Kids Music Adults Will Love
The songs on these CDs will reward the discerning ears of 3-year-olds and 30-year-olds alike.
"The Bottle Let Me Down: Songs for Bumpy Wagon Rides," various artists (Bloodshot, 2002). Alt-country moms and dads will want to take this 26-song CD along on their next road trip. Kelly Hogan's marvelous pipes grace "Rubber Duckie" and "Senor El Gato," the Waco Brothers offer "The Fox" and the Asylum Street Spankers tackle "I Am My Own Grandpa." But the highlight has to be Alejandro Escovedo's "Sad and Dreamy (The Big 1-0)," and its magically bittersweet chorus, "I hit the big 1-0/I feel so old/Candy just doesn't taste as good anymore."
"Catch the Moon," Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell (Artemis, 2004). The two indie folk singers -- Loeb a solo artist and Mitchell as half of Ida -- team up on an exquisite collection of songs. There's just one original on the disc, but the selection of covers (Bob Dylan's "New Morning," Stephen Foster's "Oh Susanna") and traditional French, Spanish and Japanese songs make for a wonderful listen.
"Dimension Mix," various artists (Eenie Meenie Records, 2005). Music for kids doesn't have to be straightforward, as evidenced by this tribute to Dimension 5, the adventurous children's music label created in 1962 by pioneering electronic artist Bruce Haack and lyricist Esther Nelson. A surreal sonic voyage, this collection includes covers of Haack and Nelson's songs by Beck, Stereolab, the Apples in Stereo, the Danielson Famile and 14 other bands and artists. A portion of sales goes to Cure Autism Now.
"For Our Children," various artists (Kid Rhino). Originally released in 1991 by Disney and reissued for a 10th-anniversary edition, this benefit for pediatric AIDS victims boasts a mother lode of big name artists performing 20 songs. Bob Dylan sounds appropriately croaky on "This Old Man," Bruce Springsteen has a ball with "Chicken Lips and Lizard Hips" and "Itsy Bitsy Spider" never will sound the same again after you hear Little Richard's version. A follow-up album, "For Our Children Too" (Kid Rhino, 1996) includes songs by Faith Hill, Toni Braxton, Cher and Luther Vandross.
"Hippity Hop," various artists (Music for Little People, 1999). Blues singer and multi-instrumentalist Taj Mahal is the driving force behind this collection of 10 songs that updates traditional and contemporary tunes for half-pint hip-hop fans. His version of Sly Stone's "Everyday People" is a classic. Other highlights such as Eric Bibb's "Funky Nursery Rhymes" and Sheila E.'s "Juba Dis and Juba Dat" make this a must-have for any cool kid collection. It also happens to be one of very few current hip-hop records that don't require a parental advisory label.
"Reggae for Kids Party Box," various artists (Ras Records, 2003). Never heard "Rasta Row the Boat Ashore" before? What about "School Done Rule?" This four-disc box set collects the popular Reggae for Kids series that includes those songs and others with standout performances by Gregory Isaacs, Yellowman, Bunny Wailer, Eek-A-Mouse and a host of reggae greats.
-- Joe Heim
Adult Music Kids Will Love
Some singles on one cool daddy's playtime playlist:
The Knitters: "Poor Little Critter on the Road" (from "Poor Little Critter on the Road"). The Knitters are the hillbillyish alter-ego of seminal Los Angeles punk band X; they apply punk energy and attitude to folk and country classics as well as their own country-influenced originals. This song -- likening a hangover to roadkill -- is not typical children's fare. But listen just once and you'll be won over. It's goofy, perverse fun for kids of all ages to sing along with the chorus: "Poor little critter on the road!/Where were you trying to go?/ Life holds a bucket full of woe/For a poor little critter on the road."
Los Lobos: "I Wan'na Be Like You" (from the box set "Just Another Band from East L.A."). A spirited rendition of the classic rave-up from Disney's "The Jungle Book" movie. The number was originally done by big band wild man Louis Prima. Here it's a rollicking conjunto.
Bob Marley (left): "Three Little Birds" (from "Exodus"). With its repeated chorus of "Don't worry about a thing/'Cause ev'ry little thing gonna be alright," this reggae classic does double duty as a soothing lullaby.
Pixies: "La La Love You" (from "Doolittle"). This really fun song from the snarly '80s post-punk band has a fantastic drum break that will have your toddler dancing wildly, and its lyrics are perfectly inoffensive nonsense.
John Prine: "Daddy's Little Pumpkin" (from "The Missing Years"). Okay, so maybe daddy's a little tense -- he's making noises about heading to Memphis, for undisclosed reasons, with $300 in cash -- but this still works as a kid's song, believe me. American singer-songwriter Prine's influence is just a notch or two below Bob Dylan's.
Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers: "Abominable Snowman in the Market" (from the self-titled album). At least a dozen songs by this Boston singer-songwriter and former punk are perfect for kids (e.g. "Hey There, Little Insect"; he even does "The Wheels on the Bus"). But this one takes the cake for pure, silly fun.
The Specials: "Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)" (from "More Specials"). Playing this album-closer from the legendary British ska revivalists is like throwing a three-minute party. If the lyrics vaguely presage mortality, your kids won't know it; to them it sounds like a crazy good time.
Richard Thompson: "Don't Sit on My Jimmy Shands" (from "Rumor and Sigh"). A sprightly polka from the usually dour folk-rocker about a man who is desperately trying to keep people at a party from sitting on his favorite records.
Velvet Underground: "I'm Sticking With You" (from "VU"). How could a kid not love lyrics like "I'm sticking with you/'Cuz I'm made out of glue/Anything that you might do/I'm gonna do too," sung in the eternally childlike voice of Mo Tucker, the Velvet's female drummer? A very fun song with a simple melody. If the lyrics veer a little toward the adult at times -- there's a mention of the Viet Cong -- it'll probably go right over your kids' heads.
Victoria Williams: "What a Wonderful World" (from "Loose"). Who hasn't performed this song? Louis Armstrong, the Innocence Mission, Joey Ramone. But I like this version best, mainly because Williams's voice -- imagine Popeye's girlfriend, Olive Oyl, doing a Billie Holiday imitation -- is so strange and wonderful.
Yo La Tengo: "My Little Corner of the World" (from "I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One"). A sweet mid-tempo lullaby from everybody's favorite husband-and-wife team of New York pop avant-gardists. Dig that electric piano solo.
-- Jeff Turrentine