FAMILY TIME and B IS FOR BOB, by Ziggy Marley, Tuff Gong Worldwide, $13 each, www.TuffGongWorldwide.com; all ages.
Ziggy Marley, multi-Grammy award-winning recording artist and eldest child of the late, great reggae pioneer Bob Marley, is no stranger to children’s music. Ziggy’s music has been prominently featured on a variety of children’s programming, including Nick Jr.’s "Dora the Explorer" and the PBS children’s show "Arthur." So it is no wonder that he has recently released two recordings designed especially for children and their families.
"Family Time" is a collection of original tunes along with a couple of new arrangements of classic children’s songs, including "This Train" where Marley teams up and sings a duet with Willie Nelson. This CD boasts a star-studded cast of friends who have stopped by to help, including Paul Simon, Jack Johnson, Noggin Network star Laurie Berkner along with Rita Marley (Ziggy’s mother) and Cedella Marley (Ziggy’s sister) just to name a few.
"B is for Bob" is a collection of Bob Marley’s most beloved songs re-imagined for kids. Ziggy rearranged eight of his father’s most memorable songs, including "Three Little Birds," "Jamming" and "Stir It Up," expressly for this CD. But four of the Marley classics, including "Lively Up Yourself" and "One Love/People Get Ready," appear untouched and in their original form.
For those of us who like to pick and choose, remember you can find all of Ziggy Marley’s CDs and individual songs for sale at any number of online sources including iTunes.
MELTDOWN, by Lanny Sherwin, Sandman Records, $12.98, www.SandmanRecords.com; ages 4-12.
Being a music reviewer for Chicago Parent definitely comes with some nice perks, like free CDs. About a dozen new releases arrive in my mailbox each week hoping to receive a review in this column. But when a new recording comes from Lanny Sherwin, it immediately moves to the top of the "play pile" because Sherwin consistently delivers creative and child-centered original songs like few other artists.
I was impressed with everything about Sherwin’s "Meltdown," from his clever song-writing sensibility ("Your Mountain is Waiting") to his playfulness ("I Can’t Rhyme") to his knack for weaving musical instrument connections into his songs ("Harmonica Veronica" and "This is Not a Guitar").
As with all of Sherwin’s recordings, it is difficult to pick a favorite. But for me, "I Am A Guitar" is it. What I like so much, aside from being a memorable and singable song, is that it subtly helps kids start to understand how playing a musical instrument can be a powerful experience.
Another musical concept Sherwin explores is a capella (the musical term for vocal music or singing without instrumental accompaniment). In fact, on his last three albums, he has included an "A Capella" song. This version, "A Capella (Part 3)," where Sherwin sings all eight parts, is another fun example that educates while it entertains.
And then there is "I Can’t Rhyme"—a perfect way to emphasize "rhyme scheme" in writing. It is actually quite hilarious!
There are so many possibilities with this format; maybe Sherwin will include "I Can’t Rhyme (Part 2)" on his next release.
Sherwin is one of those great independent artists who is creating really wonderful music for kids, so be sure to stop by his Web site to check out all of his award-winning recordings. I can personally attest to the fact that his company’s motto, Don’t Drive Parents Crazy, is more than a cute slogan.
One more important note: Please do what you can to help support independent artists like Sherwin. When you do, you make it possible for these passionate and dedicated artists to continue to create memorable and meaningful music for your children.
Fred Koch lives in Lake Bluff with his wife and son and is an award-winning music educator, recording artist and producer. His Web site, BestChildrensMusic.com, helps parents, teachers and librarians select quality children’s music. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.