August 21, 2017

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The Best of Raffi & 14 More Children’s Albums | ClefNotes

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Amazing! Performed by Liz Buchanan. CD. 37 min. Antelope Dance Music. 2016. $13.99.
PreS-Gr 2–This fourth album by singer/songwriter/music educator Buchanan features a dozen original songs inspired by favorite stories, science, and nature. Most were penned by Buchanan, except the title song, “Amazing!,” which was cowritten with Gordon MacFarland and celebrates imagination and creativity. Half of the songs on the album are credited on her website as “cowritten” by children from various schools, including “T-Rex” (an upbeat tune about that favorite dinosaur), “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” “The Dot,” and “The Tortoise and the Hare” (all inspired by stories or children’s books). Among the other standouts are “No Fire, Dragon!” (which promotes the theme of playing nicely together) and “H2O” (a folksy call-and-response song about water). Buchanan’s pleasing voice blends well with MacFarland’s harmonies on “Winter Song.” Musical accompaniment is spare and not overproduced. Several different musical styles are found on the disc, although most are folksy and laid-back in nature. VERDICT Fans of Laurie Berkner will like this one.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH

Best of Hullabaloo, Vol. 2. Performed by Steve Denyes & Brendan Kremer. CD. Approx. 35 min. Hullabaloo Music. 2010–16. $9.49.
K-Gr 4–Denyes and Kremer form the Hullabaloo Band and here present 15 of their best songs from five previously released albums. The duo perform with gusto on guitar, drums, and cajón, in folk, rock, bluegrass, and country musical styles. One of the singers has vocals reminiscent of Johnny Cash. The “Dog Song” features dog howls. “It’s All Gonna Be O.K.” even when others disrespect you. “Siren Song” focuses on fire trucks. In “I’m Hungry,” the singer finds several food items in his seat. One person loves “Out Standing” in the rain. “365 Days on Earth” celebrates birthdays. In “I Chew,” a panda sings about his diet of bamboo. “You Are Loved” begins as an a cappella song, then segues into a lovely folk piece. The other songs include “Sleep Well Tonight,” “Road Trip,” “Raise a Ruckus,” “Favorite Day,” “Sometimes Even I Feel Shy,” “Best Friends Forever,” and “I Wear Pink.” VERDICT Fans of the band will appreciate having all their favorite songs on one album.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library

redstarBest of Raffi. Performed by Raffi. CD. Approx. 35 min. Rounder Records. 2017. $9.49.
PreS-Gr 4–Multi-award-winning Raffi, one of the first of the children’s music troubadours and who’s celebrating 40 years as an entertainer, presents 16 of his best songs from 10 albums. Featured here are both traditional and original songs in folk, reggae, jazz, country, and pop musical styles. The titles include “Baby Beluga,” “Down by the Bay,” “Apples and Bananas,” “Shake My Sillies Out,” “Wheels on the Bus,” “Day O,” “Bananaphone,” “Let’s Play,” “Everything Grows,” “Mr. Sun,” “Love Bug,” “Owl Singalong,” “One Light, One Sun,” “Rise and Shine,” “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” and “Thanks a Lot.” VERDICT Parents who grew up with Raffi will want to share this album with their children. A must-have for every children’s music collection.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library

Between the Waves and the Cardoons. Performed by Pointed Man Band. CD. 30:30 min. Doo-Dah Records. 2017. $9.99.
K-Gr 5–Pointed Man Band is Portland, OR–based songwriter/performer Daniel Elliott. In this, his follow-up to Flight of the Blue Whale, Elliott showcases his clever wordplay and storytelling skills to give listeners his own spin on the wonders of our planet. Lush musical arrangements are evident in each of the 10 songs, elevating tunes such as “Pollination,” which is about bees, to a whole new level through a trombone- and trumpet-filled conclusion. Elliott’s vocals often have a tinge of Billy Joel , including on the opening number, “The Waves,” and the closing song, “The Cardoons,” on which he is joined by Jack Foreman (Recess Monkey) and Josh Shriber (Josh and the Jamtones). It may take a few times through before listeners catch all of the lyrics, but the multiple listenings will be worth it. VERDICT A solid addition to any collection where music that the whole family will enjoy is in demand.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL

Big Buncha Buddies. Performed by Keith Munslow & Bridget Brewer. CD. Approx. 35 min. Needlenose Music. 2017. $12.
K-Gr 5–Munslow and Brewer present 11 original, upbeat songs in country, rock, R&B, and pop musical styles. The backup band makes beautiful music on piano, organ, bass, guitar, drums, and percussion. Vocals are enthusiastic and harmonious. There is a “Big Buncha Buddies” in a little tiny room. A “Stray Dog” becomes a child’s best friend. In “That Was a Bad Idea,” children paint their bedroom and release snakes at the pet store. “Jilly the Ghost” wreaks havoc all over the house. “The Loneliest Whale” has the blues. In “Why Did You Teach Me That Word,” a youngster learns a four-letter word on the school bus and is grounded for saying it at home. The remaining songs are “Stick Pony,” “Bridgie B,” “Tall and Small,” “It’s an Adventure,” and “Don’t Grow Up Too Fast.” VERDICT These energetic, toe-tapping tunes will appeal to the whole family.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library

Dana’s Best Jump & Jam Tunes. Performed by Dana Cohenour. CD. Approx. 34 min. Larry Beaird & Dana Cohenour. 2016. $10.
PreS–Cohenour’s 20-plus years of experience working with children is evident in every song on her newest, energy-filled album. From the opening track, “Jump and Jive,” to “Legs,” a great song about a variety of animals (horse, crab, centipede) and the number of legs they have, kids will be engaged. Many of the songs are ideal for storytime, including the freeze dance song “Jumping Beans,” the interactive “Follow the Leader,” and a bluegrass spin on the traditional “Five Green and Speckled Frogs.” The new shaker song “Shakin’ Things Up” would be a nice addition to storytime or music classes. If exercise and movement are what you’re looking for, “Wiggle Workout” fits the bill, as it encourages children to run in place and do jumping jacks. VERDICT Perfect for storytimes, this album will be in high demand by parents and preschool teachers alike. A must-have for every collection.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL

redstarEar Snacks: Songs from the Podcast. Performed by Andrew Barkan & Polly Hall. 38 min. Palindrome Records. 2016. $12.
PreS-Gr 5–Like nothing you may have ever heard before, this collection of 16 original songs pulled from Los Angeles–based Andrew & Polly’s podcast for preschoolers is a great mashup of musical styles: a fresh find, filled with fantasy and fun—sophisticated yet relevant. Barkan and Hall’s fourth album injects humor and passion into each song, making it just right and “real” for youngsters and family alike. Opening with the upbeat “Dancing Pants” (a song about moving and grooving to music—just try to sit still!), “How Can You Tell if It’s Going To Rain?” (a soft, whispery ballad that will make listeners sway with the beat), and “Everybody Hat Hat” (an upbeat number celebrating hats). Topics of other songs include balls, grapes, dinosaurs, the mail, and fruit. The album closes with a secret track: “Kevin & Louise’s Keys.” Polly Hall not only whisper-sings with zest, she sings and swings so sweetly. Andrew harmonizes and plays vocally with her every inch of the way.  Their accompanying band ties everything together. VERDICT The simple tunes, tight harmonies, and fun treatment of subjects relevant to tiny tykes make this album a must-have!–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH

I Will Find You No Matter What: The Songs of Luc & Bob Schneider. Performed by The L. 39 min. Shockorama Records/Amazon Music. 2016. $9.99.
PreS-Gr 2–Singer/songwriter Bob Schneider, who is based in Austin, TX, and his now 11-year-old son Luc began writing and recording songs together when Luc was four years old. Under the group name “The L,” the Schneiders have gathered many of those recordings through the years and added some recent ones to create a collection of music that can be enjoyed by the family. Luc’s angelic lead singing can be heard on the recently recorded songs, and Bob provides occasional back vocals and musical backup. In contrast, those that feature Bob on lead and Luc singing backup were recorded when Luc was younger. The two sing songs about Popsicles, robots who don’t eat candy, Superman, love, tae kwon do, and monster trucks. Highlights include “Vacuum Cleaner” (which has a very hypnotic percussive beat driving the song) and the opener, “All the Time” (a ballad in which the son proclaims, “I don’t wanna do what I don’t wanna do all the time.”). While each song is pleasant enough and musically solid, several older selections have a muddy quality to the vocals. Unfortunately, it is difficult to understand the lyrics in these songs. Another technical problem is the out-of-balance volume of “Monster Truck” compared with the other songs on the disc. VERDICT This labor of love for father and son will best be appreciated by Schneider’s fans who are parents.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH

Make a Circle. Performed by Jennifer Paskow. 32 min. Jennifer Paskow. 2016. $9.99.
PreS-Gr 3–This collection of 10 easy-listening pop-style ballads by Los Angeles–based composer/musician Jennifer Paskow indeed makes a circle. (The closing track is a repeat of a song on the disc, this time with an acoustic arrangement.)  A thread connects all of the tracks on this concept album. It starts with the importance of loving oneself in order to love others, accepting people for who they are, and connecting with the wider world. There is an innocence to Paskow’s breathy soprano vocals that engenders trust and intimacy with listeners. Standout songs include “The I Love You Song” (a reassurance that “I l-o-v-e y-o-u”), “On the Inside” (the need to look inside people to see what’s in their heart), “I Am a Tree” (a lighthearted reminder to care for others), and “Celebrate This Day” (a celebration of life). Also notable is Paskow’s arrangement of the traditional song “This Little Light of Mine.” Leaning heavily on acoustic instruments, keyboards, and percussion throughout the recording keeps the music easy and simple, which works well with Paskow’s singing style. VERDICT Perfect for rest time, this is filled with positive subliminal messages that should empower the youngest listeners.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH

The Moonlights. Performed by the Moonlights. CD. 33 min. Apple Eye Productions. 2017. $10.99.
PreS-Gr 2–Songwriter Rachel Loshak and powerhouse performer/children’s music producer Dean Jones merge their vast talents to create the magnificent duo the Moonlights. On this, their debut album, each of the 14 original songs blends beautiful musical arrangements with gentle lyrics that allow the gorgeous harmonies to shine. Many of the tunes are duets between Loshak and Jones, but there are standout exceptions such as a homage to Shakespeare, “Peaseblossom,” which features Loshak and Zoe Harvey, and “Seasons,” which combines Loshak’s soprano vocals with the mellow sounds of the Okee Dokee Brothers. VERDICT Themes such as the wonders of nature, happiness, and friendship are wrapped in soothing melodies that would be perfect for those quiet periods in the day, including nap time and bedtime.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL

redstarNight & Day. Performed by JoJo & the Pinecones. CD. 50 min. Produced by Benjamin Gallina & Joelle Lurie. 2017. $8.99
PreS Up–JoJo & the Pinecones are lead singer Joelle Lurie, her musical partner and coproducer Benjamin Gallina, and a band of talented jazz musicians. The album has two halves. Part 1: Day features high-energy songs that follow the arc of a day from waking up to having breakfast for dinner, while Part 2: Night is a farewell to the day as listeners get ready for bed. There is a wonderful mix of original songs written by Lurie and Gallina along with some standards. Skillful arrangements give each classic song the Pinecones twist on jazz, including “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” “I Can See Clearly Now,” “Night and Day,” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” Perhaps the most surprising cover is the Smashing Pumpkins song “Farewell and Goodnight.” In the hands of JoJo & the Pinecones, these tunes are the perfect way to end a perfect day. VERDICT Lurie’s strong vocals combined with rich instrumentation make this a jazz album that the whole family will enjoy.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL

redstarPoulo Warali. Performed by Poulo Warali. CD. Approx. 34 min. Awesome Tapes from Africa. 2017. $13.
PreS-Gr 8–This is singer Awa Poulo’s first internationally distributed record. On this, her most recent recording, the popular singer of Peulh origin from Dilly Commune, Mali, shows off her beautiful, lilting voice as she sings traditional Malian music and original songs written by either Poulo or her mentor, the celebrated Malian singer Inna Baba Coulibaly.  All songs are performed in Poulo’s native language. The opening song (written by Coulibaly) is a “thank you” to the American equivalent of her fans. Poulo then sings “Mido Yirima” (a love song dedicated to her husband), pays homage to Mali traders in “Djulau” and to blacksmiths in “Noumou Foli,” thanks fans for the cows given to her on her last tour and notes that nothing will go well when the Peulh aren’t present in “Poulo Warali,” and praises her people in the traditional song “Djara Wilam.” Poulo closes with “Sidy Modibo,” a song dedicated to the Muslim religious leader and grand Marabout of Dilly. The wonderfully hypnotic accompanying music is made up of a flute, n’goni (lute), calabash gourd (percussion), guitar, and a bass guitar. VERDICT A stellar introduction to music from this West African country for all ages.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH

Rufus the Unicorn. Performed by “Auntie” Kayte Deioma. CD. 33 min. Produced by David Tobocman. 2016. $14.97.
PreS-Gr 2–Auntie Kayte presents 14 songs in a variety of musical styles, such as folk, polka, jazz, and calypso. The lively instrumental background includes keyboards, guitar, bass, flute, clarinet, piccolo, drums, and percussion. An enthusiastic children’s chorus joins the adults with bouncy, energetic vocals. In “Blow Away the Rain,” the singer wants all the rain to go away but then has regrets when drought conditions ensue. The song is repeated as an a cappella round. “Good Old Words” introduces listeners to colorful old-fashioned words such as bumbershoot, cattywampus, and flabbergasted. “Giggly You and Me” offers several synonyms for laughter, including “chortle,” “cackle,” and “guffaw.” Auntie Kayte acknowledges that pirates “do bad stuff” and deserve consequences for their actions in “Pirates Are People, Too.” In the title song, Rufus is rejected by the horses, goats, oryxes, and other animals until he finds his place in the world. Several traditional sayings are turned on their heads in “Get Up, It’s Morning!” The remaining songs are “The Right Side of the Bed,” “The Cowboy Song,” “The Cowgirl Song,” “I’m a Little Teapot,” “Sunshine in My Pocket,” “I’m Sorry,” and “A Princess Can Be Smart.” VERDICT These songs will help to instill self-confidence, creative thinking, responsibility, and social consciousness in young listeners.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library

Singing for a Better World. Performed by Lilo Gonzalez. CD. Approx. 30 min. Produced by Lilo Gonzalez. 2016. $15.59.
PreS-Gr 3–Lilo Gonzalez performs 10 energetic songs, some original and some traditional, in rock and a variety of Latin musical styles such as salsa, danzon, cumbia, merengue, and zamba. The excellent vocals include some very nice harmonies and an enthusiastic children’s chorus. The backup musicians give excellent performances on guitar, bass, piano, upright bass, violin, viola, trombone, trumpet, saxophone, drums, and percussion. Six of the songs are entirely in Spanish, one is in Nahuatl, and the remaining three are in English or bilingual. A couple of the songs encourage participatory movement. “Vamos a Cantar” introduces children to different musical instruments. The other songs include “The Boo-Boo Song,” “Can Calagui-Tunal” (traditional Nahuatl folk song), “En La Feria Del Maestro Andres” (traditional Colombian folk song), “I’m a Superhero,” “Anina’s Lullaby,” “Clouds,” “Hop, Hop, Hop” (medley of traditional folk songs), “El Baile Del Qui, Qui, Qui,” and “Misalobito.” VERDICT This excellent album will be especially welcome in communities where there is a need for Spanish-language children’s music.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library

Transmit Joy! Performed by Mark Binder. CD. 65 min. LightPublications. 2016. $14.99.
PreK-Gr 3–It’s not difficult to see why Transmit Joy! was the only title awarded a Fall 2016 Parents’ Choice Gold Award for Audio—Storytelling. Binder is a seasoned storyteller, employing all the tricks at his disposal—unique “voices” for characters (“Og First Story”), varying tempo to build excitement (“The Girl Who Loved Sugar”), including music at opening/closing of a story (“I Found a Quarter”), injecting humor (“Mr. Boring”), and creating sound effects (“Jody Listens”). Opening with a traditional retelling of “The Billy Goats Gruff,” Binder then reads nine original tales. Many selections are filled with messages such as “dental hygiene is important,” “hunting by yourself could be dangerous,” and “good eating habits are important.” The album is nicely paced and read with a controlled, pleasing tone; no vocal pops, lip smacking, or mouth clicks were detected. VERDICT This would be fun for families riding in the car on a road trip or a relaxing experience as kids drift off to sleep.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH

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