Laurie Berkner, Lisa Loeb, & Rolie Polie Guacamole | ClefNotes

Reviews of recent albums for children.
DukeOtherwiseBeehivesAndBedheads__1459457686_39568redstarBeehives and Bedheads. Performed by Duke Otherwise. 33 min. 2015. $12. Gr K-3–The second album by performer Duke Otherwise, aka Noah Reimer, is polished and filled with oodles of imagination and wacky, silly tales of people, personalities, and situations. Opening with guitar plucking and oinky, disgusting sounds, Reimer reaches down to the bottom bass portion of his vocal range as he assumes a porcine personality to gruffly growl “Dancing Pig,” a song about the kinds of dances this pig can do. This song sets the tone for the lively bunch to follow: “What Kind of Hairdo Do You Do?” (a peppy number listing possible hairstyles), “Nose & Ears” (a soft-shoe treatment conjecturing about what a 1,000-year-old person's nose and ears would look like, since those body parts continue to grow forever), and “Sawannah” (a story-song about a girl with a speech impediment, with a multitude of words that contain the letter v). Other unusual described personalities include “Super Rowan,” “Indecisive Joe,” a boy who never bathes and is “So Good at Smelling,” and “Kitty Wampus,” the school bus driver who gets lost. VERDICT A wide variety of musical styles, vocal ranges, musical instruments, clever lyrics, and clean, honest humor make this an enjoyable experience in vocabulary building and a solid selection to add to most collections.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH redstarBon Voyage. Performed by Jazzy Ash. CD. 28:40 min. Leaping Lizards Music. 2015. $12.97. Gr K-5–Jazzy Ash, children’s performer Ashli Christoval, returns with another album infused with the sounds of New Orleans. Using instruments such as the upright bass, trombone, drums, accordion, and ukulele to back Christoval’s rich vocals, these songs touch on everything from gypsy jazz to swing, zydeco, and a little Dixieland. This assortment of mostly uptempo songs covers topics such as the fun of bath time, the many different kinds of animals in the bayou, and the joy of riding a tandem bike. “Hop to School” is a great interactive song that will get children up and moving as they jump, run, walk slow, splash in puddles, and ultimately vroom in a car to school. Things slow down a bit in the tune “Hide and Seek” and the smooth “Ice Skates.” Also included is a masterly cover of the Louis Armstrong song “Heebie Jeebies.” VERDICT This excellent entree into jazz for children will be a welcome addition to any collection.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL Chips and Salsa. Performed by Rolie Polie Guacamole. 37 min. 2015. $15. PreS-Gr 2–The fifth album by this Brooklyn-based kindie band offers up a dozen of mostly original, technically savvy, and imaginative songs that will appeal to kids and their parents. Tight harmonies, peppy tempos, catchy tunes, and memorable messages make the 11 original songs and one cover rise above the usual kiddie fare. Frank Gallo continues with his strong vocals as lead singer and cowriter for the group (with cowriter Andrew Tuzhilin). Band members and special guests contribute their talents to give great success to this album. The opening song, “Rolie Polie Guacamole,” details visiting a Mexican restaurant and eating the delicious food. Other highlights include the Latin-flavored “Ac̨aí” (about the South American palm fruit), “Brush Your Teeth” (an upbeat encouragement to do this activity each night), “Hello My Name Is” (a creative introduction to the members of the band, who are then featured in short solos), and “Red Light, Green Light” (a safety-conscious song about crossing the street). Additionally, their cover of the classic Woody Guthrie song “This Land Is Your Land” presents the classic to a new generation of listeners—it opens with a bongo drum and marimba solo. VERDICT A first purchase for those looking for fresh, original material for their children’s music collection.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH Deep Woods Revival. Performed by Red Yarn. CD. approx. 43 min. Red Yarn Productions. 2015. $12.99. K-Gr 5–Red Yarn (Andy Furgeson) follows up his debut album, 2013's The Deep Woods, with this engaging offering. Continuing to focus on animal-themed American folk music, Furgeson, a musician and puppeteer based in Portland, OR, adapts classic folk songs, giving them rich melodies filled with guitars, harmonica, and fiddle and featuring clear lyrics that just beg listeners to sing along. Part 1 of the album is billed as being for “Everyone” and contains old favorites such as “Skip to My Lou” and “Ain’t Gonna Rain” and closes out with the beautiful, slow-tempoed “Buckeye Jim.” Part 2 is for “Brave Kids and Grown Ups” and contains the album’s two original songs, title track “Deep Woods Revival” and “Crosseyed Gopher” as well as the heavier, chant-filled “Grizzly Bear.” With most songs coming in at around three minutes, they could easily be used in storytime or the classroom. VERDICT A solid addition to any collection but a must-have for those where Americana folk groups such as the Okee Dokee Brothers are popular.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, Illinois ginalina2redstarForest Friends’ Nature Club Album. Performed by Ginalina. CD. 37:30 min. Ginalina. 2015. $9.99. PreS-Gr 3–Vancouver-based Ginalina returns with her second album for families. Inspired by her own clan’s adventures in the forests of British Columbia, the 15 original songs in this collection reflect all of the joys found in nature. Whether the theme of the song is the colors of the rainbow, the world of honeybees, finding shapes in nature, or comparing the parts of a tree to “the parts of me,” Ginalina’s pure, beautiful voice blends with a variety of instruments including mandolin, Wurlitzer, and kazoo to create educational yet highly entertaining tunes. One of the songs, “La vie est belle,” is first performed entirely in French, then, at the end of the album, in English; “Play…Jouer” is a bilingual English/French echo song. VERDICT This gentle gem will be a hit with teachers, librarians, and parents.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL Great Pretenders Club. Performed by The Pop Ups. CD. 35 min. Pop Up City Records. 2015. $9.99. PreS-K–Jason Rabinowitz and Jacob Stein of The Pop Ups here perform 11 original songs in various rock styles, electro-pop, and hip-hop. Inspired by the essential role of play in childhood development, the musicians set out to engage kids in imaginative play as a means of exploration and learning. The various musicians give excellent performances on guitar, bass, piano, synth, violin, viola, cello, saxophone, flute, ocarina, trombone, trumpet, drums, and percussion. A children’s chorus joins in on several of the songs, which include “Pretend We Forgot,” “We Live in an Orchestra,” “On Air,” “Googly Eyes,” “Indoor Picnic,” “Bird & Rhino,” “Stuff,” “Animal Birthday Party,” “Treasure Hunter,” “Make a Rainbow,” and “Great Pretenders Club.” VERDICT These lively and playful tunes will greatly appeal to young listeners.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library I Like To Dance and Sing. Performed by Patty Shukla. CD. 30 min. Shukla Music. 2015. $7. PreS-Gr 3–Shukla presents 13 original, energetic, upbeat songs in rock, tango, jazz, and pop musical styles. Shukla's husband and children also get in on the act, helping out with instruments (guitar, bass, violin, keyboards, drums, and percussion) and vocals. A couple of songs—“Potty Time” and “Pop the Bubbles”—are suitable for toddlers, while other songs—“Trick or Treat” and “Reduce, Reuse & Recycle”—are more appropriate for elementary-age children. Other songs include "I Like To Dance" (with participatory movement)," "Feelings," "Going on a Trip," "Bananas," "I'm a Fish," "Be Responsible," "Mommy's Got a Baby in her Belly" (with a child as lead vocalist), "I Can Tango," and "Mommy and Me" (also featuring a child as lead vocalist). VERDICT This album will have the whole family dancing and jiving!–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library 61cEKFHCIjL._SY355___1459457867_96363redstarLaurie Berkner’s Favorite Classic Kids’ Songs. Performed by Laurie Berkner. 2 CDs. 129 min. Two Tomatoes Records. 2015. $13.98. PreS-Gr 2–Berkner goes back to her roots as a preschool music specialist, performing 51 traditional songs with her own unique arrangements in folk, rock, hip-hop, jazz, and reggae musical styles. The album also contains six of her original songs that were featured on previous albums. Berkner’s vocals soar on these great selections, and her guest musicians, including Brady Rymer, give terrific performances on guitar, bass, keyboard, fiddle, upright bass, banjo, piano, saxophone, trumpet, drums, and melodica. Berkner’s line-up of traditional songs includes such classics as “The Animal Fair,” “Children Go Where I Send Thee,” “New River Train,” “Shortnin’ Bread,” “Loch Lomond,” “All the Pretty Little Horses,” “The Cat Came Back,” “White Coral Bells,” “Little Red Caboose,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Erie Canal.” Among Berkner’s six original bonus songs are “Victor Vito” and “Rocketship Run.” VERDICT This album is a bonanza for Berkner’s many fans and should be in every children’s music collection.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library Mighty Wolf. Performed by Jeff & Paige. CD. 51 min. CD Baby. 2015. $15. PreS-Gr 3–Jeff Kagan and Paige Doughty explore nature themes in these 12 original songs performed in various rock styles, bluegrass, folk, and Renaissance canzonetta (an a capella round). They visit such topics as keystone species, butterfly migration, arctic adaptations, lightning safety, and scavengers. A couple of songs encourage participatory movement. Guest musicians give excellent performances on piano, synthesizer, guitar, violin, drums, and bass. A short narrative introduction appears before each song. The album includes “Mighty Wolf,” “Triple Rainbow,” “Aphid Banquet for Two,” “Black Widow,” “Beaver,” “Dead and Delicious,” “Ungulate,” “Grandma Gatewood” (who hiked the Appalachian Trail in her senior years), “Lightning,” “The Arctic’s Freezing,” “That’s Not the Way,” and “The Great Monarch Migration.” VERDICT This is a fabulous album for introducing nature concepts to children.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library redstarNursery Rhyme Parade! Performed by Lisa Loeb. CD. 32 min. Furious Rose Productions. 2015. $12.99. PreS-K–Loeb’s newest album for children focuses on 35 nursery rhymes that every child should know. Loeb’s beautiful, gentle voice, backed by soothing acoustic accompaniment, is perfectly paired with traditional nursery rhymes such as “Peter Piper” and “Baa, Baa Black Sheep” as well as traditional songs such as “This Old Man” and “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.” From its opening song, an a capella version of “ABC,” to its closing song, an acoustic version of “ABC,” there is not a miss to be found. VERDICT Nursery rhymes are an important aspect of early childhood literacy, making this well-produced collection a must-have for storytimes, preschool classes, and families.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL Put Our Heads Together! Performed by Hot Peas 'n Butter. CD. 41 min. Danny Lapidus. Dist. by iTunes. 2015. $9.99. K-Gr 3–On their seventh album, Hot Peas 'n Butter present 10 lively original songs in rock, hip-hop, world pop, dance hall, and bachata/reggaeton musical styles. The musicians create accomplished background instrumentals using guitar, piano, mandolin, ukulele, bass, saxophone, drums, and percussion. Children from the Brooklyn Children’s Theater and the Gowanus Music Club lend their enthusiastic voices to several songs. “Amistad” features kindie star Dan Zanes. Lew Soloff, formerly of Blood Sweat and Tears, lends his talents to “Hot Peas ‘n Butter Redux.” “Fresh Spokes” is performed in three arrangements: hip-hop, acoustic, and dance remix. The other songs include “Seasons,” “No Bullies,” “Put Our Heads Together,” “Colores,” “Here at Last,” and “Graduation Day.” VERDICT This excellent production will appeal to children and grown-ups alike.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library 2835+x+2490CDcover+_1___1459457923_18728Rocksteady. Performed by Josh & the Jamtones. CD. 43 min. Josh & the Jamtones. 2015. $9.99. K-Gr 5–Josh & the Jamtones return with their unique brand of ska/rock for children. The high-octane original music starts with “Race U” and continues through “I <3 UR Face”; the title track, “Rocksteady”; and “I Love You,” a duet with Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, before finally slowing down a bit with “Katmandu.” Driving beats fueled by drums, guitars, and occasional wailing horns dare listeners to sit still (be warned: you will fail every time). The clever lyrics are easy to follow, and sing-alongs are frequently encouraged. There are several breaks in the music for quick blips from faux radio station WJAM. These breaks feature items such as a caller who doesn’t realize a request line is for music, not pizza; a money-market update; and a woman who is frustrated with her husband’s response to her desire to watch a Lifetime movie, which will be funny to adults but less accessible to young listeners. These interludes probably work very well in a live performance situation, but on an album filled with such fun music, they detract from rather than add to the listening experience. VERDICT A solid offering for children and parents who desire clean lyrics but music with a little edge to it.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL Smiles Ahead: Cool Music for Cool Families. Performed by various artists. 37 min. Mighty Mo Productions. 2015. $9.99. PreS-Gr 3–Kansas City–based independent record label Mighty Mo Productions offers their first album, a compilation of themed music for kids, recorded by various performers and with copyright dates from 2007 to 2015. The theme for this collection comes from its title—upbeat kids' music that will appeal to families. Opening with Brady Rymer & the Little Band That Could (“Jump Up”), the 13 songs on the album include works by The Okee Dokee Brothers (“Walking with Spring”), The Pop-Ups (“Box of Crayons”), Frances England (“The Sun Will Shine Again”), Secret Agent 23 Skidoo (“You’re It"), Rissi Palmer (“Best Day Ever”), Mista Cookie Jar (“Gratitude”), and Caspar Babypants (“Happy Heart”). VERDICT An eclectic selection that will be an optional purchase, particularly if your library already has a strong collection of kindie music.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH Up to Something Good. Performed by Sunshine Collective. 38 min. Mystefire Records. 2015. $14.95. Gr 4-8–The duo known as Sunshine Collective (Stephanie Richards and Brian Arbuckle) turn up the dials on love, happiness, and enjoyment of life. The 11 original offerings composed by lead singer Richards and composer/songwriter/producer Arbuckle are mostly feel-good pop tunes, with a few ballads to mix up the tempo. Most tunes are bouncy and uplifting; all are singable. Lyrics are clean, their meanings left open to interpretation. Richards’s experience as a cabaret singer in New York shows in her slick, jazzy performance of selections such as “Misplaced Love” and “Somebody Somewhere.” Her clear soprano voice is well matched to light, peppy tunes such as “Love Is the Way,” “I Love You,” and “The Open.” Another standout is the title song, a rocking pop track whose bridge hints of James Bond–style spy-movie soundtrack music. Full instrumentation by fine musicians adds depth and dimension to each song. VERDICT Given the innocent, open nature of the song lyrics, this will especially appeal to tween-aged girls who are fans of Colbie Caillat or Taylor Swift, as well as parents who are looking for music that is “safe” to play during family time, with lyrics that are more sophisticated than the usual kid-performer fare.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH Veronica De Fazio is a longtime children’s music reviewer for SLJ and Head of Youth Services at the Plainfield Public Library District, IL.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.