The Sound: A big rock-n-roll party, kinda like "The Last Waltz" for kids, with Dean Jones (of Dog on Fleas), The Felice Brothers, Uncle Rock and a handful of others, including Lily McNamara who takes the lead (and nails it!) on the title track and John Hughes (also from Dog on Fleas) who happens to sing 3 of my favorites. I could probably describe the sound of "Rock Paper Scissors" more succinctly by mentioning that "stomping" is given an instrument credit - that pretty much sums up the vibe here.
In the Cafeteria, They Sit With: John and Mark's Children's Record, Dan Zanes, The Band
Best Moments: Since I probably can't get away with simply saying "the entire thing", I'll narrow it down a little bit: It seems the entire collective sings on "Sing Like a Sparrow", a song that employs a bevy of distinct singing styles and uses that vocal diversity to illustrate the song's point - that you should always be who you are. It's a sentiment well represented in the annals of kid's music (heaven knows) but Jones et al. do it with panache and a free-spirited style (much like 23 Skidoo's "Gotta Be Me", however at the other end of the musical style spectrum). "Mama Said No" suggests that you should "put your baby in mud right from the start", an idea that is as absurd as it is funny. "Frenzy" captures the in-the-moment rock-n-roll feeling you can only get by climbing deep inside the music, whether on stage as a player or in the crowd as audience. "Frenzy" is about letting it all go and allowing a music performance to vanquish all of life's worries and troubles. My kids love singing along with songs 17 and 18, the last two on the album - "Tomorrow" with it's simple, yet contagious refrain of "Tomorrow / Hey Hey / Tomorrow / Hey Hey" and the tender "The Little Song" featuring the adorable voice of Rylie Ellis Jones.
Bonus Thoughts: Is it possible that the best kid's album of 2010 has already been released in November of 2009? To maintain some semblance of organization, I maintain a running kid's top 10 list and as of right now "Rock Paper Scissors" is #1 for 2010 - and it's going to take something pretty significant to knock it down from that pedestal.
Bonus Bonus Thought: This is the album The Band would have made if they made a kiddie rock record in 1972. From where I stand, and where I come from musically, there is no greater a compliment I can bestow.
Okay, Time to Wrap it Up with a Nice Little Bow: When the album begins, you feel as though you've just stumbled into a rollicking party, one complete with musicians scattered about on sofas, bar stools, and laying down on creaky hardwood floors - all playing, all singing, all smiling (and all, potentially, bearded). "Rock Paper Scissors" is a peek into Basement Tapes-era musical collaborations, a time before the soul of rock music was corrupted by iPod and car commercials. "Rock Paper Scissors" is from another time. It's got oodles of heart and soul. It's timeless. And it is beautiful.
Buy "Rock Paper Scissors" from The Pokey Pup right now, get free shipping AND receive an MP3 of an exclusive bonus track "Complain".
"Rock Paper Scissors" was provided to OWTK for review. The opinions expressed above are unbiased and true - no arm twisting took place in the review process.