Kids’ music: a review in three parts

by DaniGirl on May 16, 2008 · 7 comments

in Consumer culture, Reviews, promotions and giveaways

Thanks to the quirks of Canada Post and Amazon, I received three new CDs in the mail one day this week. (Can we pause for a minute here and reflect that the idea of buying CDs has become vaguely anachronistic, while I clearly remember not only when the technology debuted but was an adult when I capitulated to the death of vinyl and bought my first CD. And now that technology is on the way out. Crap I’m old. But that’s not what this post is about. Shake it off.)

Ahem, yes. CDs. I had signed on to be part of a MotherTalk review of a new kids’ CD and DVD called, rather uninspiredly, That Baby CD and That Baby DVD. My spot on the blog tour was last Saturday, but the package didn’t make it across the border until this week. While waiting and checking my mailbox daily last week, I happened to catch the Barenaked Ladies on Regis and whassername (I swear, it was only on because I had been listening to Canada AM while I nursed the baby!) performing a song from their new kids’ CD, and Simon loved it so much that he was singing along by the second chorus. I knew I had an unused Amazon gift certificate from a previous MotherTalk review, so I used it to buy the new Barenaked CD and Amazon nicely suggested I might like the CD For the Kids to go along with it. I’d been meaning to check that one out for ages, so with two clicks they were both on the way. All three arrived on the same day this week.

The MotherTalk tour for That Baby CD and DVD is officially closed, but since they were nice enough to send me the free stuff, I’ll say a few things about them. I loved the fact that the CD was packed up to look like a 45 RPM record. Very cute! And the musical selections were nice enough. Imagine a few rock “classics” crunched up and folky-ized, so they come out sounding like folky muzak. (‘Classics’ is in quotation marks because the songs generally stuck me as lesser-known B-side tracks by artists like Springsteen, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon.) Benign enough, and pleasant background music, but not really to my taste. I have a minor issue with the idea that kids’ music should be dumbed down to pander to kids. The DVD is the CD with accompanying videos, a kind of a cross between the old Sesame Street and Baby Einstein. Meh. It was okay, and I’m happy to have it to play for Lucas (in between Sponge Bob and the Wiggles) but I honestly can’t recommend that you rush out and buy it. It’s nice to have, but I’m glad it was free, yanno?

The next CD was For the Kids. This is much better. It’s an inversion of the previous formula — kids’ music redone by popular artists to give it some life. Sarah Mclachlan does a cover of The Rainbow Connection that will go into regular rotation on my iPod, along with Raine Maida and Chantal Kreviazuk doing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I will enjoy listening to this one.

But the best, by a country mile, was the Barenaked Ladies new CD for kids, Snack Time. At the risk of tangentizing this post to death, I must admit that I am an old skool BNL fan. The first indie bootleg cassette (CASSETTE, people!) I ever owned was a copy of their pre-Gordon indie album, back in 1989 or so. They feel like old friends to me, and so I have a considerable affection-laden bias toward them. When I heard that they were doing an album for kids, I had an inkling it would be a lot of fun. I was right.

I love it.

It’s BNL at their best – silly, whimsical, clever and playful. The music has real energy behind it, which is something that the first CD in this review was lacking. Aside from the musicality, though, it’s the lyrics that make these songs endearing. A few of my favourite tidbits:

  • From ‘789’, based on the old joke, why is six afraid of seven? Because seven ‘ate’ nine: “Once upon a time in our solar system / We couldn’t make due without 9 / But Pluto’s not a planet now / So 8 will do fine.”
  • From the punny ‘Raisins’: “When I make mistakes / I use a lot of salt / Because salt makes m’steaks taste great.”
  • And from the patter woven into the Crazy Alphabet Song, which features almost an entire alphabet of silent letter words: “Ancient Chinese river, eh? My guitar player, some hotshot…” (You have to be of a certain vintage to recognize that one. Truly, where do they come up with this stuff? Priceless!)

I also learned that Geddy Lee and I both favour BBQ chips as a snack.

I first popped this CD into the player in the van when I had to run an afternoon errand with Simon and Lucas while Tristan was at school. By the time I was on my way home, both boys were asleep, the sun was shining in a brilliant blue sky, and I had most of a warm Tim Horton’s coffee with me. I spent the best part of a blissful hour driving loops through the countryside, delaying our return home so I could continue to listen to more of this delightful CD.

This CD may in fact be the thing that helps keep us sane on our planned 20+ hours in the car later this month when we set off across the province on a road trip to see family in Windsor. And hey, I just noticed when I was putting in the links for this post, you can download 789 and watch the video on the BNL website, and they’ll be on CBC kids on Monday to perform songs from the album. Kewl!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 alison May 16, 2008 at 8:58 am

Please tell me you’re stopping elsewhere on your trip to Windsor if it’s taking you 20+ hours. Even on my own with the girls, making stops at every highway rest stop for bathroom breaks and Timmie’s coffee for me, it’s never taken us more than 9.5 hours. Mind you, I tend to ummm, speed just a little.

I want the BNL CD for the girls, it sounds great. Good CDs help in the car, as do books on CD, (we listened to the first Harry Potter on a trip up to a Quebec cottage last summer), and (hopefully Andrea isn’t reading this, lol) the portable CD player is good for when the games of road ABCs, and let’s-look-for-cows/haystacks/blue pickup trucks pall, which they tend to do for my girls after a couple of hours in the car. I found some activity books at Dollarama that kept them occupied from Windsor to Oshawa on the way home last time. We didn’t even need the DVDs that time.

Good luck, have fun, and thanks for the heads-up on the BNL CD.

2 DaniGirl May 16, 2008 at 10:40 am

Alison, don’t get it for the girls, get it for yourself!! 😉

The trip down will actually only take nine or 10 hours, broken into two days with an overnight at my brother’s place outside of Toronto. But we have to come home again, thus the other 10ish hours. Our first roadtrip not only as a party of five, but with the new van. Fingers crossed!

3 alison May 16, 2008 at 11:04 am

Oh yeah, I forgot the coming home part of the trip. Well that explains it. Note to self: more coffee before posting.

4 valerie May 16, 2008 at 9:45 pm

We got For the Kids from the library – Sarah loves Mahna Mahna, though I prefer the muppets version. We all love the hoppity song, though, and always crank it up.

I just heard about the BNL CD on the news tonight – will have to get that one for sure. Does it have Lalalala Lemon? Another fave here.

5 snackmommy2 May 16, 2008 at 9:52 pm

I was reading a parenting mag last month that mentioned the CD, and then I forgot about it…..thanks for the review! I may actually break down and buy my first ever “kids CD”.

6 Sheila July 7, 2008 at 3:07 am

Thanks for the ideas. I just got “For the kids” from the library, and have just bought BNL’s “Snacktime”. I am sure they will help on our SK to ON and back again road-trip this summer.
To recommend some back, we love our CDs by Al Simmons including “Something’s Fishy at Camp Wiganishie” and “The Truck I Bought From Moe”, both filled with punderful jokes and very catchy songs. He’s a friend of Fred Penner’s from Manitoba, and has made some very funny music videos. His shows have been hugely popular at the Children’s Festival. You can hear some song samples at his website.
Other family favourites are the book-and-CD combinations from Sandra Boynton: Philadelphia Chickens, Dog Train and Blue Moo. These are filled with very singable songs, funny jokes, cute animal cartoons, and parodies of Broadway show tunes, blues songs and songs from the 50s and 60s. Check out the song “I want to be your personal penguin” from the Blue Moo album, sung by Davy Jones of the Monkees!

Hope your road trip is a great success!

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