Sound Off!

Magic Dragon Returns

by Kathy O’Connell

The new year brings new sounds to family music, including a pioneer’s latest effort. The release of Peter, Paul and Mary’s Peter, Paul and Mommy in 1969 sparked the beginning of modern kids’ albums, and folkie legend Peter Yarrow returns to those roots in Puff and Other Family Classics.

Paul and Mary are replaced on this CD by the singer’s daughter, Bethany Yarrow and her musical partner Rufus Cappadocia. Many performers have produced kids’ albums of traditional folk music. With this CD, the bar for such albums is reset to a higher level.

There is a haunting, jazz-like quality to “Blue Tail Fly” that sets the stage for the album. “Careless Love” showcases Bethany’s clear, sweet voice. “The Cuckoo” is a brilliant combination of flamenco guitar and dad/daughter vocals.

If you want to introduce your kids to folk classics, Puff and Other Family Classics is the way to do it. Some parents may wonder about the inclusion of love-gone-wrong murder classic “Frankie & Johnny” in a kids’ album, but it’s that kind of daring that makes Peter Yarrow who he is.

The album ends with a lovely re-working of “Puff the Magic Dragon” that can’t mask the fun this father and daughter are having with the song. Find this treasure at www.peterbethanyandrufus.com

Rhythm and Depth
I love the depth of sound on Medeski, Martin & Wood’s mostly instrumental CD, Let’s Go Everywhere. They start with a Pink Floyd-ish “Waking Up” that adds toy piano to the trio’s instrumental repertoire. The album’s title song is a play on the familiar “I’ve Been Everywhere,” inviting kids to a litany of locations like “Saigon, Dijon.”

“Where’s the Music?” introduces jamming jazz to kids, anchored by the percussion and keyboard that grabs the band’s adult audiences. Only kids’ voices interrupting with “Where’s the Music?” remind you this album is aimed at younger ears. The kids rock out classic rhymes like “Pat a Cake.” The emphasis on rhythm takes on a New Orleans feel with “Let’s Go.”

“We’re all Connected” ends the album with a samba beat. Find Let’s Go Everywhere at www. littlemonsterrecords.com

For Parents Too
Ellis Paul’s The Dragonfly Races brings the songwriter into the field of family music. Paul’s intimate delivery partners with outstanding production, joined by musical friends Vance Gilbert and Billy Jonas.

The possibilities life offers, from the top of Everest to the bottom of the sea, are celebrated in “Because It’s There.” “Abiola” relates the story of a misunderstood monster and the power of the people to overthrow an evil ruler.

I love the geography-laden “Road Trip.” Who would want to leave the four-wheeled, engine-driven magical wonder of “The Bed Song”? Paul approaches brilliance on the accapella “Little Red Rose.”

“The Million Chameleon March” fights for their right to change. “9 Months to Save the World,” written for Paul’s daughter in utero, expresses the hopes and fears of all expectant parents. This is a wonderful album for adults with or without kids. Find The Dragonfly Races at www.ellispaul.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.