Jumpin’ & Jammin’ by Greg & Steve, Greg & Steve Productions Inc., $15, www.gregandsteve.com; ages 3-7.
The children’s music industry is a bit quirky. Performing and recording artists such as Greg & Steve, who have sold millions of CDs, may be unfamiliar to parents with young children. But if you are a preschool or early elementary teacher, Greg & Steve’s music is probably in heavy rotation in your classroom.
The reality is there are two parallel children’s music industries—the educational and the commercial. Though Greg & Steve’s music has all the appeal of CDs you find in the commercial outlets, they have made a name for themselves and have secured their place on the educational side of the industry. Now with the release of their new CD, "Jumpin’ & Jammin’," it is time for parents to take note.
Greg & Steve’s motto is "educate, motivate, enrich and entertain" and this theme weaves its way through each and every recording to date. Music is an engaging and exciting way to introduce and reinforce basic concepts with young children and Greg & Steve’s songs help kids understand ideas from colors and numbers to friendship and cooperation. But their real claim to fame comes from their movement-based songs. Favorites like "The Freeze" and "Animal Action" (from Kids In Motion) to "Listen and Move" (from "We All Live Together, vol. 2") and "Beanie Bag Dance" (from "Kids In Action") have become classics and for good reason—kids love to dance and move.
"Jumpin’ & Jammin’ " keeps the party going starting with the first track and title song "Jump and Jam." Kids will be clapping along and stamping their feet to the great rockin’ feel that will have parents dancing along, too. Next comes "Inky Dinky Doo," another fun movement activity based around body parts. Here they use the cumulative format where children have to remember sections of the previous verse (much like "Old MacDonald"). This is a powerful learning tool that insists kids think and actively participate, but all under the umbrella of fun and learning.
Most of the time Greg & Steve rely on original or adapted material, but I also like how they include a traditional children’s song or two on their recordings. Here they chose "I Had A Rooster" and "Polly Wolly Doodle." On "I Had A Rooster," they kept the original melody and lyrics intact. But on "Polly Wolly Doodle" they adapted it so that some of the parts you might remember from your childhood are not there. Usually this bothers me, but in this case it works.
And then there is "Have A Nice Day." I saw the title and immediately assumed that the song was going to be way too sappy for my tastes. Luckily it turned out that it is a wonderfully charming and tender song.
One element I have not spoken about yet is the exceptional care to detail that is evident on the production side. It is always a given that Greg & Steve have their child-centered themes and educational ducks in perfect order. But what stands out to me more on this recording than recent releases are the outstanding musical arrangements and world-class musicians who keep things interesting and enjoyable for the adult listeners.
Another great dance and movement piece is "Dance With Your Teddy Bear" which leads kids through a series of fun activities all while dancing with their Teddy bear. And the very rockin’ "Hey Lolly Lolly" is also a great dance number that will get even the most reluctant dancer up and moving. (Full disclosure: Greg & Steve gave me co-credit on this song. Actually I didn’t do much, it’s just that they are very generous.)
If you do not have any Greg & Steve CDs in your family collection, "Jumpin’ and Jammin’" is a great place to start. Be sure to visit their Web site where you can preview all their CDs and products and listen to select song clips.
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 email@example.com.