28 June 2009

mr. RAY - Welcome to the Music Room CD Review

A couple Sundays ago in a swanky New Jersey hotel, "Welcome to the Music Room", mr. RAY's 4th family album, was officially released upon the world.

The crowd that gathered to greet the new tunes was strong and very familiar with mr. RAY's oeuvre.

Ray Anderson played a mix of old and new, balancing the need to please his obviously devoted fan base with their favorites while also ushering in his new musical ideas.

The show, having taken place in the notably sterile ballroom of the Hendrich Hotel, lacked the energy typically associated with a mid-day kiddie rock show. Not sure if there was a volume ordinance in the space or what, but the music was muted and I have to think the location itself was the genesis of the problem. Standing in the rear of the room I could hear nary a lyric and, from back there, the instrumentation was indistinguishable.

Even a well known electric guitar was all but silenced inside the hotel's ballroom. Bobby Bandiera of Bon Jovi's touring band lent his guitar and vocal talents on two "Welcome to the Music Room" tracks and was also in the building for this special occasion. He joined mr. RAY, the band, and a 6 member kid's chorus for the baseball themed "Gameday" and The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun".

The show was kinda disappointing...the new mr. RAY disc? Read on...

"Welcome to the Music Room" is titled too heavily towards the educational side of the kids music spectrum
(months of the year, manners, clean up time, personal responsibility). Artists wishing to craft instructional kiddie tunes must often barter silliness for lyrical tutelage. On "Welcome to the Music Room" mr. RAY makes such an exchange, trading a bit a fun for a 1/2 day nursery school curriculum. It's no surprise then that "Welcome to the Music Room" is best suited for preschoolers and kindergartners, ages 2-5.

In many ways, the record release show epitomizes the record itself - an enjoyable enough affair but one that lacks a certain punch. Even on "Let's Rock", the song with the most rockin' out potential, the rock-n-roll "umph" is subdued to the point that the kids and I are never actually moved to rock out.

While the music won't knock you out, the album's numerous infectious choruses (often the moments where a kid's glee club joins vocal forces with mr. RAY) will find a way into your head. For example, I cannot stop singing the lines "Do you know the months of the year, do you want to learn them with me...January starts a new year / February who's your Valentine?" This encapsulates the mystery of this record for me. Musically, "Welcome to the Music Room" leaves me feeling a tad chilly yet many of the harmonies here are so very contagious that I find myself coming back for seconds.

If you're confused about my take on mr. RAY's "Welcome to the Music Room", welcome to the club.

With enjoyable tracks like "King Butterfly and Little Whale" (where the lesson of the song is more subtle and wrapped inside a nice story), "Tick Tock Rock" and the aforementioned "Gameday" and "Months of the Year", this is a CD that many children will take great pleasure in hearing over and over again...and many parents will inexplicably find themselves singing under their breath as they commute to work.

Visit mr. RAY's website and listen to a medley of the entire new record.

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