Sound Off!

An Early ‘Best of 2006’

by Kathy O’Connell

I hope it’s not too early to declare a best album of 2006, because the latest effort from Paul Reisler’s Kid Pan Alley project blows away all future competition. This Nashville-flavored collaborative delight boasts production by Fred Bogert, whose work with Trout Fishing in America is the thing of legends.

The album includes country and indie favorites such as Suzy Bogguss (“Bouncin’ off the Bottom”), Beth Nielsen Chapman (a delightfully strange “Little Drop of Water”), and Raul Malo (“Whispering in Spanish”).  

With assistance from the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, Kid Pan Alley delivers a mix of pop, R&B, country, jazz, and classical music in such a way that each song becomes its own delightful individual album. The songs were created cooperatively by Nashville schoolchildren and songwriters, and the mix of childlike enthusiasm and hard-core musical ability makes this a winner.  

Kid Pan Alley includes “Christmas in Tennessee” by Amy Grant, which stands as a song for all seasons.  With songs about “Cartoons” and “Stinky Socks,” this is a wonderful album with brilliant production. “Scary Things” stands out with operatic vocals from John Bindel, backed by the full force of the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. Find this delight at www.kidpanalley.com

2 Terrific CDs
Sometimes a coin toss is the only way to decide between two terrific albums. This is the case with Brady Rymer’s I Found It! and Steve Songs’ Marvelous Day! Both albums earn their exclamation points for enthusiasm and excitement that will hit a home run with younger kids. I could not choose between these two outstanding albums, so I leave it to you to decide which one to buy.  Frankly, I’d pick up both.

I Found It! includes a homage to Harry Belafonte’s “Turn the World Around,” along with original songs such as “Drawing on the Sidewalk” and “Eatin’ Animal Crackers.”

There’s a bit of Springsteen in the production of “Bathtub Soup.” Body rhythms inspired “Ding Dong,” a danceable hip hop homage.  As young ones grow away from Barney and Sesame Street, Brady Rymer is a great pathfinder toward musical independence. Find I Found It! at www.bradyrymer.com

Steve Songs’ Marvelous Day! also rocks in a sweet way with imaginative takes on “Elephant Hide and Seek” (wordplay with a beat) and  “Spyrtle the Turtle” (loggerhead turtle meets “That Thing You Do”). One standout tune advises the listener on “Bothering a Sleeping Lion, and Why Not to Do It” by segueing into the classic “Wimoweh” (aka “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”). A young girl sings “Bridge to Terabithia,” based on Katherine Paterson’s children’s book, and brings the listener to tears.  Steve Songs lives at www.stevesongs.com

Book & Album
The Delaware Valley is home to Sandra Boynton, the Grammy-nominated creator of Philadelphia Chickens. Her formula of matching celebrity voices with her original songs  for kids reaches new heights on Dog Train. Any album that brings together “Weird” Al Yankovic and “Titanic” actress Kate Winslet (“I Need a Nap”) is a winner.  

A book accompanies Dog Train with Boynton’s outstanding illustrations of her lyrics. Other contributors include Blues Traveler, The (Kevin) Bacon Brothers with Mickey Hart, Hootie and the Blowfish, the Spin Doctors, bluegrass queen Alison Krauss and John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting.  Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, humorously croon “The Boring Song.” 

And survivors of the ‘60’s British Invasion will appreciate the presence of Billy J. Kramer (“Little Children”) on narration and singing “Cow Planet.”  In Boynton’s words, “the train goes nowhere, but it goes there fast.”  
Workman Publishing prouduced this outstanding book/album combination.  Find Dog Train at www.workman.com


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