Great children's music should make kids want to dance and sing while also empowering them with witty lyrics and insightful messages. These brand new CDs showcase richly textured rock-n-roll with feel-good themes and inspirational, worldly-yet-fun lyrics.
"I'm So Glad" from Alex and the Kaleidoscope Band; $10.
With 16 national awards, Alex and the Kaleidoscope Band returns in their fourth CD that glides easily from rock to folk/pop, from reggae to world music. With strong, groove-oriented rhythms and catchy melodies, the high-energy band constantly renews the engagement of the listener. They also like to be exotic, with Zydeco grooves in "Crocodile" and life celebration in "Fun Wah Alafia Ashe Ashe" ("Give me peace, let it be so ..."). Tempo picks up for bouncing dance action with "Kangaroo!" and dinosaur adventures in the Middle Eastern-flavored "Dino Dig" and the bluesy "Tyrannosaurus."
"I Like Everything About You (Yes I Do!)" from Crosspulse Percussion Ensemble; $15.
A celebration of melody, rhythm and culture, this wonder-producing quintet drums, dances, pats their torsos and limbs and plays bells, clave, banjo, "found sound," hand drums, bass and more. This, their first CD for kids and families, transforms nursery rhymes and classic R and B tunes into fresh and funky grooves. A scarf dance from the Congo, Duke Ellington's "Caravan," Spanish rap and indigenous Venezuelan songs are just a few of the primitive, catchy creations families will enjoy.
"Jump on the Bandwagon" from Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights; $15.
Leeds has legions of fans throughout the country and has earned numerous awards. Her big soprano rock voice lends itself wonderfully to full-out zest or soft and tender tunes. Produced by Grammy winner Dean Jones, "Bandwagon" kicks off in a bluesy groove with family road trip anthem, "Are We There Yet?" then picks up speed with fast country-rock in "Back to School" and on to driving bass in "UFO." The funky "Nutritious" has a cool back-story, with Stevie Wonder himself approving this fun ode to healthy eating (based on the groovy sounds of his "Superstition.")
"Sha Doo Be Doop" from Miss Nina; Little Monster Records; $15.98 physical; $9.99 digital.
Beloved NYC children's musician Miss Nina (Nina Stone) knows "it's common nowadays for performers to tailor their children's music to reflect the parents' musical tastes, but honestly, I'm all about the children." Stone wants young children to feel safe, happy and loved, and succeeds in this effort in "Sha Doo Be Doop," with an eclectic mix of kid-friendly songs. In "My Hula Hoop," she creates layers of sound using vocalized rhythms and hand clapping. "Ba-Rump" is a short-and-silly tune with an "old-timey" sound; the up-tempo "Angry Song" presents safe ways for kids to release angry feelings, and "New Alphabet" is a rapping alternative to the ABC song.
Smartly, Nina Stone also engages some of her favorite children's books in her songs, with an interactive ode to the late Maurice Sendak in "Wild Things, then a groovy version of Bill Martin Jr.'s classic bear story "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" with "The Brown Bear Rap," and a sing-along to Jane Yolen's "How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?"
Other new children's CDs worth every penny include:
"It's Not Fair to Me" from Bill Harley and Keith Munslow; Round River Records; $12. This long-awaited collaboration between two award-winning children's music veterans captures the hilarity of misbehaving dogs, whining little brothers and ugly sweaters.
"Rock-Ucation" by Jeremy Plays Guitar" $12, includes hit songs from the band's Rock-Ucation classes, from "TGIF" to "Help Me Please" to "Working Together." For more information, visit www.rock-ucation.com.
"Latin Dreamland" is Putumayo Kids' newest, with 10 calming melodies from Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico and Peru.
myKaZoo Music/Universal Music Enterprises brings to life Zak Morgan's fourth family music CD, "The Barber of the Beast," with exuberant wordplay and humorous storytelling, puns and school anthems.
To find out more about Lee Littlewood and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.