[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 7 most recent journal entries recorded in
|Sunday, March 5th, 2006|
|CD Review: Uncle Moondog, Baloney Cake
Name of CD: Baloney Cake
Artist: Uncle Moondog
Year of Release: 2005
For ages: 2-8
Genre: Children's Pop
There is great news for families who have fallen in love with that amiable canine beachcomber, Uncle Moondog. He now has a whole new batch of songs that will continue to thrill ears and hearts of all ages.
All the trademarks that made the first Uncle Moondog CD a resounding success have returned to Baloney Cake, released in 2005. Platinum-grade production and orchestration continue to bring Mike McManus (a.k.a. Uncle Moondog) to the heights of independent children’s music recording.
The expansive musical variety on the first CD has been met, if not surpassed, by the second. Kids can pop in this CD and dance to a bouncy waltz, strum along with a Hawaiian ukulele, surf to the grooves of the pipeline, or jive to the boogie woogie.
The alumni cast of characters from the Uncle Moondog #1 make a welcome return in Baloney Cake. Timmy the goldfish, Percy the Pelican, Bampy, and even Uncle Moondog’s “Stanky Socks” make their cameos alongside the new friends, who include Paulie the Walrus and even. . .the King! (You’ll have to listen to track 3 to believe this one!)
Every song on Baloney Cake is a treat. Track 5, A Mosquito in my Burrito, gives a great taste of how creative and entertaining this batch of songs really is. Having a mosquito on your burrito is, of course, a common problem on the beaches that Uncle Moondog frequents. Illustrating the song is an unbelievably catchy guitar riff and its harmony, which assume a mosquito-like buzz. The hilarity of the lyrics leads to a wonderful surprise as Uncle Moondog changes keys mid-chorus, and we have to leave it to this agreeable cartoon mixed-breed to show us some fresh things that can be done with music.
With Baloney Cake, McManus has established a series that will draw in new young fans while keeping present Uncle Moondog devotees hungry for his next helping of satisfying creative fare.
You can find out more about Uncle Moondog at www.unclemoondog.com. You can purchase the CD at www.cdbaby.com/cd/unclemoondog2.
|Friday, February 17th, 2006|
|CD Review: Uncle Moondog
Name of CD: Uncle Moondog
Artist: Uncle Moondog
Year of Release: 2003
For ages: 2-8
Genre: Children's Pop
Every once in a while, a children’s CD comes along that children AND their parents will want to play over and over again. That’s the case with Uncle Moondog, a CD guaranteed to utilize a CD player’s “repeat” function many times over.
The secret behind its continual appeal lies, at least partially, in the way it was produced. It seems Uncle Moondog has set a new standard for independent children’s music production. Anybody experienced in studio recording will immediately recognize that Mike McManus (The brains and voice behind the character Uncle Moondog) has either spent countless hours of delicate planning, arranging and tracking in the studio, or he is just utilizing simple genius. Most likely, it’s a combination of both.
One feature of Uncle Moondog that makes it so perpetually satisfying is its instrumentation. Saxophones, harmonicas, banjos, keyboards, and like are always hired by the right songs at the right times. McManus’ deep, animated vocals breathe even more life into the vibrant score. Backing him up in places is a barbershop quartet, and it becomes obvious that no expense or creative sector of the musical imagination has been spared in the making of this recording.
An element that easily hooks kids into playing this CD repeatedly is its arsenal of hilarious voice and sound effects. With all the professional handiwork present on Uncle Moondog, McManus never loses touch with his young audience, and he never stops entertaining throughout the entire CD.
Every track on Uncle Moondog is a treat. The songs build upon themselves as new characters are introduced and old friends from previous songs come back to visit. Listening to the Uncle Moondog CD is a journey that begs to be taken again and again.
You can find out more about Uncle Moondog at www.unclemoondog.com. You can purchase the CD at www.cdbaby.com/cd/unclemoondog.
|Wednesday, February 1st, 2006|
|CD Review: "Alphabet Songs Volume I: Aaron and His Aeroplane" by Steve Weeks
CD Review: “Alphabet Songs Volume I; Aaron and His Aeroplane”
Artist: Steve Weeks
Year of Release: 2002
It’s easy for an artist to slide into a genre and become comfortable there.
It’s harder for an artist to set the terms of his genre, and then break through the limits he sets on himself . . . especially when the genre is children’s music, where it’s often passable for artistry to take a back seat to convention.
But Steve Weeks has not only defined his own songwriting sub-genre on “Alphabet Songs Volume I”, he has surpassed his own boundaries. The result is a CD that’s educational, entertaining, and heartwarming on multiple levels of comprehension.
Writing a tune for “Alphabet Songs Volume I” is a tall order. First, pick a letter of the
alphabet A through H, and write a song around that letter using as much alliteration as
possible. Be sure not to sound trite or inane. Your theme must be cohesive and should grab a child’s attention.
For example, you could write a song using the letter G (track 7). Choose a “spooky” theme, and pack your chorus full of “ghouls, ghosts, goblins, gargoyles and gremlins.”
Most songwriters would find this “alliteration requirement” stifling, but it seems there is
no end to the things Weeks can do with these songs. He can teach world geography (track 1) or give a phonics lesson with a moral at the end (track 5). Weeks can also be subtly ironic and poignant. Take his letter C song (track 3): “If I were a cold, I’d have commitment. . .I’d stick around . . . being unreliable is not for me, so a cold with commitment is what I’d be.”
If this kind of thoughtfulness ever failed to excite, the wildly creative percussion and
spot-on orchestration throughout this CD would stand alone to make “Alphabet Songs Vol. I” a must-listen.
You can find out more about “Alphabet Songs Volume I” at www.steveweeksmusic.com. You can purchase the CD at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/sweeks
|Monday, January 23rd, 2006|
|CD Review: Pencilhead and the Playground Punks
Title: "Super-Powered Underwear"
Artist: Pencilhead and the Playground Punks
Year of Release: 2004
"All I really want to do
Is eat some crayons and some glue
Make a mess of my new clothes
Stick a pencil up my nose . . "
-Pencilhead and the Playground Punks
“The Third Grade Song”
FINALLY DISCOVERED: A kid’s album that is, without a doubt, uncompromisingly for kids and kids only.
“Super-Powered Underwear” by Pencilhead and the Playground Punks takes a refreshing detour from children’s music that is marketed primarily to parents. In the true Punk spirit, “Super-Powered Underwear” shouts the frustrations of the “little people” while giving the ones who hold the pocketbooks barely a glance!
It’s a daring move to cut such an album, but Pencilhead (aka Corbin Anderson) and his Punks have pulled it off splendidly. They made the job easy on themselves by creating music that is immediately likeable while remaining original.
The CD immediately starts off with catchy guitar hooks and chord progressions, like those on the popular “Jared’s Song” (track 1). The opening tracks showcase clean and crisp acoustic guitar sounds that complement Anderson’s strong vocals.
Throughout the meat of the CD is the evidence of thoughtful production. Tight tracks with warm bass sounds help plead the case of Pencilhead’s ADD-inspired childhood angst! Hilarious sound effects placed in the open spaces serve to entertain kids while they are waiting for the next line of the song.
The end of “Super-Powered Underwear” showcases a much needed re-write of the traditional “Birthday Song.” It’s necessarily simple, but not inane and redundant like the original.
Thank you, you. . . you. . . Pencilhead!
You can find out more about Pencilhead and the Playground Punks and purchase the CD "Super-Powered Underwear" at www.pencilheadandtheplaygroundpunks.com.
|A Bean Commentary
Here's what one of our correspondents had to say in response to the Mr. Nicky song “Too Many Beans”; I think you’ll find it quite entertaining. . .
Let’s face it. We’ve all experienced this embarrassing gastrointestinal faux pas. Spare your family and friends this noxious no-no with these 10 alternative means to dispose of those extra beans:
Who ever said beans were strictly an oral thing? Stick them up your nose for a great reduced-emissions, aroma therapy kit. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t ya’ think?
Pop a dried bean in your mouth for a great, long-lasting, low-cal, hard-candy snack.
Stuff a couple handfuls into the bottom of your stanky gym sock. Give it a hefty arc-like swing, and you’ve got a nifty behavior modification device. Guaranteed to improve child compliancy.
Super-Glue one to your forehead and pretend it’s your third eye. (You’ve bean enlightened.) Better yet, glue it to the tip of your nose and run around cackling and screaming “I’m melting! I’m melting!” Your co-workers will love you for it.
Take a close up of one, blow it up, sell it on E-bay to those in need of a new kidney.
Replace the water in your waterbed mattress with dried ones. It’s back therapy, food storage, and a Latin percussion instrument, all in one!
Throw a few bagfuls of dried beans on the floor, cover yourself in Elmer’s glue, roll around on aforementioned legumes and attend the office Halloween party as The Abominable Human Bean.
A 20 pound bag disguised in a flowery case, makes a stellar pillow-fight equalizer. For added fun, switch it with the pillow of someone you love.
Replace your boss’s imported Columbian whole-bean java with a fistful of pinto’s. Be sure to update your resume beforehand.
A cupful of dried beans, a keen eye, and quick snap of the wrist can be a great replacement for that missing TV remote. Not only that, but with the same apparatus, you can “remotely control” other things…like your kids or spouse.
|Monday, December 12th, 2005|
|CD Review: "Ready to Roll" by Rock and Roll Dad and the Mamma Jammaz
Title: Ready to Roll
Artist: Rock and Roll Dad and the Mamma Jammaz
Year of Release: 2004
Genre: Children’s Rock
The Rock and Roll Dad (aka Rob Sepulveda) has put together a fine collection of elementary-aged jams on his 12 song compact disc “Ready to Roll.”
These songs are written with melodic and lyrical hooks that stick the songs into the heads of parents and children alike. The end result is that the Rock and Roll Dad becomes a welcome part of a family’s everyday life. Whether they’re “Down at the Zoo” (track 3) or eating “PB and J” (track 2), families find themselves having fun singing together, thanks to the Rock and Roll Dad and the Mamma Jammaz.
So who are these Mamma Jammaz? They’re cartoon creations of Sepulveda and artist Cori Johnson that will soon be appearing in videos (check your local cable station) and even on stage as puppets. They include Lion and lead guitarist Logan LeRoi, Bassist Ian “The Punk Rock Horse”, Rabbit drummer Bun E. Lee, and Bear keyboardist/percussionist Ramona Holiday.
The artwork on the CD depicting the Mamma Jammaz and the Rock and Roll Dad is splendid; the cartooning is unique yet pleasantly familiar at the same time. The transparent tray card behind the CD showing the faces of the Rock and Roll Dad and the Mamma Jammaz is an added surprise.
The production of the CD itself is also of wonderful quality. Good bass and drum sounds reverberate throughout the songs. The mix of each song is well-balanced, and the equalization and volumes are spot on, demonstrating a fine mastering job.
“Ready to Roll” will make a fine addition to any kids music collection; it will eventually earn its spot in the CD player while Barney’s CD sits upturned gathering dust on the shelf!
You can find the Rock and Roll Dad’s website at rockandrolldad.com. The CD “Ready to Roll” is available at CDBaby.com/mammajammaz.
|Friday, December 2nd, 2005|
A song called “Too Many Beans” may not sound like your traditional Top 40 pop tune. But to kids around the country, it’s a solid gold hit.
Young listeners of XM Satellite Radio have been hearing the “Beans” song climb to number 1 on XM’s award-winning children’s station. As these kids search for the CD online, they’re directed to the website of Chicago-based children’s artist Mr. Nicky.
Mr. Nicky (adults call him Dan Nicky) has been performing children’s songs for 8 years. In 2004, he recorded his debut CD “Rattlesnakes for Breakfast,” which contains his popular song about beans. Thanks to the exposure from XM radio, parents from all over the U.S. are ordering the CD, along with its song about “that musical fruit”, for their kids.
“Too Many Beans” has become a family favorite by steering clear of the crassness expected from a song about beans. The other 9 songs on “Rattlesnakes for Breakfast” also aim to please the parent as well as the child, using clever themes and folksy textures.
Mr. Nicky is enjoying seeing his CD make its way into homes across the nation. “But the most gratifying thing,” says Dan, “was beating the pants off Sponge Bob.”
You can find Mr. Nicky’s website at mrnicky.com. The CD “Rattlesnakes for Breakfast” is available at Amazon.com.