Top 10 kids’ CDsEdgy `Mommy Says No!’ gets an A+

http://www.mlive.com/features/kzgazette/index.ssf?/base/features-2/119928902492270.xml&coll=7

There once was a time you could play a CD marketed for kids and tell it was for kids because of its simplistic music and whiny lyrics.

Not today. Kids’ music has grown up. The best of children’s CDs of 2007 all have one thing in common: They appeal to both children and adults.

“You Only Love Me For My Lunch Box” has a hook so strong that parents may want to hog it for their own listening pleasure.

Parents who grew up on Iggy Pop and the Ramones will jam along with their kids to the head-banging rock of Candy Band’s “Calling All Kids.”

Here are 10 of the best CDs of 2007 for children and youths. All are grade-A efforts except for “Mommy Says No!” — which is an A+. The CDs are all widely available either in stores or on the Internet.

1. “Mommy Says No!” Asylum Street Spankers (Yellow Dog Records, $16.98) — The combination of energy, creativity, great recording quality and edgy lyrics makes this CD the best candidate for children’s CD of the year. The forms of music explored include ragtime, blues, swing, folk, bluegrass and punk. The Spankers have been playing off-kilter roots music with pop stylings for adults since 1995. What a coincidence that the band’s name fits a recording for kids. The disc and cover also contain notable graphics.

2. “Soundtrack for High School Musical 2” (Disney, $18.98) — Most parents of tweens remember Aug. 14, 2007, the day this soundtrack was released in stores and drove their kids into a frenzy. This highly commercial CD is wildly successful for good reason.

The pop songs are skillfully arranged and performed with powerful voices. Most of the Disney stars who perform on this CD have CDs of their own, but none of the solo efforts are as powerful as this result of their shared talent.

3. “My Green Kite,” Peter Himmelman (Rounder, $14.98) — Great hooks fuel this fine CD that seems to sound better each time it is played. It is fitting that this effort was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Children’s Recording. Most touching is the Himmelman song about a boy who learns to admire his accountant father after first thinking the profession his father chose is stupid.

4. “Chickens,” Buck Howdy with BB (Prairie Dog Entertainment, $13.99) — Howdy provides a bluegrass blast with “Chickens,” a collection of easygoing, fun songs fueled by the excellent work of Dennis “Cannonball” Caplinger, who plays fiddle, harmonica and mandolin. This effort was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Children’s Recording.

5. “Peggy’s Violin: A Butterfly in Time,” Peggy McGuire Hills and others (Children’s Group, $23.98) — This CD includes narration that tells the story of a violin passed from one owner to another for several centuries. Along the way, the listener hears the owners of the violin play a variety of forms of classical music. The music is vibrant and captivating. The story and narration are dynamic and engaging.

6. “Wolfgang’s Big Night Out,” Brian Setzer Orchestra (Surfdog Records, $18.98) — This CD may not be marketed for children but might as well be, since it has the energy, irreverence and silliness that tickle children to the bone. Setzer takes compositions by Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn and other classical music giants and arranges and plays the music in swinging big-band style. Setzer sizzles. The lyrics pop with originality.

7. “Wonderstuff,” Recess Monkey (Monkey Mania, $19.95) — This is not only one of the best-sounding children’s CDs of the year but one of the most ambitious. It is a double CD set — one of the first and few in the genre. It is also like a pop-rock opera, with songs, narration and dialogue. It tells the story of Everett the Wonderbee, who travels with a group of friends to confront a creature threatening their home. The 20 songs sound a lot like the Beatles.

8. “Calling All Kids,” Candy Band (Rockinmama Records, $13.98) — The Candy Band is made up of four moms from the Detroit area who have band names like the Spice Girls — Starburst, Skittles, Kit Kat and Almond Joy. Their songs titles — “The Alphabet Song,” “Simon Says,” “Jack and Jill” — may sound cute, but their music is just the opposite, more like the Ramones and Iggy Pop. The band has an edge, a great sound and real talent. The album cover is a tribute to the 1979 albumn “London Calling” by The Clash.

9. “Gustafer Yellowgold: Have You Ever Been Yellow?” (Apple Eye Productions, $16.99) — This is a collection of Beatles-styled melodies that are bouncy, light, catchy and not easily forgotten. The CD comes with a DVD and follows the adventures of Gustar, an alien. It is a strong follow-up to the critically acclaimed debut work “Gustafer Yellowgold’s Wid Wild World,” which came out in 2005.

10. “Down at the Sea Motel,” Various Artists (Secret Mountain, $12.98) — Lullabies are essential to helping children settle down for the night, and this collection of lullabies is one of the best. The songs are passionate as well as soothing, artistic as well as gentle. They are performed by John Gorka, Guy Davis, Lucy Kaplansky and others and are written by such popular artists as Billy Joel, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Neil Young.

2 Responses to “Top 10 kids’ CDsEdgy `Mommy Says No!’ gets an A+”

  1. We learned about Gustafer Yellowgold when it was recommended by the National Librarians Council, and later saw it rave-reviewed in the NY Times. This is the best thing we’ve ever seen for children. They love it and so do we.

    And unlike High School Musical (which is, of course, wildly popular but so inane I can’t believe you’d recommend it here) or some other Disney fare (that which features Britney’s younger sister) you don’t have to worry that one of the creatures from Gustafer’s world is going to do something unseemly that needs to be delicately explained to the kids (Unless you count jumping on cake!)

  2. I didn’t pick the list – just thought it was interesting enough in its diversity to pass it on to reader’s here. There were certainly more pros and than cons from what I read… 🙂

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