Monday, October 4, 2010

Mind of my own - Frances England

Kindie rock that's mostly acoustic and sometimes folksy. It's gentle and almost delicate - the drums sound as if they're mostly played with brushes, and although these aren't lullabies Ms. England has a kind of lullaby voice. Having said that it is mostly upbeat in a very understated way, and there's the occasional almost lively track (like "Place in your heart" or "Vacation Delights").

The vocals are easy on the ear and there's some very capable guitar-playing. It's pretty melodic although a little lacking in hooks, and the lyrics can be hit-and-miss - some of the child's-perspective songs like "Cookies and Milk" aren't really convincing and others stray into adult-centric territory (like "Child teach me to be" and "Big heart") which I never really like on a kids record.

Not really blowing me away, but pretty good, and the song "Mind of my own" has been stuck in my head all afternoon.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The New Explorers Club - Flannery Brothers

Upbeat kindie rock from 2 American brothers. It genre-hops a bit, with a latin-sounding opener, reggae-lite "Kitchen floor" and the pirate-y (is "pirate" a genre? in kids music it seems to be) "Pirate or parrot". It's pretty danceable and the songs are pretty solid, with the occasional hint of Jonathan Richman, but, apart from the pirate song (and, as you know, I'm a total sucker for all things pirate), there's nothing really outstanding here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This is fun! - Caspar Babypants

I wasn't crazy about Caspar Babypant's (AKA Chris Ballew from The Presidents of the USA) first kids album, but I'm digging this one. It's a mixture of originals and traditional tunes, sounding quite like, surprise surprise, The Presidents of the USA ... or what I remember of them anyway, must be 15 years ago now since I listened to one of their records (eek!)

Mostly the songs are pretty simple, but that's a virtue when they're also bouncy and quirky and fun and catchy enough to stick in my head - and I expect when I bring this home this evening they're going to make the kids dance. The lyrics keep making me smile - they're not self-consciously addressed to children, rather Chris Ballew just has a child-like view of the world (like Jonathan Richman) that is perfect for family-friendly music.

There's also a cover of Nirvana's "Sliver" - the one with the chorus "Grandma take me home" - and a quote from Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" in the middle of "Buckeye Jim" that made me laugh out loud when I heard it. I like this. Recommended.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What are the odds? - Meredith LeVande

American kindie acoustic-guitar-playing singer-songwriter plus band. Fairly gentle singalong-y indie, occasionally bluesy and a little They Might Be Giants-ish some of the time, it's let down by a lacklustre recording. My kids like it and the songs are nearly all good, but I'd really like to hear them re-arranged and recorded with a bit more ZING.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hello Children Everywhere

This is the best CD of "classic" children's songs available at the moment (that I know of), all in their original versions. It's got "Nellie the Elephant", "The Runaway Train", "The Teddy Bears' Picnic", "Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzenellenbogen by the Sea", "You’re a Pink Toothbrush" and many many more. One of the best sellers on the kids-tunes site.

Buy it, and other children's classic recordings, now on

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Phineas and Ferb soundtrack

Shiny, commercial-sounding music from the cartoon (which, again, I have never seen). There's very little on here that wouldn't fit in on your local Top 40 radio station - it's mostly pop/rock with the occasional genre influence like the reggaeton beat and dancehall vocals in "Backyard beach", or "Perry the Platypus" which sounds a little like Johnny Rivers' "Secret Agent Man". The songs are all very competently put together and performed, but there's not much in the way of originality or real personality on here.

There's the occasional highlight, like "My goody two shoes brother" that sounds like it's from a crazy musical, "Chains on me" which I'm surprised Tom Waits hasn't sued them over, and the following hilarious lines in "Little brothers":

Even when you break my toys, you will always be my little brothers
Because you're younger, we're related, and you're boys

Isabelle and Heather like the livelier tunes well enough (all those girls want to do is dance), but it's really just too commercial for my taste.

Buy it now on Amazon

Monday, July 26, 2010

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Music from the Movie and More...

The opening track on this is a disastrous cover of the Spongebob theme from Avril Lavigne, which very near put me off entirely. Fortunately it didn't, as the rest of the CD is (mostly) really good - good tunes from Wilco, Ween and Motorhead, and The Flaming Lips' fantastic "Spongebob and Patrick confront the psychic wall of energy" which is almost worth the price of admission on its own. Not quite as good overall as "Spongebob's greatest hits", but still worth your while.

Very soon I'm going to get some Spongebob CDs for the shop, but for now you can content yourself with the other kids film / tv music that I do have in stock or buy it on Amazon

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Time out to rock - The Not-Its

The Not-Its are a Seattle-based band playing guitar-based kids rock music. Their singer was formerly in a band signed to Sub-Pop, and lots of other blogs love them ...

There's some good stuff on this, like the call-and-response and Pavement-y guitar melody of "Accidentally", the "la la la"s in "Change my Luck" and the horn section in "Cheetah the buffalo", but ... well, the band has a tendency to drag the beat, so everything sounds like it's slowing dooooown, and the singer's pitching tends to be a bit off (or sounds it to me, maybe it the backing vocals that are off?). Some bands can get away with this kind of thing (Pavement! White Stripes!) but, sorry The Not-Its, you can't. This puts me off to the extent that I can't really tell you whether the songs are actually good or not.

It's a shame, cos the one Not-Its song I know from the previous album has a cool chorus:

Buy it now on Amazon

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Class of 3000

Music from the animated series "Class of 3000", which I have never seen. The music was written by André 3000 of Outkast (with K. Kendrick, don't know who he his) - it's funky and hip-hop-y and, well, Outkast-y with traces of Parliament. And jazzy without being boring. And adventurous and creative, wow, and fun. Man, this is fantastic, some of these songs could easily be hits of the magnitude of "Hey Ya". Haven't tried it on the kids yet, but it's going straight onto my grown-up playlist.

Buy it now on Amazon

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Charlie Hope - World of Dreams

Charlie Hope's lullaby album - quiet arrangements, beautiful melodies, and Ms. Hope's gorgeous voice. The lyrics occasionally stray into saccharine territory - "You are loved and I'll watch you grow/I believe in you and everything you do" ... someone's going to cringe at that when he/she is a teenager - but given the genre and the fact that these are very well-written songs we'll forgive that.

I haven't used this to try and send anyone to sleep, as Heather finally seems to be past that stage, but it sounds like it'd be effective - "Rain Song" would fit right in on "On a starry night" which was on rotation at night in our house this time last year. If anyone reading this has tried it let me know and I'll report your findings here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory soundtrack

Some real children's classics on this, the soundtrack from the 1971 movie (all sung, incidentally, by the cast), like "Candy Man" and "Pure Imagination". There's also the slightly sinister Oompa-Loompa songs, instrumental pieces including the music from the bizarre/scary boat ride on the chocolate river and lots more. It's a real musical treasure trove, with little snippets of dialogue from the movie reminding me how amazing Gene Wilder was as Willy Wonka - so wistful and unhinged but basically kind.

Isabelle, although she has now forgotten the obsession she had with Wonka when she was 2, has really taken to it, asking me incessantly about the different children in the story, and about what's happening in the story as the music progresses. Recommended.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Spongebob's Greatest Hits

I love Spongebob, and the way his optimism and belief in his fellow sea-dwelling creature are never dented. I also love (most of) this CD. The words are a delight, like Plankton's verse in "F.U.N. song":

F is for fire that burns down the whole town

Haha! And then Spongebob get him to try being nice, and he likes it :)

It's not breaking any new musical ground, I suppose, but it has its moments - like the detuned backing vocals in the "Goofy Goober Song", and the Zappa-esque guitar solo in "Goofy Goober Rock", and the Beach Boys-ish "Best day ever". Hmmm, maybe there's more to this than I thought ... anyway, this made Isabelle and Heather dance at the dinner table, and it puts a big grin on my face.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mozart's Magnificent Voyage - Classical Kids

Another from classical kids in their story-with-classical-soundtrack format. Mozart is up against the deadline for finishing "The Magic Flute" because he's worried about his son Karl who's away in school. The 3 dream children from the opera are afraid of having their parts dropped, and want to talk to Karl to get him to convince his Dad to keep them in. Conveniently, the magic flying boat from the show activates itself and takes them to visit Karl, and then travels back and forward in time to give them a whistle stop tour of Mozart senior's life, ultimately resulting in a deeper understanding between father and son.

The music's good, of course (though I have to admit I'm not the world's biggest Mozart enthusiast) but the story is kinda preposterous - just a daft framing device for imparting facts about Mozart's like. Haven't tried it on Isabelle yet, but I didn't like it very much.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Peter and the Wolf - Prokofiev, narrated By Dame Edna Everage

If you've got one children's classical music record in your house, it's probably "Peter and the Wolf". If you don't, you should buy this one toot sweet. It's a great performance and Dame Edna does a cracking job of the narration - and in case you don't know the music, that's great too, melodic and very accessible with a cool story about a young boy outsmarting everyone.

Click here to listen to and hopefully buy it on

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bedtime Stories for Pirates - Captain Bogg and Salty

Captain Bogg and Crew's first album, 10 years old now, containing, well, pirate music. A little bit Pogues-y, a little bit gypsy-ish - just imagine for yourself the kind of music pirates might sing, and you're probably imagining it right. It's got a little bit more musical theatre about it than the other albums ("I'm a singing pirate" its quite Gilbert & Sullivan-ish) and actually sounds quite like a first album, but although it doesn't have as many danceable tunes as "Pegleg Tango" it's just as good in its own way. The kids dig it as much as I do and "SCUUUUUUUURVYYYYY!" has become a great catchphrase in the house.

Click here to buy its successor, "Pegleg Tango" on

Monday, June 28, 2010

I'm Me! - Charlie Hope

A collection of quiet-but-quietly-fun acoustic-y songs from woman with a really gorgeous voice. It's split about 50-50 between well-known songs (like Raffi's "Mr. Sun" and "10 in the bed") and originals. Of the covers I really love "Zoom zoom", which reminds me a little bit of Woody Guthrie's children's stuff in that it sounds like she's been recorded singing directly to one of her own children (complete with WHSSSSSSHHHHHCCCH vocal sound effects indicating the rocket blasting off). The originals are really good too - she knows how to put together a tune, and her lyrics are simple but good (again a little like Raffi).

My kids seldom express an interest in gentle music, but a lot of this is lively in its own subtle way, evidenced by Heather dancing to it all around the kitchen on Saturday. It dips a little at the end (by which I mean it gets a bit too quiet to really hold our attentions), but even so it's a good album and well worth checking out.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tiny cool - Princess Katie and Racer Steve

Princess Katie and Racer Steve are a husband and wife duo and one of the new breed of American kindie bands, going for both girl and boy demographics judging by their name. The first song - a cool and very danceable salsa number with an ace brass section - is great, but after that it kinda goes astray. The lyrics tend to be from a grown-up rather than a kid's perspective, and can be quite cringey in places ("I'm on the stage rockin out/So I can see all the kids and I believe") and although they have some nice melodic turns here and there (like the chorus of "Shy") the parts never really add up to songs that grab me.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Here Comes Science - They Might Be Giants

The latest from TMBG, this one attempts to explain some fairly complex scientific ideas to kids like photosynthesis, elements, cells and The Scientific Method itself in language kids will understand. We're a very science-y household - me and Niamh met when studying science in university, and she's an actual working Scientist with a Ph.D. and everything (ooooo!) - so we were excited about this one. From my own perspective I was hoping it'd help stop me tripping myself up during my regular lengthy explanations of Everything to Isabelle, in response to questions like "Everything has something else inside it, doesn't it?".

The music, as you'd expect, is top notch quirky indie rock - maybe not quite as consistent as "Here Come the 123s", but the best ones are (I think) better. Not all the songs are actually educational - like Roy G. Biv, which it just a super-catchy excuse to personify the colours of the rainbow and make up some nonsense about him. Of the ones that are some that are pretty simple content-wise, like a list of the names of the planets, which are perfect for Isabelle, and while the more complicated stuff won't provide instant enlightenment to a 5-year old, the songs do provide great jumping-off points for talking about this stuff.

Like the other TBMG kids records there's a DVD of videos of the songs as part of the package. The videos on this are much slicker than "Here come the 123s", including "Electric car" which is one of the most gorgeous videos I've ever seen. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Wizard of Oz Soundtrack

Isabelle went through a mad Wizard of Oz stage when she was 3. We played countless games of Dorothy and Scarecrow, and she declared to anyone who'd listen "I'm obsessed with princesses, Power Rangers and Wizard of Oz".

The obsession with princesses is the only one that has persisted since (curse you Disney!), so I hadn't listened to this in a while until this morning. I was struck again by how good the music is - not just "Somewhere over the rainbow" (which was Isabelle's favourite song when she was around 4 months old), but "Ding dong the witch is dead", "If I only had a brain", "Follow the yellow brick road" and more. Despite that it was never really a hit in the house. It's a kind of odd album - the music is taken unedited from the film, so there's bits and pieces of songs scattered everywhere. "If I only had a heart/a brain/the nerve", for example, appears in a few fragments, one for each of Dorothy's companions. Other songs are similarly broken up, or, like all the little tunes the Munchkins sing to welcome Dorothy, extremely short ... I suppose what I'm getting at is that, good as the music is, the CD feels like an incomplete experience without the visuals.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sing-Along Songs from Glasses Island - The Speks

The first Irish kids music act I've come across, this is a nursery rhyme CD containing many of the usual suspects, but played as (and in some cases set to) Irish traditional music - for example "Miss Polly had a dolly" is set to the tune of The Little Beggarman. It's refreshing to hear children's music sung in a Irish accent, and to hear some of the pre-school songs you get here that you don't tend to find on UK and US releases (like Michael Finnegan and The Scarecrow). It's well put-together by what sounds like proper trad musicians (flute, guitar, banjo, tin whistle, fiddle, etc) with a great line in close harmonies.

I like it. Haven't tried it out on the kids yet, but I reckon they'll dig it too. You can listen to it on bandcamp here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Outside Voices - The Pop-ups

There's a bit of chat about these guys on the kindie blogosphere at the minute, so I thought I'd check them out on bandcamp. Whoa! They're very good! It's pretty diverse - from the Flaming Lips-ish first track to the squelchy electronics of "Subway train" to the dubby reggae of "Balloon" ... and that's only the first three tunes. These are very well-produced real, proper songs (with a kicking brass section) that you'd be delighted to hear on grown-up radio. Even the weaker tracks here are head and shoulders above most of their kindie contemporaries. Very impressed.

You can listen for yourself on bandcamp here

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cinderella - Prokofiev / Sleeping Beauty - Tchaikovsky (narrated by Brian Cant)

If you're introducing people to classical music, ballets are a great place to start as the music tends to be extra dramatic. This CD has music from the two famous fairytale ballets interspersed with the stories themselves as told by Brian Cant.

I especially like Cinderella as it's a bit more modern-sounding and less formal, but the music in both cases is very very good. I love the narration because it's so NOT dumbed-down - plenty of long sentences and no cutesy-ness.

Isabelle, alas, doesn't like it as much as I do, I think primarily because the musical pieces are quite long, and 5 minutes of instrumental music between story fragments is just too much for her, no matter how dramatic it is. Maybe when she's older.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Disney's Lullaby Album

One of the best-sellers on the kids tunes site. The tunes are all familiar - stuff like "When you wish upon a star" and "Wonderful world" - and it's played by real musicians. The arrangements are vaguely easy-listening-ish but very good - it works as pleasant background music for grownups as well as for sending kids to sleep (which it has done successfully in my house many times). The instrumentation is very lush (lots of strings!) which I expect means it's good at blocking out ambient noise and so work particularly well in noisy places (I can't vouch for this myself though as we live out in the countryside where it's quiet).

Buy it now on

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Designed by a "neuroscientist", this takes itself very seriously - lots of science-y twaddle about the vestibular system and binaural beats and arousal centres in the liner notes, plus the hilarious warning "Do not use when operating heavy machinery".

Having said that, the first time I put this on for Heather she fell asleep almost instantly. I was impressed, but the feat was never repeated. It's actually quite a decent lullaby album if you ignore the foolishness - well-known classical pieces nicely played on violin and piano, although the sudden changes in the volume and whooshing effects are a bit off-putting.

Friday, June 4, 2010


A 2007 compilation of (mostly original) music for kids from the underground scenes of Seattle and Baltimore. More left-of-centre than most stuff aimed at kids, this has songs that would very much fit in to the Dublin underground scene and so it feels like I'm on home turf here. There's indie rock with various degrees of poppiness and/or punkiness, there's electronic music, there's post-rock-y stuff. The standard is really high - there's only one poor tune (by the best-known band, funny enough (Mudhoney)), and the rest are good with a few fantastic ones like Mary Timony's "Clap your hands" and Young Fresh Fellows' "Picnic". The words are good too - no preachiness, no talking-down, no over-eagerness.

Niamh has an issue with some of the singers' pitching, but the songs are really good and Isabelle loves quite a few of them. Recommended.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Putumayo Kids presents African Playground

Mostly lightweight African pop, including a few tunes you might have heard before, like "Mbube" (European-ized as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight") and Them Mushrooms' "Jambo Bwana".

Surprisingly same-y, given the vast size and diversity of the continent. Although I like a few of the songs it's a bit light for my taste, and there's lots of African music out there that I much prefer.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Bugsy Malone soundtrack

Oh my, but weren't the 70s strange? Here's a musical about murderous gangsters and dancing girls in speakeasies, all played by children. Bizarre.

Anyway, there are some cracking tunes in this. "So you wanna be a boxer?", "Bad guys", "Down and out" (which I remembered the tune from since I saw it on my granny's tv as a child) and more. It's a bit uneven for kids I think - the quieter songs slow the momentum so that little attention spans wander. Isabelle loves it so long as we skip the quiet ones, her favourite being "My name is Talulah" (IMHO the worst of the 3 weak songs in the film), on account of Talulah's sparkly dress.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Reggaeton Ninos Vol. 2

This is one of the worst sellers on the kids tunes site, and I really don't know why. A year after we got it the kids still go absolutely crazy for it, and even me and Niamh still love it despite having heard it approximately one bazillion times. What's wrong with you folks? It's kids singing reggaeton hits, and it's great.

Buy it (and other supercool danceable kids music) now on

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Final Funktier - Recess Monkey

Recess Monkey are 3 primary school teachers from Seattle, and Stefan over on Zooglobble calls them "the heart of kids music today". The basic template is, I suppose, kinda funky American rock and it's upbeat, danceable and loads of fun.

I have a few reservations about it - the melodies can be a bit undercooked - but the band is great (they sound like they'd be dynamite live), the arrangements are bursting with ideas and the words are funny (Isabelle especially relates to "Satellite", where the singer's younger sibling follows him everywhere). Good!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Music is awesome - Yo Gabba Gabba

Music from the kids TV show, which regularly has cool bands like The Melvins, The Roots, MGMT and even Devo as guests . There's also a house band of characters from the show.

On the Gabba Band's own tunes, the voices are quite squeaky-kids-tv and a tiny bit grating. I really don't know my genres well enough to be trying to describe the music, but I guess they're mostly the characters' voices singing over squelchy-sounding electronic tracks. And you know what? They're actually pretty good.

The guest artist tunes include songs from I'm from Barcelona, The Shins, Mark Kozelek, Of Montreal and more. My experience of kids music compilations from grown-up artists hasn't been all that good (see the review of For The Kids) but these songs are mostly very good, especially "Nice and clean" from Chromeo which is an 80s-retro delight (not that I normally dig 80s-retro, having grown up in the 80s, but there you go).

I like it! Good in an understated indie-cool kinda way.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery

Another from Classical Kids. The story this time is about an orphan girl arriving in Venice to play in an orchestra that's run by Vivaldi. At the end she's re-united with her grandfather who's been looking for her since her parents died and is (gasp!) a Duke. The story and acting both are very much overcooked - full of the Tragic Heroine lamenting her Terrible Fate - and you know what? I'm not really a Vivaldi fan, so I'm not particularly wowed by the music either.

Not the worst of the Classical Kids series, but pretty mediocre and not a patch on Beethoven Lives Upstairs.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Putumayo Kids presents Celtic Dreamland

I (thankfully) don't have much cause to listen lullaby music much these days, but I still stick this on the headphones in work the odd time. Don't be put off by the title, it's a really good collection of quiet Scots / Irish music - consistently good all the way through, and really spine-tingling in places.

Buy it, and other lullaby music, here on (where it's one of my best sellers)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Putumayo Kids presents Caribbean Playgound

A collection of tunes in a variety of Caribbean genres - reggae, ska, soca, zouk and others I can't put a name to, but, oddly, without anything you might call "Latin". There's one amazing song - Asheba's "Little Anansy" (just bass, a tiny bit of guitar, Asheba's voice and an irresistibly danceable drum track) - and a handful of decent ones, but a lot of pretty undistinguished genre music too.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Aladdin soundtrack

There are three good songs on this - the two sung by the genie (played by Robin Williams) and Aladdin's "One Jump Ahead". Then there's the Bond-theme-esque "Arabian Nights", which is really only a fragment, and the awful "A whole new world" which is soppy and cloying and reminds me of the Eurovision.

The rest is underscore, and pretty good. Like "The Little Mermaid" soundtrack it's quite stagey-sounding, but if you can get past that the songs (apart from "A whole new world", which succeeds in putting me off the whole CD) are decent and it's worth a listen.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mary Poppins Soundtrack

They played "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" on the radio in work yesterday, which prompted me to listen to this again. It's a masterclass in old-school professional songwriting, performed with relish by a cast who sound like they're having the time of their lives. An honest-to-goodness children's classic

Buy the Mary Poppins soundtrack, and other kids film / tv music, here on

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pop Fly - Justin Roberts

Whoa! This guy sure knows how to write a melody. The title track is first, an upbeat tune about the difficulties of concentrating on your baseball-playing when there are loads of interesting things around you to look at like dandelions and clouds. It's catchy indie-rock-ish fun (reminding me a tiny bit of Weezer) and then BANG the chorus hits and the horns kick in and you know you're in for a treat.

The lyrics are mostly very suburban America, with baseball and "crossing guards" and "kickboards", but you can still find plenty that's relevant to a rural Irish child - like "Henrietta's Hair" about a girl who hates getting her hair brushed (I know you can't read much yet Isabelle, but this is directed at you), and "Giant Butterflies" about a kid's anxiety on the first day at school The band is top-notch, the recording is great and boy does Justin Roberts have the tunes. A first-class kids record.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Green Golly and her Golden Flute

A story based on Rapunzel where Rapunzel is called Green Golly and instead of singing she plays classical music on a golden flute the witch who imprisoned her gave to her, and eventually takes control of her own destiny the way every modern girl should :)

I often complain about kids stories being over-acted but this is gloriously over-acted and therefore very funny. The music is great too - Mozart, Bizet, Rimsky-Korsakov (guess which tune?) and more arranged for flute or flute-and-guitar. It's performed really well and the pieces are short and entertaining and don't get in the way.

Isabelle likes it too. She arrived home from a birthday party on Saturday saying "uuuurgh! I feel sick! I ate too many sweets!" so all she was fit to do was sit on the armchair and whinge. This kept her quiet for a while, except for the occasional shout at me when I was making too much noise cooking the dinner, and then she insisted on bringing the CD cover to bed with her to pore over.

Thumbs up!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Here come the ABCs - They Might Be Giants

Not quite as good as its successor, Here Come the 123s, but still great. Playing quirky tuneful indie rock with vary degrees of funkiness, They Might Be Giants are probably the biggest stars in the kindie firmament and they deserve it. Upbeat, danceable, singable, clever and fun - what more could you ask for? A DVD of videos for the songs, perhaps? You got it!

(although again the vids aren't as well made as the ones for later TMBG albums, they're still fun and a good way into the music for the kids)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Swan Lake - Tchaikovsky narrated by Angela Rippon

On the occasion of Tchaikovsky's birthday, I'm listening to the suite from Swan Lake, with narration of the story by Angela Rippon. The music isn't as instantly recognisable as, say, The Nutcracker, but it's all good of course (although the performance is a little lackluster), especially the swan's dance which is amazing - so good it was covered by Madness! The narration-with-music model doesn't work so well on this one for Isabelle though, I think the pieces are a bit long to hold her interest between the snippets of narration. Maybe she'll dig it more when she's older.

Just in case you're interested, the suite from Swan Lake was actually the first thing I ever played with an orchestra (me on clarinet). So there!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Little Mermaid Soundtrack

This sounds very much like a recording of a West End musical, which I find quite off-putting. It's hard to put my finger on what exactly I don't like, but it somehow sounds "stagey" in comparison to some of the old-school Disney stuff (like Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book, say), and the performers don't sound like they're having much fun.

I have to admit the music is good - especially the instrumental tracks - but I can't say I actually really like any of the songs particularly apart from the very first ("Fathoms below"). Isabelle loves the movie, and really likes "Part of your world" and "Kiss the girl" and the "Ahh-ahh-ahh" part of "Poor unfortunate souls" (where Arial is giving up her voice to Ursula) but while I can see that these are well put together songs they don't really do anything for me.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Song of the Unicorn - Classical Kids

A story set in Arthurian times (or at least with some of the King Arthur characters in it) about 2 children looking for unicorns so they can magically heal their mother of an unspecified but life-threatening ailment. The soundtrack is medieval and renaissance music.

What is it about the lesser Classical Kids CDs and people banging on about the power of "myoosic" in the stories? The music should speak for itself, surely, we don't need to be told how great it is. There's a scene here with Merlin conjuring up images of not-yet-invented instruments like clarinets from a magic fire and getting excited about "myoosic" that's particularly irritating.

I found this pretty boring - neither the story nor the music did much for me. Put it on for Isabelle in the car and turned it off half way through, and she didn't even notice.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Classical Kids Daydreams and Lullabies

"A celebration of poetry, song and classical music".

Hard to know who this is aimed at. There's some very classical-sounding lullaby-ish music, some of it sung by children, some "poetry" (rhymes) and bits of dialogue about going to sleep. Doesn't work as a lullaby album - too much talking! - and isn't really interesting enough to sit and listen to.

Thumbs down. Click here to buy better lullaby CDs than this one.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Songs to Grow on for Mother and Child - Woody Guthrie

This sounds like someone followed Woody around his house and taped him as he made up songs for his kids on the spur of the moment. Ultra simple music with mostly nonsense-y lyrics and a lot of melody sharing going on - "Swimmy swim" has more or less the same tune as "Goodnight little darlin" and "I want my milk" has exactly the same tune as "Vigilante Man" (which isn't on here, obviously).

I absolutely love this! Myself and Niamh are constantly singing makey-uppy tunes for our own kids, and it's amazing to hear Woody Guthrie doing the same thing. It's charming and artless and really makes me smile. Heather loves it too, last night she had a sore throat and was very whingey, but dancing her around to this made her chuckle - and this morning we were singing "Swimmy swim" together all the way to her creche in the car with her squeaking with delight and pretending to splash the imaginary water.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tchaikovsky discovers America

It's 1891, Tchaikovsky is New York about to conduct a concert in Carnegie Hall (which is still under construction). He gets nervous about the show, and gets the train to Niagra Falls to chill out for a bit, accompanied by the family (Russian immigrant parents, American kids) he's staying with. The parents and kids get separated in the train station, and Tchaikovsky shoots the breeze with the kids on the journey - they discuss with him their Dad's plan to return to Russia, he waxes lyrical about the place and tells the kids snippets of the plot from his ballets. The story is not all that dramatic or informative, and Tchaikovsky himself sounds like he's from Waterford rather than Russia, but it's not bad, and the plot snippet from Swan Lake is very well done.

The music, which plays in the background, is brilliant. If you don't like classical music I'm not going to convince you here, but the music on this is catchy, dramatic and accessible and really very enjoyable - there's even a little piano ragtime version of a Tchaikovsky tune.

Beethoven Lives Upstairs is still my favourite Classical Kids CD I think, mostly because the story is better, but this is one of the best of the rest in the series.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wheels on the Bus

"25 favourite pre-school songs" from BBC Audio.

This pretty much epitomises all that is wrong with bad children's "music". Appalling.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Easy - Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

The kids were dancing as soon as I put this on for the first time last night. Jurassic 5-ish hip-hop with kid-oriented rhymes. There's stories like "The last dragon", some really cool descriptive child's-eye view stuff, and some positive-message tunes. "Message" songs often make me a bit squirmy - it's not actually true that you can be what you want to be if you only believe and work hard, now is it? - but these are mostly great:

"What ya gotta be?"

The music is really good too, with pucks of imagination and instruments you don't often hear in a hip-hop setting like harps and banjos. The guy's little girl is rapping on here too, and doing a fine job of it.

Thumbs up! I dig it!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mother Goose Remembers

Nursery rhyme CD with 40-something English nursery rhymes like Little Boy Blue, Hickory Dickory Dock, Humpty Dumpty, Three Blind Mice etc. Acoustic, with whistles and a guitar and an occasional accordion or fiddle or flute. Not as lively as I was hoping, but pretty good, and has some cool rhymes I hadn't heard before like "Peddler's song" and "Snow, snow faster".

Friday, April 23, 2010

Putumayo Kids presents African Dreamland

A lullaby CD containing music from Africa. The music's good, and the vibe is quiet and sleepy, but I haven't found this to be any good at putting my kids to sleep - I think the beat isn't steady enough, perhaps.

Click here for other lullaby albums from Putumayo Kids and elsewhere that actually do work

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wiggleworms Love You

Acoustic kids songs from the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. Includes English nursery rhymes like "Pease porridge hot", American traditional kids songs like "Polly Wolly Doodle" and "Oh Susannah" and other stuff in a similar vein, including a few songs with a bit of Spanish and French in them.

The nursery rhymes are the US versions, so, for example, in "Wheels on the Bus" the punchline is "all through the town" rather than "all day long". The English versions are so familiar to me that I find the different words oddly jarring, but that aside this is very good. Simple songs simply and effectively performed, à la Raffi. Recommended.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Songs from Inside the Radio - Greasy Kids Stuff

A compilation from a US kids radio show. The 2 opening tracks are cool surf-rock (mostly) instrumentals, but after that ... well there's the occasional decent tune (including one from indie rock icons Yo La Tengo) but most of them are ok at best, and some are really really terrible.