Kids can rock (and swing)

Weary parents take heart: There’s more to kids’ music than a purple dinosaur and a certain color-coordinated Australian quartet

Tom Chapin
Some Assembly Required
Razor & Tie

Tom Chapin’s “Some Assembly Required” has a 1950s Middle America feel that works more often than not. The loose, acoustic conglomeration of mostly folk and country music is made with a big group of talented friends such as Eric Weissberg (of “Dueling Banjos” fame), as well as Laurie Berkner and Vanessa Williams.

Chapin’s lyrics are nostalgic without making direct reference to days of yore; in his warm world, children are more concerned with puppies, circuses, and lost shoes than cell phones, computers, and play dates.

Album highlights include the jolly, banjo-powered frolic, “My Face.” Kids of a certain age, and parents of a certain disposition, will be challenged to not love lyrics such as, “I like my nose/It smells real neat/It knows when something’s good to eat/Or when I have to wash my feet.” Silly fun is to be had in “Don’t Make Me Dance,” a piano boogie-woogie a la Jerry Lee Lewis and in the gentle gallop of “Only One Shoe,” a song that artfully delivers a classic punchline.

Michelle Shocked
Got No Strings
Mighty Sound

Who saw this one coming? Michelle Shocked covers Disney songs on “Got No Strings,” giving us acoustic, swinging supper-club renditions of kid-friendly classics such as “Wish Upon a Star,” “Bare Necessities,” and “Spoonful of Sugar.”

Shocked’s playful, torched up vocals are a delight, but they’re going to appeal to parents a lot more than to kids. Her warm, mischievous voice leaves kisses all over the slinky arrangements, but kids are going to roll their eyes as the music winks knowingly.

Various artists
Putamayo Presents: Swing Around the World
Putamayo World Music

While Shocked scorches when she swings, the artists assembled from around the world by the Putamayo label try a different tack: exuberance. The swing dance music of the 1930s and ’40s has an irrepressible energy anyway, and in the hands of modern day artists such as The Cool Crooners of Bulawayo, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Ka’ua Crater Boys, Oscar Peterson, Clark Terry, and Renzo Arbore ei suoi Swing Maniacs, the genre’s got a Looney Tunes rock and bop.

World music rockers Children of the Revolution steal the show with “Minor Swing: To Django,” a calamitous, finger-poppin’ tribute to the joyfully innovative swing of Jean Baptiste “Django” Reinhardt.

“Fotoromanza” by Alfredo Rey E La Sua Orchestra is a loopy enchantment that deserves the full attention of the Warner Bros. animation department; a dog should be chasing a cat and getting clunked over the head with a frying pan to this music.

The Laurie Berkner Band
We are…The Laurie Berkner Band
Razor & Tie

Berkner reprises some of her classics here on DVD. While Berkner’s an attractive woman and her bandmates are also pleasant enough to look at, there’s nothing beyond the music to recommend this collection. The visuals consist of the band hopping around enthusiastically to Berkner’s charming music on low-rent sets and in front of computer-generated special effects. If MTV had had a kiddy channel in its early days, this is what the videos would’ve looked like.

This DVD serves as a greatest hits collection, however. “Pig on Her Head” is here, as is “Victor Vito,” “O Susannah,” “Moon Moon Moon,” as well as a new one, “Walk Along the River.”

Berkner understands her preschool audience, matching unrestrained silliness with rhyme and the rhythmic strumming of her acoustic guitar. It’s good hand-clapping, toddler-jamming fun that doesn’t need the physical constraints TV-gazing imposes upon its listeners.

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