Wake Up The Dream Performed by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo is back! This Amazon Original album, 23 Skidoo’s first full length venture since the GRAMMY winning Infinity Plus One, is set during a show on WREM Dreamtime Radio where all-original hip hop, R&B, funk and soul tunes are played. Each song on this album has its own unique style and flair yet they all work together united by the same theme of exploring your dreams and imagination. Things kick off with the totally funkadelic title track which urges listeners, “Life can be what you want it to be, you gotta dream it first then wake it up.” This tune is quickly followed by the haunting “Where Did the Magic Go,” which is a song about a dragon and a unicorn discussing the loss of magic because of so much screen time but is set to a gorgeous, haunting 1960s melody that would fit right in playing in the background at Pop’s ChockLit Shoppe (yes, that’s a Riverdale reference!). Several additional songs including “Dreaming Again” and “Broken Dreams” would also be right at home spinning on the jukebox.

The lead vocals and instrumentations by a whole host of guest artists are just out of this world. 23 Skidoo’s vocal rhymes are on full display on “Makeshift Spaceship” and on the hip hop version of the Chinese folk tale, “The Stonecutter,” while “You Caught My Eye” brings back the character Pickles the Pirate who tells in true pirate fashion his tale of falling in love with his wife the mermaid. All of the songs feature incredibly well-crafted lyrics, but it is “Black & White Squares” that has the greatest impact, using the imagery of a chess board to illustrate the issues facing society and how we can change the rules.

This entire album is powerful, yet totally fun to listen to. And that’s the Secret Agent 23 Skidoo way. Families with older children will love this album. It’s smart, filled with complex melodies and sounds like something kids might hear on the “grown-up” radio stations. And grown ups, be prepared, there’s a very good chance you’ll be listening to this even when the kids aren’t around!

Music Video Debut: “Camping Song”

Just before the July 4th holiday I reviewed Andy Z’s new album, Camp Andyland. Now, just a little over a week later comes a brand new video for “Camping Song,” the seventh track on the album.

This video features live versions of Andy Z. (with guitar) and two teen campers inside the animated world of Camp Andyland. Throughout the song, especially during the chorus, the campers do movements that go along with the lyrics to create interactive moments for the viewers. Well-executed, animated characters from Camp Andyland seamlessly interact with Andy and the campers adding to the overall whimsical feel. This video for “Camping Song” is the perfect complement to the upbeat fun of the track. Enjoy (but watch out for those banana slugs)!

Camp Andyland Performed by Andy Z

Summer is the time of year when kids start heading off to camp. For some it’s overnight camp, for some day camp, and for others camp for just a weekend. For those hanging out at home this summer, there’s a new fictional camp filled with musical adventures just waiting for them.

 

Camp Andyland  is the newest entry in the Andyland series from Andy Z (aka Andreas Zamenes). At Camp Andyland, campers/listeners are welcomed to camp, then treated to a delightful array of songs filled with fun lyrics that will make campers singalong. Each of the original songs tells a story that is packed with information wrapped in beautiful melodies like “Butterfly” and upbeat romps like “Drink More Water.” Throughout their time at Camp Andyland, listeners are invited to go stargazing in “Galaxy Song,” join in the hijinx in the “Pirate Song” and imagine what it would be like if “I Went to a Party with Dinosaurs.” While at camp, they enjoy old favorites like “Sticky Bubblegum” and “Row Your Boat” while learning new nature songs about “Squirrely Squirrel,” “Bizzy Bee,” and “La Araña Pequenita.”

 

 

 

Camp Andyland is a true joy from beginning to end. And speaking of end, I love that Andy Z carried the theme of the album all the way through to the details on the back of the CD packaging, including not just a song list, but a Camp Andyland Roster , a schedule of the day’s events while at camp and even emergency numbers for the Vet (555-PAWZ) and the Dino Doctor (555-RAWR).

 

 

Check out the video for “Drink More Water” below. I never thought that a song about the need to drink more water throughout the day would be catchy and fun to sing, but this song definitely proved me wrong! (Love the movements that would make this an easy addition to a program!!)

 

Time to Hit the Road!

It’s that time of year when families are packing up their SUVs and heading to destinations near and far. Whether you’re driving a couple of towns over to go camping or taking that long road trip to Disney World, this playlist, put together by the folks at Sugar Mountain PR, is the perfect accompaniment to any car ride. Filled with fresh new singles as well as some favorites from 2017, this summer-centric playlist is filled with fun road trip tunes. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!

Jessie Baylin – “It’s the Summertime”
Kira Willey – “Brand New Day”
Best Coast – “Cats and Dogs”
Hot Peas N Butter – “Big World Kid”
Ants Ants Ants – “Six Pickup Sticks”
Gunnar Madsen – “Divine Bovine”
Splash and Bubbles – “One Big Ocean”
The Bazillions – “Summer’s Here”
Justin Roberts – “Lemonade”
Lucky Diaz – “Paletero Man”
Lisa Loeb – “Inch Worm”
Sara Lovell – “Wild is Everywhere”

Full STEAM (or is it STEM) Ahead!

There are so many different learning styles. Some children learn best by reading things. Some learn best by seeing things. Some by doing things. Sometimes a combination of these. And then there are those of us who learn best from music. I’m a member of that last group. I like to think of those in my age group as The School House Rock generation. We are those kids who spent Saturday mornings learning about science, math, grammar and more – all set to music that was so catchy, we can still sing all the words to “I’m Just a Bill” and “Conjunction Junction.”  Over the years, I’ve often thought if all of my school subjects had been set to music, they would still be in my brain alongside the lyrics to every song from my teen years. And that’s where the three albums below come in.

As we all know, there is a great emphasis on STEM education in our schools. But sometimes, if you don’t have the most analytical brain or that much of an interest in these subject areas, it’s hard to remember all of the concepts. And that is the beauty of these albums. Each album takes a different approach to STEM subjects and each employs different musical styles, but they all set the STEM concepts to music in a manner that will have kids learning without even realizing it.

 

 

First up, the duo of Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer mark their 35th album collaboration with Zoom a Little Zoom! A Ride Through Science. In this collection Fink and Marxer create contemporary arrangements of 10 songs that were written by Hy Zaret, composed by Lou Singer and released in 1961 as part of the educational collection, Ballads for the Age of Science.  With this modern update songs that cover topics such as what makes lightning, the constellations, what makes an insect an insect and gravity are allowed to shine in a way that will appeal to today’s young listeners. 

 

 

Kidz STEM Songz is more than just a compilation of songs, it is two full albums and a DVD of music videos. Collected and compiled by children’s music artist Dan Crow and his partners at KidzMusic Records, the first CD in this box set is Crow’s 2016 album of STEM focused songs, Concoctions. The five songs on this album cover simple math concepts, technology and the fact that science is all around us. The album also includes five karoake tracks of these songs to encourage kids to sing along. The second album in this set is KidzMusic’s STEAM. The 15 songs on this album cover topics from the genius of Einstein to botany. Each track is performed by a varied group of children’s artist ranging from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band to Jonathan Sprout to Eric Ode and Danny Weinkauf. This box set is definitely a one of a kind.

 

 

Finally, enter the world of STEM with Giants of Science by the dynamic duo The Pop Ups. On this, their fifth album, Brooklyn-based musicians Jason Rabinowitz and Jacob Stein let their songwriting and performing talents loose on ten new songs. A very high production value makes each of these tracks ready for play on the radio or TV. In fact, listeners of SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live will already be familiar with the fun, question-filled tune, “How Do We Know.” Covering everything from shadows and inventors to space and time, The Pop Ups unique style of music will keep family members of all ages engaged and asking for more.

Hand in Hand Performed by Suzi Shelton

You know when you listen to a Suzi Shelton album you’re in for a good time and Hand in Hand is no exception. A joy to listen to from beginning to end, Shelton’s latest album showcases her own brand of upbeat pop music filled with feel-good melodies and catchy lyrics. Each song is moderately paced allowing listeners to catch every word making each tune highly singable, while the arrangements are sophisticated yet simple enough to allow a variety of instruments (saxophone, electric guitar, trombone) to shine.

Several of the tracks on Hand in Hand would work well in storytime or early childhood programming. The opening song, “Put Your Hands in the Air,” is a great movement song that is performed fast enough to hold the attention of the young participants, but slow enough for them to catch the instructions that take them from making a joyful sound to stomping their feet to jumping up and down. “Ladybugs” could be made into a fun, interactive song using flannel board pieces, ladybugs on sticks, etc. as the participants count down from five to one in this jazzy version of the traditional rhyme. The tune “Blue Fin” would be fun to use with scarves as different colored “fins” are swimming in the water.

Additional highlights include the very poppy “Never Let You Go,” the island vibe of “River Come Down” and “Raindrop” which incorporates a fantastic new version of “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring.” Much like most of the songs on this album,”The Grass is Always Greener,” a duet with GRAMMY winner and former Sprout TV host Tim Kubart, will have listeners singing and smiling along.

Hand in Hand is a true delight that should not be missed!

High Five! Performed by Laura Doherty

I have been a fan of Laura Doherty since I first heard her charming album Shining Like a Star (2011). From the very beginning, her ability to craft relatable lyrics set to developmentally appropriate tempos spoke to her experience as an early childhood educator, starting with her time as the director of Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music’s Wiggleworms program. With each album Doherty has honed her craft as a songwriter and performer resulting in High Five!, her best album to date.

Coming in at a brief 27 minutes, Doherty packs a lot of fun and musical talent into the 10 songs in this collection. Her signature folk-pop style shines along with the light, airy melodies and catchy lyrics of songs that cover a wide variety of topics including – the first day of school, making friends, lucky charms, different types of pasta and Paulette the Purple Dragonette. Wonderful, complex instrumentations support but never overwhelm Doherty’s lovely soprano. A perfect example being the title song, “High Five.” Featuring a really funky groove, this tune lets the brass section shine while Doherty encourages listeners to get up and move while trying out dances like the Locomotion and The Twist.

Other highlights include the earworm song of the record, “Muddy Puddles” (I’m pretty sure I’ll be singing that chorus in my sleep), Doherty’s duet with mutli-GRAMMY nominee Justin Roberts on “Can’t Wait to Turn 8” and the really touching final track, “Wonderful 1.”

Laura Doherty’s albums are the best kind of children’s music – lyrics are sung from the point of view of a child, songs are short enough to use in programs and storytimes, and the tunes are so catchy and well-produced that parents won’t go crazy listening to them again and again. High Five! is a must-have for libraries and family listening!

Celebrate Mother’s Day with Tour Guide from Cheri Magill

Released on May 4, Tour Guide is a gorgeous ode to motherhood with all of its ups and downs. Written and performed by Cheri Magill, the 30 minutes of music on this album capture those moments that drive a mom crazy like the Legos you step on everytime you turn around and the TV shows you have to watch that can only appeal to the under six set, as well as the joys of being a parent like the cuddles in the morning and the strength that a child instills in a mother. The theme of unconditional love flows throughout the collection, tying everything together. Rich musical arrangements support Magill’s lovely solo voice which is often reminiscent of Sara Bareilles. Her lyrics paint beautiful vignettes from the daily lives of a mother and a child and will touch the hearts of everyone who listens. While mothers are the target audience for Tour Guide, anyone who has ever acted in the role of a parent will find a deep connection to the songs on this album. Just lovely.

Take a listen to the title track, “Tour Guide,” below.

 

Out Today! La Luna performed by 123 Andrés

For fans of 123 Andrés, Friday the 13th is anything but unlucky! Today marks the release of the new album, La Luna. Filled with lush instrumentations and gorgeous vocals, Andrés Salguero and Christina Sanabria, the husband and wife duo behind 123 Andrés, have hit a new high with this rich collection that takes listeners on an imaginary trip to South America.

Eleven of the twelve songs are performed in Spanish and include a well considered combination of originals, traditional tunes and songs from young composers and cover topics such as counting from one blanket to ten hugs, the various ways the moon is perceived, the flora and fauna saying good night and the end of busy days for children just like those who are listening. 123 Andrés is joined by extremely talented musicians and vocalists like the delightful young sisters Luna and Brisa Beltran, Latin GRAMMY nominees Mariana Baraj, 3 y Cuatro, and Chicago kindie artist Little Miss Ann on a bilingual arrangement of her song, “Fly, Shine, Soar.”

For both Spanish and non-Spanish speakers, La Luna is the perfect accompaniment to those quiet times of the day. To enjoy it, all you have to do is close your eyes and let the music wrap around you like a soft, cuddly blanket while all your worries and cares float away.

Beanstalk Jack performed by Paper Canoe Company

The fairy tale of “Jack and the Beanstalk” has been around for centuries, but this is the first time that it has been presented in such a unique, innovative way. The all-original 16 songs on Beanstalk Jack feature vocals by Paper Canoe co-founders Tami Stronach and Greg Steinbruner, backed by top-notch musicians, and tell the story of a young man bearing a guitar who climbs a beanstalk, meets the Giant, and the Giant’s daughter Harmony. Harmony joins Jack and they run away to follow their musical dreams.

 

The first half of the album relies heavily on a folk/folk-rock sound, paying homage to the sounds of folk greats like Simon and Garfunkel and Woody Guthrie. Once Jack reaches the summit of the beanstalk, the music takes on an almost musical theater quality to its arrangements, with hints of jazz, 50’s rock, pop and more emerging. Familiar elements such as the cow and Jack’s mother are included as well as a very dark and ominous version of “Fee Fi Fo Fum.”  Each song can be enjoyed on its own, but when put all together, they tell a beautiful, thrilling tale that is perfect for family listening.

 

Check out this adorable video for “Hey Wow” from the second half of the album, Beanstalk Jack.

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