Friday, January 21, 2011

D. all of the above

From the very start, Singing in the Bathtub has enjoyed a nice partnership with Waldmania! P.R. There was a time when I had to solicit review submissions, these days they're rolling in at a rate of 1-2 a week, and I always look forward to seeing a white, padded envelope with a blue "W" and star on the mailing label in my mailbox. I can be pretty sure that the music inside will be top notch.

Over the holiday season, I had been letting things pile up, and today I decided to bust open a few of those white, padded envelopes to find my next CD to review. *Rip* choice A: Jamie Broza's new album I Want a Dog! *Rip* choice B: Gustafer Yellowgold's new CD/DVD combo Infinity Socks. *Rip* choice C: David Weinstone and Music For Aardvarks and Other Mammals latest album All I Want! Each offering had something to catch my eye. Feeling a might bit indecisive, I decide to go for choice D, all of the above.

Choice A:
So let's kick things off with I Want a Dog by Jamie Broza. What caught my eye about this CD, even before I put it in to play it, was the focus on animal rescue and the cute promo pic of Jamie at the piano with a black dog named Dusty who has a familiar graying muzzle. Upon further research, I discovered that Jamie Broza is an Emmy winning T.V. score composer. Okay, you've got me hooked, let's listen a bit.

This album is billed as a "Latin-infused" collection of songs for the whole family. Fans of bossa nova and salsa will find a lot to love about this CD. There is a sweet rendition of Antonio Jobim's bossa classic "Waters of March" (Aguas Des Marcos) sung with his daughter(?) Carmen Broza. Fitting for an album set for release in March 2011. I am a big fan of "Turn That Phone Off" which urges parents to eschew using technology while transporting their kids. I think 90% of the parent drivers in Miami could use this reminder.

As a jazz piano player, and a film/TV composer this album is rich with great keyboard work and cinematic soundscapes. "Trick or Treat" conjures up a spooky, tango atmosphere. Interspersed with the musical tracks are brief spoken portions which keeps things interesting and amusing.

Choice B:
In the two and a half years of writing Singing in the Bathtub I've reviewed all kinds of music, so it's rare that I come across something truly unique. This DVD/CD combo is a part of a series of "Musical Moving Books" by Apple-Eye. The delightful colored pencil illustrations (with minimal animation) take the viewer through the world of Gustafer Yellowgold, a being from the sun who has moved to Minnesota. His friends are an eel named Slim who loves socks (hence the title) and some musical bees. There is no dialog, but the as the songs are sung you can read the lyrics at the bottom of the screen. True fans can even watch the video Karaoke-style! The CD that accompanies this pack is the soundtrack and songs from the video.

Gustafer Yellowgold is the brainchild of illustrator/songwriter Morgan Taylor. This is the fourth in his series, though my first foray into the world of Gustafer Yellowgold. The music is sweet and soothing. Taylor has a warm, clear voice and there are some lovely harmonies throughout. The instrumental portions of the CD are cinematic and the harmonica/acoustic guitar foundation sounds almost like music from a western. There is a unique sensibility and a wildly imaginative quality to the whole thing. It takes a special mind to come up with a funny creature from the sun who's eel friend has a sock that stretches to infinity, but again that's what makes Gustafer Yellowgold unique.

Choice C:
The final choice in our trilogy of albums is David Weinstone/Music For Aardvarks And Other Animals' album All I Want. I have heard of Music For Aardvarks, but this is my first time hearing their music. This is an album with something of a split personality. It jumps from the garage to the open range, one minute there will be banjos plucking and string bass thumping and the next minute the Marshall stacks are cranked up and you wanna trade your cowboy hat for a flannel shirt. The piece that really ties the whole album together is David Weinstone's unique voice. In the same way that, the second you turn on a Barry Louis Polisar song, you know it's him. Now that I've finally heard David Weinstone, his voice is unmistakable. Loads of personality with an almost child-like delivery is the only way I can describe it.

So with this album, what stood out in my mind was something I have never seen before from Elizabeth Waldman Frazier. When I opened the envelope, a cocktail napkin with this message fell out. For me, the genius of this album is that it sounds like David Weinstone sounds like he's having fun. By taking on the persona of a toddler at times (like in the song "Stroller Trouble," "I Want A Puppy," "Better Keep Your Eye On Me") he kept me smiling from beginning to end. His lyrics really capture the world of the smaller set well, and the music compliments this by remaining upbeat and fun.

The Mike Brady Wrap-up: I've been a bit slow getting back into the swing of things this year, but I'm glad to be hitting the ground running. Whether you find yourself drawn to choice A, B or C. I guarantee you're in for some great music. The beauty of the world of kids' music is that there is so much out there to explore. If you're itching for some latin jazz, some melodic soft-rock, some good ole banjo pickin' or even some grunge rock, we've got you covered. My hope is that you'll be like me and go for D, all of the above!

Kid Quote of the Day: My teenage intern walked into the classroom with a new hairdo when one of the girls stopped and said, "Did you dye your hair?" "Yep," she replied. "Why?" "It was time for a change." "Oh, do you like someone?" ~Jade (age: 5)

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Year of The Ukulele

I dubbed 2010 "The Year of The Ukulele" on my Facebook fan page. After giving two out as gifts (one to my nephew Miles and one to the famous Shane from Coconut Groove and People, Places and Things), and consulting with several parents who were planning to do the same, it just seemed to fit. Several popular YouTube videos featuring the tiny tropical instrument were making the rounds and that just sealed the deal.

It's now 2011 and I'm finally getting around to reviewing Didi Pop's newest album "Didi Pop goes to Hawaii." With snow reported in 49 of the 50 states last week, I think we could all use a little more tropical weather in our lives (evening Miami where my heater is churning away).

This album delivers what one might expect based on the title and cover image. Lots of ukulele, slide guitar and lyrics is both English and Hawaiian. It's always a challenge with a theme album to keep things fresh while not overdoing the thematic references. Didi Pop does this well by mixing things up a bit, and some of my favorite songs on the CD like "Hop-A-Loo," and "Mango" (a funky number with an even funkier vocal performance) are the less traditional tunes. It wouldn't be a tropical beach party without a touch of the Beach Boys. I hear some hints of "Pet Sounds" on "Kapalua Bay."

I appreciate that there are some educational elements to this album. "The Hawaiian Alphabet Song" and "The Keiki Hula" are a nice way to learn a bit about the Hawaiian language. The second track on the album, "Coconut Candy" tells the tale of a dog named Lucy who learns not to sit under a coconut tree. From personal experience, I can highly recommend caution around these tropical palms. My dog Lucy was sniffing around a coconut tree last month when it let a nice large one come crashing down to the ground. It was a bit too close for comfort.

The Mike Brady Wrap-up: As I listened to the album from start to finish, it really grew on me. As I mentioned before theme albums can be a hit or a miss. There are some sweet moments with Didi Pop (Deborah Poppink) and her children, that always warms my heart. The balance of different tempos and musical styles kept the pretty consistent ukulele strumming from getting stale, and the wonderful vocal harmonies in tunes like "Way Up High" are a nice touch. As a whole the album is well produced, and packaged from the postcard on the back cover to the coconut on the CD, if you need an escape to the Islands "Didi Pop goes to Hawaii" is for you!

Grandpa John Quote of the Day: "Two vacationers are having a heated argument on a beach in Hawaii.
'It's pronounced, "Ha-Wa-Ee,"' the first man insisted.
'It's pronounced, "Ha-Va-Ee,"' the second made countered.
'Okay, we'll settle this, let's ask the next stranger who walks by...
'Excuse my sir, how to you pronounce the name of this state?'
'Ha-Va-Ee,' the stranger said.
'Thank you!' both men replied.
'You're Velcome!'"