By Fred Koch
I'm a sucker for the newest trend among record companies: releasing compilation CDs. This week while in Starbucks, I bought one of the Artist Choice compilations because I wanted to hear the music that inspired cellist Yo Yo Ma in his formative years. Regular readers may remember I have raved about compilations in the past. If you were to go out and get even half of the songs on the original recordings, you would spend a bundle. So I'm happy to see that children's music record companies are seeing the appeal in gathering songs from a variety of artists and eras and creating these (often) theme-based projects. If you enjoy compilation CDs, these recordings might find their way into your collections, too.
THAT'S WHAT LITTLE BOYS ARE MADE OF…, by Various Artists, Music For Little People, 13.98, www.mflp.com; ages 3-7.
Judging this CD by its title, my first response was "this looks a little too sugar sweet and much too stereotypical for my tastes." I didn't even consider giving it a listen until a week later when I picked it up again and noticed that it was a compilation CD. I looked even closer and noticed there are some great songs assembled here. It starts with the Allan Sherman classic, "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah," a very funny tale about his summer adventure at Camp Grenada. Next comes Trout Fishing in America's version of "18 Wheels on a Big Rig." It's a fun song to sing and it sneaks in some math along the way. It starts counting all the wheels by ones, then just the even-numbered wheels, then the odd numbered, then with Roman numerals and finally divided by pi.
One of my favorite young bluegrass/folk groups, Nickel Creek (recent Best Contemporary Folk Album Grammy award winners for their recording of "This Side") gives a stellar performance of the classic cowboy song, "I'm An Old Cowhand." This song is from an album called "Little Cowpoke" that Nickel Creek recorded when they were 12, 13 and 15 years old. Next, another cowboy song, a Gene Autry standard, "Bucky, the Bucking Bronco" which shares a trick to staying on a bucking bronco: Put glue on your seat.
Raffi is featured here, too, with his rendition of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame," bluesman Taj Mahal sings his popular "Fishin' Blues" and Livingston Taylor (brother of James) sings one of my favorites, "Pajamas." Other highlights include "Crazy for Dinosaurs," featuring the now defunct RosenShontz and "Constellation Cowboy," another song that sneaks in some great educational content written and performed by the veteran performing group, Tickle Tune Typhoon.
Though primarily targeted for the boy market, I think everyone who likes great kids' songs will enjoy "That's What Little Boys Are Made Of…"
THAT'S WHAT LITTLE GIRLS ARE MADE OF…, by Various Artists, Music For Little People, 13.98, www.mflp.com; ages 3-7.
Pretty smart move to release this version, too, don't you think? The same compilation format is followed here, beginning with Maurice Chevalier's classic "Thank Heaven For Little Girls" from the original Gigi soundtrack. Livingston Taylor is featured again with his take on the great Stevie Wonder song "Isn't She Lovely." Next comes former Saturday Night Live cast member Victoria Jackson singing "Daddy's Little Girl" (boy I wish I had a dollar for every time I played this in my wedding band days…) followed by a rather obscure song by The Mamas & The Papas, "Nothing's Too Good For My Little Girl." I enjoy Maria Muldaur's swinging rendition of "Would you Like to Swing On a Star?," and "At The Codfish Ball," as well as "Teddy Bears' Picnic" performed a capella by the Persuasions. One song that stood out for me is "Baby, Let's Play House." This version is performed by the MFLP Kids, but it sounds like it could have been a hit for Elvis Presley. RosenShontz is featured again with a rockin' little song called "Jenn The Bubble Gum Queen." Speaking of bubble gum, The Monkees also make an appearance with their mega hit "Daydream Believer." This CD may have less crossover appeal for the boys, but I really commend Music For Little People for their creativity and thoughtfully-conceived compilation projects. They have quite a few other compilation recordings, so be sure to browse through their Web site. You will be sure to find others that you will want to hear.
THE KIDS COLLECTION OF GREATEST CLASSICS, VOL. 3, by Various Artists, The Kids Collection, 14.98, www.greatestclassics.com; all ages.
Though not a compilation in the strictest sense of the term, The Kids Collection of Greatest Classics, Vol. 3, is a collection of themes from the masterpieces of the great composers arranged especially for younger listeners. These are shorter, abridged versions tastefully arranged and recorded with the hopes that children will be drawn to classical music. In addition to the shorter versions, a variety of folk instruments have been incorporated to complement the traditional instruments of the orchestra. You will hear Verdi's Triumphal March ("Aida"), Rossini's The Barber of Seville (Overture), Schubert's Ave Maria, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21 (Andante), one of my favorites, the Radetzky March by Johann Strauss Sr. and others, including Dvorak's New World Symphony. This award-winning series is a kid-friendly way to introduce your children to some of the world's great composers. Check out the Web site at www.greatestclassics.com to see what the first two volumes have to offer.Fred Koch lives in Lake Bluff with his wife and son and is an award-winning music educator, children's musician and producer. His web site, www.Best ChildrensMusic.com, helps parents, teachers and librarians select quality children's music. The web site also includes an archive of all Koch's past reviews published in Chicago Parent. Please e-mail notes and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.