Monday, April 30, 2007

***Gustafer Yellowgold***

So much has already been said by so many reviewers about this wonderful, wonderful project, there's really nothing left to say about the re-release. Wait, lemme say this: if there is ANY possibility of seeing Morgan Taylor's live multimedia presentation of the Gustafer Yellowgold story, you MUST go. I've seen grown men crying with joy at the end of "New Blue Star" when all the children in the audience are blissfully singing "Neeeeeeeww Bluuuuuuue Staaaaar!!!" Absolutely heavenly.

And with the new release you get two additional songs: "A Cooler World", which could be Taylor thinking ahead to the possibility of an animated series, because this little ditty succinctly encapsulates everything Gustaferish within a perfect pop tune; and "Rocket Shoes", a typically wistful Taylor tune that fits right in with the feel of the older songs. Both have been available for a while on the Gustafer website, but it's nice to have them incorporated into the total storyline and CD/DVD package.
Here's what I had to say about the original DVD-only release:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

As you sit reading this review, I feel sorry for you, I truly do. For you see, friends, the minutes you waste eyeballing these pitifully mundane comments are minutes you could be digging this mindblowingly awesome DVD. This stuff is so far ahead of typical kids' entertainment, everyone else might as well give up. OK, allow me to back up and let you in on what all this proselytizing is about.

Illustrator/songwriter Morgan Taylor, originally from Dayton, Ohio, currently a Lower East Side resident, is the creator of Gustafer Yellowgold, a character from the Sun who befriends otherwise friendless beings like a flightless pterodactyl, a crying green bee, a dragon who makes his home in a fireplace, and an eel. Gustafer Yellowgold's Wide Wild World is the soundtrack of their intertwining lives, filled with stories of friendship, loneliness, loss, death, and love. But these subjects are dealt with in such a subdued manner that you don't so much read the lyrics or hear the music, you feel them, you understand the emotions channeled through the songs, you empathize with the characters.

The eight songs on the DVD are iconographically illustrated with Morgan's simple and colorful drawings, enclosed within a square wooden frame, and lyrics to each stanza appear on the frame as each song flows by. The DVD also includes wordless versions of all the songs so you and your little ones can sing along with "I'm From the Sun", "Your Eel", "New Blue Star", and the rest of the joyous tunes and aching melodies.

After having opened for bands such as the Polyphonic Spree and Wilco, Morgan is currently performing the Gustafer Yellowgold music locally, playing live as the images from the DVD are projected onto a screen. If you live near NYC, go see the show. If you live anywhere else in the world, come see the show. If you are of this universe, buy the DVD and share it with everyone you know.

Monday, April 23, 2007

***Peter Himmelman***

Quick tip for making a "good" kids album ... play who you are. That is, don't try to become what you think the public perceives a "children's musician" should sound like, just perform your music as you normally would. Play it, and they will come. So ... here's a guy whose style incorporates a little bit o' Costello, a little Springsteen, some Winwood, kinda Jersey Shore summertime bar bandish, a sprinkling of Memphis R&B, with harmonies and chord changes McCartney wouldn't say no to: c'mon, people, let's fly a kite! Specifically, Peter Himmelman's My Green Kite, the fourth kids' album from this L.A.-based musician and arranger.

The album kicks off with what would be a great concert opener: handclaps leading into a roaring intro, followed by three opportunities for group singalong: you can yell the song's title "Feet!", join in the call and response "I love my feet!", and enthusiastically sing "School's out!", and that's all in the first song!! Then comes the title track's awesome chorus; and later the question, would "Another Bite of Hay" really make me a happier person?
Other songs let us know that Mom's a great cook and Dad isn't as nerdy or boring as his accounting job would make him seem. Three must-hears are "A Dozen Roses", a folky rhyme set to rowdy rock and roll; the NuWave psychedelia of "Have You Ever Really Looked At an Egg?"; and Himmelman's deft and sarcastic beat poet rap "Nothin' to Say", whose horny funk backing music could have been sampled by A Tribe Called Quest.
This is one busy dude who, thankfully, takes the time to turn in another high-quality kids' collection. He could be running on autopilot by now, having released 10 adult albums, six CDs of unreleased tracks, and a compilation of his work with his original band, Sussman Lawrence. But somehow Himmelman gets better with each release, which is good news for kiddierock lovers everywhere. One of the secrets of his success is that Himmelman is Himmelman - he plays who he is, and the superlative results shine through.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Stevie on the Street

Two things I love with all my heart: Stevie Wonder and early Sesame Street. They kept it real, dammit!!! Dig the kid goin' nuts on the fire escape...

Monday, April 02, 2007

***The Sursiks***

This has to be the most brilliant, goosebump-inducing project of the year in the field of kids' music: remember when Syd Barrett was so wacked out that his pals from Pink Floyd and Soft Machine had to build songs around the doodles he managed to get recorded to tape? Same idea here, 'cept the vocalist/songwriter is a three-year-old girl, Lydia Grace, around whose lyrics and melodies the members of the Sursiks construct their music.

Marvel at a child's view of the world in "When Monsters Come", dig the ELO intro to the new wave punk "Aunt Kate", check out the beautifully spooky "Winter Wind is Blowing", and be tickled by "L-Y-D-I-A"'s self-affirming chant about coloring with purple crayons. Progressive music for Toddlers by Toddlers!

Now, the Sursiks released another CD that uses the same concept, except the rantings and ravings left on an answering machine by various friends are given the build-a-song treatment. Equally brilliant, incredibly amusing, but very adult. The grownups can listen to this one after the kiddies have gone to bed.

At the very least, Lydia Grace is an interesting CD. At the most, though, Lydia Grace is inspiring, inventive, and refreshingly original. Very late-70's Frank Zappa-ish, in the sweetest way possible. Power to the Preschoolers!