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Wonderful Monkey Stuff

by Kathy O’Connell

Along with the High School Musical 2 stuff they’re getting already, your kids might enjoy some of my end-of-year bounty. There’s nothing wrong with the HSM franchise (or Hannah Montana for that matter), but the days when Disney was the only kids’ music game in town are long gone. Outstanding independent music is worth the search.

The Beatles’ influence is strong in the band Recess Monkey, whose earlier album cover honored Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Their latest is Wonderstuff (Or how one bee made The Gray a little more green). This 2-disc set could be called the band’s “White Album.”\

Wonderstuff is a multi-layered audio theater piece punctuated with delightful songs that stand on their own. The tale of the Wonderbees of Monkey Town works for all ages, from the surprisingly complex “la la” introduction song “Busy Bees” to a love song to “My Pet Rock,” complete with kids’ chorus.

“Backpack” sings about something “shaped just like a rocket; it’s got a secret pocket.” “The Sun Will Shine for You” is a lovely reminder that “when you need it to,” the sun does its job. The kazoo chorus within this gentle song was a nice surprise.

The rollcall of Wonderbees includes a couple of nods to the grown-ups without ever being less than kid-friendly. Recess Monkey creates songs that are reflective and spirited at the same time.
Find them at www.recessmonkeytown.com

Lullaby and Story Set
Down at the Sea Hotel is a CD package that includes a 40-page printable bedtime story by Greg Brown. With it, the CD matches a collection of music’s best songwriters (Carole King, Billy Joel, Tom Waits) and singers (Guy Davis, John Gorka, Lucy Kaplansky) in a collection of lullabies.

As with all great lullaby albums, this one works to relax all ages. You’ll discover songs you might never have thought would work for kids, like Waits’ “Midnight Lullaby” (sung by Guy Davis). Billy Joel’s “Goodnight, My Angel” is given a sweet piano and voice treatment by Lucy Kaplansky. Steve Earle’s Christmas hymn “Nothing But a Child,” sung by all the artists, ends the CD beautifully.

The masterful production includes incredible clarity of the instruments in support of the voices. It’s an excellent addition to the outstanding product emerging from The Secret Mountain company in Canada. Find all their CDs at www.lamontagnesecrete.com

Food Allergy Tunes
We live in an allergic age. Based on his own life as a “kid with anaphylaxis,” Kyle Dine’s You Must Be Nuts: Music All About Food Allergies speaks to the ever-growing population of kids who deal with food allergies every day, at every meal.

“Epi-Man” is an imaginative love song to an anti-allergy epi-pen. “Gluten-Free Blues” describes a bread-less life with “not even a crust to make my chest hair grown” “Stop! Please Don’t Feed Me” should be an anthem for holiday gatherings.

The picture of allergies Dine paints isn’t pretty, but it’s realistic and empowering. This album’s niche market is found in kids who learn to be responsible for their own health at an early age. This Canadian production has a home at www.kyledine.com

Kathy O’Connell is a contributing writer to MetroKids and host of the Peabody-award-winning Kids Corner, weekdays 7-8pm on WXPN 88.5 FM.