Tag Archives: Music

CD Review: Bob Marley, “B Is for Bob”

Bob Marley – B Is for Bob (Tuff Gong, 2009)
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A perfect blend of the utterly crass and the undeniably entertaining, Tuff Gong’s latest Bob Marley compilation stitches together a dozen previously released tracks — eight of them with subtle remixing and repurposing from Ziggy Marley — bundles them with a whole bunch of nifty bonus content, and serves them up for one more round of consumption. On the one hand, it’s label tomfoolery at its most repellent — how much Marley product do these people need to sell? — but on the other, it’s really sort of brilliant; after all, now that Legend has passed the 10 million-in-sales mark, is there a reggae fan left on Earth who doesn’t own his greatest hits? It’s time to start building new ones, which is where B Is for Bob comes in. Though I doubt most people have ever thought of him as a children’s artist, a lot of Marley’s music is quite kid-friendly — simple, catchy, and carrying messages of peace, love, and happiness — and though it seems safe to say the original versions of these songs would have worked just fine, Ziggy’s remix job hasn’t done them any harm; in fact, unless you’re a dedicated Marley disciple, you probably won’t even notice a difference.

Adding value to the compilation is a raft of extra online material, unlockable when you insert the disc into a Web-connected computer.

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In exchange for purchasing these songs for the umpteenth time, you get things like coloring book pages, a music video, and a one-year subscription to Parents magazine. None of it is truly essential, of course, but it’s a fun little package, and something that’ll make a terrific gift for any budding Bob enthusiasts in your life.

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You might get more sparkle from a more contemporary artist, but for classic songs that will last a lifetime, this batch is just about impossible to beat.

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CD Review: Daddy a Go Go, “Come On, Get Happy”

Daddy a Go Go – Come On, Get Happy: The Best of Daddy a Go Go, Volume 1 (2009, Boyd’s Tone)
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I had never heard of Daddy a Go Go, the kiddie-rockin’ alter ego adopted by singer/songwriter/stay-at-home-dad John Boydston, before opening the envelope that contained Come On Get Happy, but that’s just simple ignorance on my part: Boydston has released six albums of kids’ music since 1998, won multiple awards, and earned press in publications like Newsweek and the Washington Post. For lucky album number seven, Boydston has decided to collect and remaster 15 of his greatest “hits,” including “Daddy’s Diaper Blues,” “I Think I Might Be a Dog,” “Nana Nana Boo Boo,” and “Pink Floyd Saves Hugh Manatee,” a song so stupidly titled I almost threw away the CD.

I’m glad I didn’t, because Come On, Get Happy is really pretty charming. My friend the Lovely Mrs. Davis has designated Boydston a member of the “goofy dads” genre, which is true, I guess, except that I find Daddy a Go Go a lot less goofy than much of the kids’ music I listen to. And really, pretty much the entire genre is goofy — some of it is obnoxiously overt, and some of it is less caffeinated, but I don’t think I’ve listened to a single children’s album that didn’t make liberal use of cornball humor. In that context, Come On, Get Happy is really pretty sedate; musically, I’d liken it more to NRBQ than most children’s music (and yes, I’m aware that the Q has released a kids’ record). Given that I’m a huge NRBQ fan, it should come as no surprise that I really enjoyed most of these songs (notable, unsurprising exception: “Pink Floyd Saves Hugh Manatee”) — they have the pleasantly lo-fi production aesthetic of a lot of the great old indie rock records of the ’80s, which is weird, given that Boydston didn’t start recording them until the ’90s, but whatever. The album also highlights Boydston’s taste in covers, which ranges from the obvious (the title track) to the wonderfully semi-obscure (Harry Nilsson’s “Best Friend”). Continue reading

CD Review: “MeeWee: Hip-Hop for Kids”

MeeWee: Hip-Hop for Kids (2008, MeeWee Entertainment)
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To those of us who grew up during hip-hop’s mid-to-late ’80s golden era, the idea of a hip-hop album for kids may seem silly and unnecessary; after all, you can play a lot of those old hits without worrying about objectionable content. (My daughter, for instance, developed an intense appreciation for Heavy D at a very early age.) And then there’s this project’s name: MeeWee? Seriously? When I first heard about this album, I didn’t even want to say the title, let alone listen to the music.

Here’s the good news, then: MeeWee: Hip-Hop for Kids is much better than its title. It isn’t as much fun as the hip-hop hits you remember from your younger days, but for the most part, it avoids using the music to do any truly obnoxious pandering to kids, and the majority of the songs do a fine job of holding up to repeated listens. (A notable exception is the horrible “Keyvo,” which makes me want to give whoever recorded it a few solid punches to his MeeWee.) Some of them are really pretty catchy, actually; for instance, I’ve found myself randomly getting “I Can Be Anything” stuck in my head, and songs like “So Much Love to Give” deftly combine positive messages with solid pop arrangements.

MeeWee was developed by a former teacher and one of the producers of MTV’s Lyricist Lounge, and MeeWee Entertainment has been doing a great job of outreaching the album to childcare professionals (teachers, camp counselors, dance instructors), offering them free downloads as well as lesson plans and other materials. It’s a smart way of getting the word out, and for the K-3 set, MeeWee might work as a spoonful of sugar to help the educational message go down. Older kids are a lot savvier about music, though — hip-hop in particular — and for future installments, the company could, and should, do a better job of connecting the dots between real hip-hop and age-appropriate messages. This stuff is cute, but it’s canned, and the world is still waiting for an album of kids’ songs from rappers with household names. (Biz Markie and the Roots have contributed to Yo Gabba Gabba!, after all.) In the meantime, there’s no arguing with results like these:

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