November 17, 2017

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Best Children’s Album Grammy Nominees | ClefNotes

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58th Annual GRAMMY Award Best Children’s Album Nominees

redstar¡Come Bien! Eat Right! Performed by José-Luis Orozco. CD. 62 min. Smithsonian Folkways. 2015. $16.98.
K-Gr 5–Orozco provides uplifting, educational bilingual music on the general theme of healthy eating and nutrition. The 19 songs and chants are first performed in Spanish with the second half of the album featuring the English versions. Each song is upbeat and covers topics such as the various kinds of milk, wholesome snacks, and the importance of water. Some of the songs combine the concepts with Latin dance styles, as in “The Fruit Conga,” in which colors and types of fruit are celebrated, and “The Dance of the Legumes,” which not only teaches listeners about the various kinds of beans but also gives step-by-step instructions for a cha-cha-cha. Many of the songs, including “Chocolate” and “Tortilla,” ask for audience participation either through call and response or clapping. Orozco’s 40  years of experience writing and performing for children are evident in every song. His charming voice is woven together with beautiful instrumentation and lyrics that never seem didactic. This engaging work will delight and entertain children and parents alike. VERDICT A must-have for every collection.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL

static1.squarespace__1454456231_27380redstarHome. Performed by Tim Kubart. CD. 36:49 min. Tim Kubart and the Space Cadets. 2015. $10.99
K-Gr 3–Kubart, host of the Sprout Channel’s morning show, Sunny Side Up, returns with his second album for children. As with his debut, this album is filled with pop songs that will have listeners singing and, in some cases, dancing along. By writing the lyrics from the perspective of a child, Kubart and fellow songwriter Matt Puckett are able to capture the highs and lows of everyday life and convey them in a way that the target audience can relate to. The album is bookended by songs that look at the concept of home in very different ways. “Last Turn Home” emphasizes the fun of going away but recognizes the important feeling of home as the place where you belong. In contrast, the final song, “Moving Day,” shows a different perspective with the acknowledgment that home isn’t a physical place but rather wherever your family is. The songs in between cover topics such as the arrival of a new sibling, the wonders of creating art, the joy of “Dancing in the Kitchen” with your family, and, in “Better,” featuring Laurie Berkner, how much better it is to do things together with those you love. VERDICT Whether stripped down or filled with drums, guitar, and brass, every song on this album is a joy to listen to again and again.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library, IL 

redstarHow Great Can This Day Be. Performed by Lori Henriques. 1 CD. 29 min. Human Puppy Records. 2014. $11.99.
PreS-Gr 5–Built around a full jazz ensemble, How Great Can This Day Be proves Henriques’s respect for a child’s ability to appreciate the rich, complex arrangements found in jazz music. Crossing from traditional jazz to Dixieland and cabaret and back again, each song engages listeners in a different way. The subjects range from parks where you can play and harvest edible greenery to how to express joy about the wonderful things in life. One of the highlights is the beautiful tribute to Jane Goodall in “Dream Jane Dream.” Although most of the songs are single voice, Henriques does include two duets. “Beau Paris” features her young son, who expertly joins her in singing a variety of phrases in French. On the charming ode to friendship, “I Am Your Friend,” she and her husband sing a sweet duet. VERDICT While children’s compilations of traditional jazz songs are easy to find, an entire album of original jazz ensemble music for children is unique, making this a must-have for every collection. [This review originally ran in the 5/2015 issue of SLJ—Ed.]–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL 

redstarTrees. Performed by Molly Ledford & Billy Kelly. CD. 38 min. Molly Ledford & Billy Kelly. 2015. $14.
K-Gr 3–On their debut album, Ledford and Kelly celebrate trees—from their roots to the tops of their crowns and everything in between—and their importance in the world. They use many musical styles to deliver their messages in these 14 original songs, all of which are credited to either Ledford or Kelly. They include ballads (“Angel Oak,” “Meet You by the Roots”), 1950s rock and roll (“It’s Just a Dumb Ol’ Stick,” “I, Wood”), soft rock (“Acorns,” “Count Your Rings”), rockabilly (“Coniferous Trees”), and march (“The National Tree of England”). Instrumentation is spare, but the sound is still full. Ledford and Kelly switch off singing lead vocals. Ledford’s voice morphs with each song, ranging from breathy (“Trees”) to earthy (“It’s Just a Dumb Ol’ Stick”). Kelly sings with a full baritone, channeling David Bowie in “Here Comes the Trees.” The variety of folk and pop styles suit the topic well. VERDICT The information that is delivered will make this album useful to include in classrooms, while the music itself is catchy enough for family listening.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH

Reviews:

All Around This World: Africa. Performed by various artists. 2 CDs. 84 min. All Around This World. 2015. $18.99.
PreS-Gr 3–The sound of drums launches this album of 32 songs from various countries on the African continent. One disc covers west, central, and south Africa, and the other disc covers north and east Africa. Among the countries featured are Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa, Mozambique, Morocco, Egypt, and Kenya. The vocalists give excellent performances and come from both the United States and several African nations. Many of the song lyrics are in the language of the nation where the song originated. The musicians play a variety of instruments with great skill, including guitar, violin, trumpet, trombone, qanoon, Guinean balafon, oud, gyil, mbira, kora, keyboards, and drums and other percussion instruments. A few of the song titles are “We Are Happy,” “Kikalama,” “Do Do Ki Do,” “He Motsoala,” “Arsomo Baba,” “Nanu Nanu Ney,” “Kavuli Tutu,” and “Tulo Tulo.” The lyric booklet includes both the original language and an English translation. VERDICT This album will be welcomed in libraries, classrooms, and homes.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library

AlastairMoockAllKindsOfYouAndMe__1454456311_10026All Kinds of You and Me. Performed by Alastair Moock. CD. 45 min. Moockshake Music. 2015. $15.
Gr 1-5–Multiple award-winning Moock presents 10 original songs, one spoken piece, and one cover in rock, bluegrass, jazz, and folk musical styles. Moock’s versatile vocals are accompanied by an enthusiastic children’s chorus. He is also joined by a group of musicians giving excellent performances on guitar, banjo, mandolin, vibraphone, upright bass, electric bass, drums, percussion, saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, flugelhorn, fiddle, piano, and harmonica. Moock’s songs celebrating individuality and changing ideas about gender roles were inspired by the 1972 album Free to Be…You and Me. Song titles include “It Takes All Kinds,” “You Might Be a Girl,” “The Bright Side of Me,” “Kenya Imagine,” “Everything’s Upside-Down but Me,” and Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” VERDICT An upbeat album for modern families.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library

Cuddlebug Parade. Performed by Michal Karmi. CD. 38 min. Sweetly Spun Music. 2014. $12.
Pre-S-K–Israeli native Michal “Peanut” Karmi performs 12 original songs and five spoken stories or poems. The upbeat, bright, and lively songs are in folk, New Orleans jazz, and lullaby musical styles. Four of the songs include lyrics in Spanish or Hebrew. Karmi and the guest musicians make beautiful music on ukulele, string bass, trombone, trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, whistles, Glockenspiel, drums, and percussion. “Six Little Pickles” is a counting story, while “Big Bug Band” is a nursery storytime answer to rap. “Where’s Your Belly Button” is a lovely little song to sing with infants. Other song titles include “Hey Mister Mushroom,” “Little Bear Blue,” “Ooey Gooey Mud,” the a capella “Oh! What a Beautiful Day,” “Stompin’ at the Market,” and “Chew and Swallow” (in three languages). VERDICT Parents will love sharing these songs with their very young children.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library

Family in Harmony. Performed by Super Stolie. CD. 37 min. Screaming Galaxy. 2015. $12.
PreS-Gr 2–Rebecca Stoelinga, aka Super Stolie, presents an album of nine original songs, one traditional hymn, and one spoken poem/story. The songs are performed in pop, folk, bluegrass, and Latin musical styles. The multitalented Stolie not only performs all the vocals and beautiful harmonies but she also performs on all of the background instruments: guitar, ukulele, mandolin, piano, bass, melodica, harmonica, djembe, bongos, drums, shakers, tambourine, rainstick, agogo bells, xylophone, spoons, triangle, sand blocks, and claves. The lyrics for a couple of the songs are in Spanish: “Boca, boca, boca” and “Paz amor y gozo.” “Rock, Paper, Scissors” is a humorous spoken, rhyming story about fair play. The other songs include “Family in Harmony,” “Chicken in the Kitchen,” “The River Down,” “Little Black Bear,” and “The Whale Song” (with whale sound effects). VERDICT This cheery, upbeat album will appeal to most children.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library

Human Body School. Performed by Talking Hands Talking Feet. Approx. 69 min. Talking Hands Talking Feet. 2015. $15.
K-Gr 5–The 12th album by New Mexico–based musician Paul Andrew Zeir and his group, Talking Hands Talking Feet, seeks to instruct youngsters about the human body in these 23 original pop songs. Each tune is very simple and relies on repetition in order to drill information into memory. Simple arrangements have minimal instrumentation, with lead vocals the focus of each song. Harmonies are added for adornment but never overtake the lead vocals. Zeir sings lead on most tunes, sounding eerily similar to Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam). Arranged by “acts,” the album offers an overview of the human body. In “Act 1: Get to Know Your Body,” messages include the value of eating wisely and exercising. “Act 2: Body Opera” concentrates on various organs and body systems, including the heart/circulatory system, respiratory and digestive systems, and brain/nervous system. “Act 3: Get to Know Yourself” focuses on each individual’s position in life. Standout songs include “Get to Know Your Body” (which includes Spanish lyrics of the song interwoven in the recording), “Respiratory System” (sung in time with breathing in/out, featuring a harp and vocals in English and Spanish), “Heart Song Interlude” (a largely wordless vocalise sung in heartbeat tempo), “Digestive System” (kids will really appreciate the digestive noises in the background), and “Bones Alive,” which opens with and is accompanied by marimba. VERDICT The complex lyrics and appropriate vocabulary make this album a useful tool for the classroom.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH

33671__1454456368_10123Metro Train. Performed by Mr. Gabe and the Circle Time All-Stars. Approx. 34 min. CDBaby.com. 2015. $12.97.
PreS-Gr 1–Gabe Hutter, aka Mr. Gabe, a children’s performer based in Washington, DC, follows up his award-winning debut album Play Date (2012) with another surefire hit for youngsters. Reminiscent of the recording styles and arrangements of Raffi and Trout Fishing in America, this collection features a mix of traditional and original family-friendly music in a variety of styles, including pop, 1960s doo-wop, rockabilly, country, and folk. Baritone Hutter sings lead and plays guitar on each track, with Holly Montgomery on bass and Chelle Fulk on violin, with the two often adding harmonizing backing vocals. Standout songs include “Metro Train” (a folksy, peppy traditional tune with new lyrics by Hutter), “Monster” (a spooky song about what’s hiding under the bed), “Driving in the Car” (a doo-wop song about this experience), “Bird Call” (a country-flavored celebration of different bird calls), and the Meredith Wilson classic “Till There Was You.” VERDICT Fun listening for younger children and parents looking for something for both age groups.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH

Now That We’re Friends. Performed by Mil’s Trills. CD. 32 min. Millymoose Records. 2015. $12.99.
K-Gr 3–Amelia Robinson of the Mil’s Trills band presents 12 original songs in a variety of rock and pop musical styles, plus one calypso offering. The album starts off with a bang as Robinson belts out her rock anthem “Say ‘Hey!’” and several children sing out greetings in different languages. In fact, the enthusiastic children’s chorus can be heard on several tracks. Some notable guest musicians join in: Dean Jones, Steve Elson, Thad Debrock, and Rob Jost all give terrific performances on guitar, ukulele, mandolin, bass, piano, organ, optigan, Celeste, Wurlitzer, saxophone, Moog, trombone, trumpet, French horn, xylophone, drums, and percussion. Other songs include “Let’s Be Friends,” “Singing Together,” “Everybody’s Got a Body,” “Great Big Sky,” and “All the Colors.” VERDICT With these songs, Robinson fulfills her objective of sharing songs on the themes of friendship, open minds, and compassionate hearts.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library

Odds & Ends. Performed by Andrew & Polly. CD. 28 min. CD Baby. 2015. $9.99
PreS-Gr 3–Kindie folk duo Andrew Barkan and Polly Hall bring a sense of wide-eyed wonder and joy to this album. Friendship, love, and family are just a few of the themes touched upon in this 10-song collection. In addition to their own songs, the duo also use new arrangements to put their own child-friendly spin on covers of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” Ray Erskine Parker’s “Ghostbusters,” and George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun.” There is a good amount of repetition within the lyrics of many of the songs, which will make it easy for children to sing along. The acoustic, upbeat nature of much of this album will leave listeners clapping their hands and tapping their toes. VERDICT A solid addition to any collection.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL

On the Bright Side. Performed by The Bazillions. CD. 37 min. Oddvious Records. 2015. $11.99.
PreS-Gr 5–With a sound reminiscent of the Beatles, this children’s rock and roll band offers 12 upbeat songs that both educate and entertain. Grammar is well represented on this album with tracks covering such concepts as contractions, personification, the “qu” combination, and, in the song “ed (Been There, Done That),” verb tenses. Additional selections celebrate reading, the joy of exploring outside, and the water cycle. Ever wonder what superheroes do during their off time? “Superhero Rock Band” answers that question, while “Bad Haircut” tells the story of an unfortunate visit to the barber shop. VERDICT By using lyrics that make learning fun, The Bazillions have created another album that would be a welcome addition to any collection.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL

Ralph’s World Rocks and Reads. Performed by Ralph Covert. CD. 42 min. Waterdog Records. 2015. $14.98.
PreS-Gr 3–Ralph returns with 17 songs, several of which appear in picture books that he has published over the past decade. He successfully uses a variety of musical styles, including rock, calypso, upbeat pop, country, polka, and a capella and even features a Beach Boys–inspired tune with great harmonies. Ralph and the chorus of children sing with great gusto and enthusiasm. The backup musicians give terrific performances on guitar, dobro, keyboards, piano, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, bass, trombone, trumpet, tuba, saxophone, accordion, concertina, penny whistle, drums, and percussion. Songs included are “Follow the Leader and Dance,” “Welcome to Christmas Wood,” “We Are Ants,” “Freddy Bear the Teddy Bear,” “Happy Lemons,” and “Peggy’s Pie Parlor Polka.” Ralph has illustrated his song “Do the Math,” complete with lyrics, in the accompanying booklet. VERDICT Young listeners will want to sing and dance along with this exuberant album.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library

static1.squarespace__1454456495_39207redstarSimpatico. Performed by Renee & Friends. CD. Approx. 33 min. One Melody Records. 2015. $11.91.
PreS-Gr 3–Singer/songwriter Renee Stahl and producer Rich Jacques have put together a dozen original songs that focus on friends, family, and love. Largely mellow ballads, they feature instrumentations including guitar, banjo, and electric piano. Most tracks are collaborations cowritten by Stahl and Jacques, with the musician also featured on the song. These songs tend to be a bit more sophisticated than the usual fare for kids and families, making them an excellent bridge between the two—music for kids and music for their parents. Opening number “Gather Round” (cowritten and performed as a duet with Lisa Loeb) is a folksy ballad filled with harmonies about getting together with loved ones. Other collaborative standouts include “You Were Meant to Be” (featuring Glen Phillips), “Are We There Yet?” (featuring Colin Hay), “Starfish and Coffee” (cowritten by Prince, duet with Maya Rudolph). One exceptional highlight is “Happiness” by Clark Gener, performed solo by Molly Shannon (a childhood friend of Stahl’s) with Kazumi Shimokawa on piano. VERDICT This is truly music for all ages.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH

We All Shine. Performed by Play Date. CD. 41 min. Fun Fun Records. 2015. $10.89
PreS-Gr 3–Married musical duo Shanti Wintergate and Greg Attonito (aka Play Date) offer 14 original songs on their second album for families. Each rocking, upbeat song, from the sly “Stevie the Fox” to the heartfelt “L-O-V-E You” to the title song, is kid-inspired and kid-centered yet sophisticated enough for grown-ups. Other standout songs include the ballad “Ninja Pajamas” (a song/rap featuring guest artist Stef “POS” Alexander harmonizing with Wintergate), “Colors” (a rollicking celebration of colors and familiar examples), “Cardboard Box” (a driving rock song about many things a box can be if you use your imagination), and “Ruin Your Appetite” (a rock tune discouraging snacking between meals). Most songs are sung in unison with few harmonies and lean toward soft rock and middle-of-the-road rock with a buzzing electric guitar and drum kit. Sprinkled throughout are four 50-second “ads” espousing characteristics of different fruits and vegetables (bananas, broccoli, apples, and carrots); each uses the same tune. The disc closes with a lullaby, “Goodnight.” VERDICT A fine follow-up to their award-winning disc, Imagination (2012).–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH

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