundation, accordion and slide guitar accompaniment. I do miss the "Hey la, Hey-ay lo-a" coda though. As for the Mr. Rogers song, it has a nice James Taylor-esque vibe which is both pleasant and soothing. I still prefer Mr. Rogers simple, piano-only delivery. Sadly, he's been pulled off the air, but watching his interaction with Jeff Erlanger on the original show still brings a tear to my eye.

As a friend of Mrs. Rogers, who is the loveliest and most supportive woman, I am sure that she would be tickled to hear Fred's music re-imagined this way.

Now, on to the rest of the album... I called this post "The Softer Side of Kids' Music" because Lemonade School has a smooth, sometimes jazzy sound that to me is reminiscent of the soft-rock radio classics I remember from the 70's and 80's. With a backbone of skillfully played piano, this album features dense textures and great harmonies. Even songs with titles like "Mom is a Rockstar" or "Soul of a Rebel" have more of a Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers feel than AC/DC or Pixies vibe (like the Not-Its! or the Jimmies).

Tobocman's voice is crisp and he has an enunciated delivery that makes each word clear. With a hint of country twang, there's an honesty in his voice that I respond to. Fans of the, younger, Livingston Taylor will feel right at home. My favorites on the album are "No Time Like The Present" which is an easy swing standard of sorts, and Yeasayers which features Tobocman's flair for old-school rap.

The Mike Brady Wrap-up: By now I feel like I can safely say that I see certain trends in kids' music. There are many groups out there trying to give a bit of a harder edge to the Barney's and Wiggles of the world. I think that Lemonade School bucks this trend, and creates some memorable tunes in the process. As a multi-instrumentalist and self-producer, I have great respect for what David Tobocman presents. The arrangements are dense and pleasing, the songs are tuneful and sweet. If we in the kids' music market are trying to entice the parents as much as the kids, I think Tobocman has a good angle. I hear strains of a lot of the music I enjoyed growing up in the age of "Yacht Rock." It's a testament to this industry that artists are producing music that fits into so many genres. Parents, take your pick!

Kid Quote of the Day: As we finished our class, and the children were filing out of the choir room, one small girl lingered behind. "Mr. Nick, are your going to stay here?" she asked. "Yes, I have another class coming in just a minute or so," I replied. "Are you going to sleep here?" she said with curiosity. "No, I sleep at my home," I answered. "Oh, I have a home too!" ~Sara (age: 3)

(guess that's why kids are so shocked to see me at the grocery store... In their mind I don't exist outside of the classroom).


Anne Deysher said...

Lemonade School is even a mellow sounding title, and I think it's wonderful that children's musicians are creating music from different genres because parents have different tastes, and children will develop distinct tastes as well! Nice that there are choices.
Thanks for reminding us of that poignant Mr. Rogers clip.
Little children totally think teachers only exist at school! Who knows when they outgrow that notion! Very cute!

Anne Deysher said...

Oh and I like the way David Tobocman enunciates clearly making it easy for children to grasp the lyrics.