KIDS FIRST! Announces 2013 Audio Recording Endorsements

213162.jpgJust in time for your last minute holiday shopping, KIDS FIRST! proudly announces a freshly endorsed collection of audio recordings – music and the spoken word – by some of the most outstanding talents in children’s entertainment. With the assistance of respected music judge John Wood, we offer no hesitation in recommending these recordings by well-known recording artists such as Peter Apel, Bob McGrath, Tom Chapin, Phil Galdston, Marla Lewis, Beth Nielsen Chapman and more. Check them out, they are perfect little stocking stuffers or something to spend your I-tunes gift card on after Christmas.

213143.jpgAUDIO CD FOR AGES 2-5
I’VE GOT A DINOSAUR ON MY HEAD – This CD features singable original songs like “Sometimes I Have Oatmeal for Breakfast” and “I Love Bananas.” Movement and counting songs and educational lessons are sprinkled throughout along with colorful illustrations, liner notes and lyrics are included with the CD. Juror Comment: The title song “I’ve Got a Dinosaur On My Head” gives a big hint that this album is not going to chart new musical waters but it sure is fun, filled with whimsy and lots of sing-alongs and dance-alongs. The vocals are upbeat and engaging and the production values are unobtrusive and supportive. If you don’t laugh during “The Laughing Song,” I’m sorry, you have issues. Everybody loves “Train Whistles” and “Locomotives” so get on board and put a dinosaur on your head! This CD knows its audience and is fun, silly and filled with participation activities. It flows well, is simply structured but effective. There is vocal energy to the songs that will engage the listeners long beyond its 30 minutes. 30 min.; $14.98; Age: 2-6. PETER APEL.

213166.jpgThe Ohmies: MORNING WISH GARDEN – The Ohmies first full-length musical album for preschoolers features cast members from the hit New York stage show. This album features ten original songs for playtime or anytime. Juror comments: “Morning Wish Garden” is a colorful, upbeat musical foray that introduces and encourages young children to dance, move and sing along with a talented cast of brightly, sprightly performers who lead the audience on a quest to find Mr. Sun and wake him up so their garden of wishes may grow. The performances and production values are strong and the songs inviting and engaging. Hopefully this will motivate the child to stay active and not vegetate with TV and video-related games. It speaks directly to its intended audience with the use of colorful costumes and upbeat songs to entertain. I’m not crazy about characters in costume, and any clown named after a fruit or vegetable are suspect. But, I still like it! 34 min., ages 2-5, $12.99, Artsong Music

213165.jpgWHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO TODAY – This second children’s music CD by Francie Kelley showcases her clear and lovely singing voice and a multinational theme binds the joyous songs together with a sense of exploration and wonder. Different tunes draw upon the rhythms and traditions of lands ranging from Jamaican drumming to Irish fiddle playing to Argentinean tango and much more. Juror Comments: This is a fine album filled with sounds and white rabbits that draw you into a world of predominantly world rhythms enticing the listener to become an amateur explorer of other cultures. The vocals are endearing and the production value, with an absolute nod to cultural instrumentation, is spot on. I must give a nod to the child performance at the beginning of “This Land Is Your Land.” The song is seminal as we hand it over to future generations. This album is in touch with its audience and respectful. In addition, it lasers in on its target audience. I love the World Music component of this album. Five thumbs up if I had five thumbs. 34 min.; Ages 2-5. $12.99; Artsong Music

AGES 4-8

BOB’S FAVORITE SING-ALONG SONGS – Bright new versions of 15 favorite children’s songs with first class musicianship and vocals. Bob encourages children to join the fun with him and sing without him as each song is repeated with an instrumental-only track. Juror Comments: Bob’s Favorite Sing-Along Songs are just that with a little added punch. Bob McGrath, a familiar face and voice on Sesame Street has put together 15 fun tracks (in addition to instrumental versions of each) of traditional endearing songs like “When You’re Happy and You Know It,” “When the Saints,” and “Hokey Pokey” to name a few. It encourages lots of participation and love ensues. Bob’s accessible endearing tenor and likability drives the bus but the destination is a safe and magical place. After listening to it, you simply want to listen to it again and again and again. The added instrumental tracks are a plus. I think that Bob McGrath is a positive pied piper who is so endearing and respected and trusted, like Mister Rogers. 51 min., ages 4-8, $12.99; Bob’s Kids Music

213153.jpgCELESTE SINGS, KIDS DANCE – “Happy beats for little feets.” Juror Comments: “Celeste Sings, Kids Dance” is a nice collection of upbeat tunes from an amalgam of writers including John Denver (For Baby), Tom Paxton (The Marvelous Toy) and Richard Starkey (Octopus’s Garden), to name a few, and a couple of instrumentals, Music Box Dancer and Pachelbel’s Canon, to round out the set. The vocals are strong and secure, the musicianship is stellar and the production quality is solid. I really enjoyed the performances – both vocal and instrumental. The recording quality is very good. It uplifts and embraces its intended age group. This project constantly supports love and happiness through a variety of song choices by a variant of artists. The music is quite appealing due to terrific production values from the vocals to the instrumental performances. There is a lot for young ears to like. 41 min., ages 4-8, $14.98, Romantic Realistic Records

213151.jpgCOCOA! – Six tunes of diverse styles: Back to School, Cocoa!, Feet, Feet!, Jammin’, Kalico Kat’s Jug Band and Everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Juror Comment: This 6-song extended play CD (EP) is pure magic and available for download. Marla Lewis’s vocals and songwriting abilities are off the charts. These are brilliant songs that educate and entertain seamlessly. The tracks are divinely produced, the musicianship is top of the line, and the message transcends cultural divides. Marla’s voice is pure honey that would confuse a bee. Her songwriting is a master’s class and the songs deliver like a guided musical missile. We can’t say enough so, enuff said! Buy this CD and do your bit to help the debt crisis! 16 min. ages 4-12; $4.99. Plumjuice Records

213142.jpgFRED’S BACK – Thirteen original songs including “Lipstick Blah Blah,” “I Love Sopaipillas” and “Bombones (Marshmallows)” come together in a catchy collection that entertains kids and parents alike. Engaging digi-pack contains an eight page mini-booklet with colorful illustrations, liner notes and song lyrics. Juror Comment: You just can’t go wrong with an album filled with witty tunes about loving moms and dads, squirting grapefruits that nearly blind you, marshmallows, Spanish sopaipillas, donuts, dinosaurs, leprechauns and…you get my point: a little something for the child in us all. The humor is engaging, the musicianship is sound and the characters’ voices and the child performances are terrific. And, if this review is not enough to whet your appetite then my bad! This is a fun album! Check it out. The songs are upbeat and will hold any child’s attention. It is well paced, has a great variety of musical styles and instrumentation. It is very enjoyable. 38 min.; $14.98; Age: 4-8. PETER APEL.

213164.jpgTHE INCREDIBLE FLEXIBLE YOU – Catch, fun songs from the three-time GRAMMY-winning pioneer of children’s music (created in tandem w/the groundbreaking book of the same title) has special appeal to young listeners navigating the tricky waters of social interaction. Juror comments: This is a quality produced and performed album by a celebrity of family music, Tom Chapin, and a gifted co-writer and producer/performer Phil Galdston. The energy and foresight in this project is palpable. Lovely! This album is multi-leveled: engaging music and fun songs on one level and wait, what, on another level – food for thought. The songs that keep on giving. I feel a tightrope successfully crossed that, in other hands, could have come across preachy or pushy are the antithesis of that. Intelligent lyrics. Really! Tom’s vocals ride effortless atop Phil Galdstons terrific production and arrangement with a lovely mix of folk meets Beatles that I love. Recording quality is beautiful. This album addresses socialization issues and promotes cognitive thinking more so than any album that’s crossed my desk in a while. 35 min. ages 5-8. $14.98; Sundance Music


213129.jpgBANQUET ON THE GROUND – Narrated by Cheryl Rhoads (Mother Goose), the story is told from the perspective of animals in a small yard world who have always taken care of themselves until a generous “seed woman” moves into the house and starts giving them delightful edibles replacing their efforts with the expected daily delights. Juror Comment: The music is classical and supports the narrative extremely well without being intrusive. It is very appealing. It’s difficult to recommend this CD to a child because the concepts are a bit lofty and younger children might lose interest. This CD is an allegory using animal characters to demonstrate universal attributes of working for one’s food, not taking hand-outs and working in chorus with your neighbor to achieve goals. All good but, the question begs: are these moral messages communicating to the intended audience of elementary school children? The presentation is well conceived, the orchestration beautifully supportive, the narration is solid but this CD may just fall in the cracks between its intended audience and the message. 53 min. Ages 5-12. $10.00. Renaissance Women Productions

THE 213130.jpgMIGHTY SKY – Children can musically explore the mysteries and wonders of the universe with this beautifully crafted album focusing on the science of astronomy and featuring a variety of musical styles presenting important celestial facts and fun. Juror Comment: I cannot emphasize enough how important the combination of terrific musicianship, production value and lyrics are to a concept album like “The Mighty Sky.” Now granted, Beth Nielsen Chapman has written world class songs and has access to a musical palette of top-flight talent, which is value added for the parent who is looking for a stimulating concept that will pique their child’s interest and lead them to learn more. I wish this had been around when I was a kid but, guitars weren’t invented then. Children are going to be jazzed to learn more about the universe, which in and of itself is a fascinating mystery for young minds. This traditional music CD comes with a gorgeous fold-out of the solar system in the liner notes. 32 min., $14.98; Age 5-12, BNC RECORDS

AGES 8-12
213163.jpgTHE BEST IN ME – Celebrating the best in all of us! Kickin’ pop tunes spotlight helping children make good character choices even when faced with difficult situations. Musicians, vocals and songs are all first-rate and reach out rather than lecture. Juror comments: First of all, “The Best Of Me” rocks!” Second, if you enjoy great music, musicians, songwriting and performances wrapped in lovely messages of positive character choices and love, then you’ve come to the right place. Sit down and listen a spell or insert it into the car CD player and listen a bit. Parents will enjoy and appreciate the content as well as the kids which will hopefully lead to family discourse on the topics. Good Stuff! I think this album is a banner for motivational action. This is a socially interactive, educational album that hits its target audience. The music is top rate. It comes with a booklet. The album is true, first of all to itself, and second to its intended audience. This is a respectful address to the age group for which it is intended. The quality is excellent; the production value draws the listener into a safe place to receive the message. 78 min, ages 8-12, price 14.98 Song Wizards Records

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