Sample some great children's music By Fred Koch
The good news about being the music reviewer for Chicago Parent is that there is a lot of music produced and marketed for children and families that deserves recognition. But that can also be the bad news. There just is not enough space in this column to write about all of the CDs I find exciting and noteworthy. So this month, I am doing a little spring cleaning. Instead of going in-depth about a couple CDs, this month I would like to mention a little about a few CDs with the hope that you will be inspired to find out more.
SING ALONG WITH PUTUMAYO, by Various Artists, Putumayo World Music, $15.98, www.putumayo.com; ages 3-10.
This new compilation features folk and blues artists performing classic children's songs along with a few pop songs. The cast is eclectic, ranging from Arlo Guthrie ("Bling-Blang") to Keb' Mo' ("Love Train"). One of my favorite old songs, "Bushel and a Peck" is brought back to life by Dan Zanes. The liner notes and song explanations are in English, Spanish and French.
WIDDECOMBE FAIR, by David Jones and Bill Shute, Festival Five Records, $19.95, www.cdbaby.com/ cd/djones; all ages.
Speaking of Dan Zanes, his record label recently remastered and repackaged this album, one of Zanes' all-time family favorites. When originally released in 1993, it won the coveted Parents' Choice Gold Award and got rave reviews in Booklist and the School Library Journal. This is a delightful collection of 18 ballads, work songs and sea shanties from the British Isles and North America. David Jones has been described as "one of England's foremost traditional singers," and we should thank Zanes for giving this CD another life.
SONGS FOR THE SWING SET, by Allegra Rosenberg & Talia Wertico, Independently Produced, $16.95, www.cdbaby.com/cd/rosenberg; ages 5-10.
Allegra and Talia, two very talented 8-year-olds from Skokie, wrote this set of songs while playing on the tire swing last summer at camp. Having talented musical parents makes recording your songs not such a wild idea. Allegra's dad is musician and producer Stuart Rosenberg and Talia's mom and dad, Barb and Paul, are professional musicians.
These eight original songs are extra special because they are songs created for kids by kids.
For more information, e-mail Rachel Rosenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COME AND MAKE A CIRCLE, by Susan Salidor, Susan Salidor Music, $16, www.susansalidor.com; ages 2-5.
Fans of local favorite Salidor will be excited with her new release subtitled "20 Terrific Tunes for Kids and Teachers."
Salidor is a gifted teacher and one of the featured artists on the Chicago Parent CD "Singin' in the City." At first glance, you might think this CD is strictly for early childhood teachers, but this CD also is designed for family use. The recording features 12 new songs along with eight teacher favorites from previous Salidor recordings.
GIVE A HOOTENANNY! by Heidi Howe, Ear X-tacy Records, $14.95, www.cdbaby.com/cd/heidihowe3; all ages.
If you like your music with a Nashville feel, you will love Heidi Howe's first children's music release subtitled "Twangy Tunes About Lovin' the Earth."
Howe, an aspiring singer-songwriter, received a grant from the Kentucky Arts Council to record the CD. Twenty percent of the album's profits will be donated to organizations dedicated to helping the Earth.
Favorite songs at our house include "Ride My Bike" and "Yo Mama." To listen to some music samples, go to www.cdbaby.com.
AESOP FOR ALL AGES, by Anne Nachtrieb Zesiger, Ever After Classics, $19.95, www.everafterclassics.com; ages 5-10.
I have always enjoyed the time-honored fables of Aesop and over the years there have been quite a few attempts to bring them to life through song. This CD is the best I have heard.
Zesiger blends her folk rock music with the lessons of Aesop in a new and fresh way that will capture the interest of children and adults alike. Each of the 10 songs illuminate an Aesop fable: "You've Gotta Believe Me" is "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," "Anticipate" is "The Ants and the Grasshopper" and "Each to Each Their Own" is "The Country Mouse and the City Mouse." Again, visit www.cdbaby.com (follow the link on the Ever After Classics Web site) to hear some song samples and read other reviews-you will not be disappointed.
TEN CHILDREN, by Michael Lowenstern, Earspasm Records, $17.94, www.cdbaby.com/cd/lowenstern; all ages.
I have saved one of my favorites for last. I have been enjoying this CD and sharing it with friends ever since Michael Lowenstern sent it my way months ago. But because it is so unconventional, I never quite found a place where it could comfortably fit, until now.
Lowenstern, a world-renowned classical and jazz bass clarinetist, has created a gorgeous recording that features the lush textures of bass clarinet sounds, occasional body percussion, spoken word and sound bites.
Inspired by Chick Corea's classic recording "Children's Songs" and by his daughter who asked him to write something she could dance to, Lowenstern has created a kid-friendly, but deeply thoughtful recording. One of the standouts on this disc is "Sha," a jazz-Klezmer study in bass clarinet loops.
For something extremely creative and almost hypnotic, be sure to check out Lowenstern's CD-even if you don't have a clarinetist in your family. Again, visit www.cdbaby.com for music samples of Lowenstern's exquisite "Ten Children."
A few final notes: Remember that music is a very subjective art form. I encourage you to go to the Web sites listed and listen to any available music samples. Nothing can describe or express music as well as the music itself.
CDBaby.com is an especially listener-friendly and easy-to-navigate Web site. So take advantage of the technology and have fun listening. Your children will enjoy it, too.
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.BestChildrensMusic.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 email@example.com.