It feels like forever since I reviewed a CD. Here are three somewhat shorter reviews of some quality kiddie music passing through my ears recently...
Ernie and Neal "Rock the House"
There is certainly a bias one possess when you're about to listen to a record (as there is with picking up a book or just about anything else in life). When I sat down to listen to Ernie and Neal's "Rock the House", the latest effort from this classic rock-cum-kids music duo, I had a positive bias heading in. I really wanted to like it. After all, they are from my neck o' the woods, are appreciated by the WXPN Kids' Corner crowd and have a reputation for stellar live performances. However, with all that being said, "Rock the House" leaves a little something to be desired. The first couple spins were pleasant enough on the ears. The recording quality, while solid, does give the impression of being homemade despite the name of a studio credited inside the sleeve. The main problem with "Rock the House" is the music itself. After a while, the tunes lose their charm as the lyrics repeatedly let you down and the straight-forward instrumentation, which forms a patchwork quilt of genres, does not do nearly enough to hold your attention. At its best "Rock the House" invokes a workman-like pathos - not brilliant songs but a good-old-college-try feeling from two guys who clearly love what they do. At its worst, Ernie and Neal's sound recalls Poison, you know C.C. Deville, Brett Michaels and gang (you may not hear that reference, but I cannot help but imagining the "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" video from 20 years ago). There is just something here that does not resonate with me, neither the lyrical content nor the music itself gets me or my three year old excited to listen repeatedly. I imagine that seeing and hearing the guys bring these tunes to life on stage would change my mind about their sound, by all accounts their performances are terrific, but this record and the recording doesn't successfully capture the energy and excitement that the Ernie & Neal name carries with it. One caveat, from a music standpoint I come from a decidedly angular/noisy/etc indie rock background which could very well be why "Rock the House" doesn't work for me. I did not grow up listening to commercial FM radio or classic rock. For any family that enjoys Bob Seeger, George Thorogood and the like or even a little Jimmy Buffett will more than likely derive a fair amount of sonic pleasure from these thirteen tracks.
Official Ernie & Neal website
Head on over to The Pokey Pup, pick up a copy and give it a shot.
The Terrible Twos "If you ever see an Owl"
Hook filled toddler & preschool rock from ex-Get Up Kids Matt Pryor. Absolutely infectious lyrics and melodies, one of those children's discs that you will be drawn to even when you are riding solo in the family car. "The Math Stomp" contains one of the more clever lyrical phrases you will ever hear, in kids or adult music - "the rules start to change when we start to multiply. the T turns to X but we still keep the equal sign." The cut "Smickey" cracks my youngster up every time - seriously, when are burp and fart humor ever NOT funny? And the little baby trying to say excuse me? Great stuff. This CD has turned out to be an instant hit which makes me pretty happy. I feel like I have come full circle here. Way back in the day, a band on MindWalk, my defunct record label, played a couple gigs with the Get Up Kids, long before they were putting hundreds or even thousands of fannies in the seats. Now, my little lady is digging the vocal extension of that same band. Very cool.
Official Terrible Twos website
Preview the whole darn record here.
Buy it today from The Pokey Pup and get free Terrible Twos temporary tattoos (yikes, say that really fast a few times).
Johnny Cash "The Johnny Cash Childrens Album"
The Pokey Pup featured this 1975 record-now available on CD in their latest email newsletter which reminded me to include it here. I love Cash and love this album. I picked it up at the Library a couple months ago and my girl has been intrigued and enthralled by the easy to understand-and-follow-along with storytelling voice of Johnny Cash as he tells of "Nasty Dan" (which you may know from the famous duet with Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street), dinosaurs, explains hilariously why fire engines are always the color red, tours water fountains, the ABCs (one of the more clever alphabet songs you'll hear) and more. I never thought about it before, but is any legendary musician more suited for childrens music than Johnny Cash (I would love to hear John Prine give it a try)? I had no idea this CD even existed but I am sure glad I found it buried in the library bin and I'm excited that The Pokey Pup is bringing it to light. I figured OWTK should do it's part as well to let folks know that this record is out there.
Cash works through 16 tracks in just under 39 minutes. Perfect length of songs for even the littlest ones. Pick up a copy today from The Pokey Pup for under $12!