Sony’s New Children’s Label Crowded With Lively Releases

Source: The Equinoxer

April 09, 1992 | By Martin F. Kohn, Knight-Ridder Tribune.

Meet the Equinoxer. Well, not exactly, but it is spring, and there’s a big, new player on the children’s music scene-Sony Kids’ Music, which we’ll call the Equinoxer, at least this once.

Sony Kids’ has entered the picture with a batch of new releases from established artists who previously recorded for other, often much smaller, labels. These performers include Tom Chapin, Tom Paxton, Dan Crow and Kevin Roth. The latter two aren’t renowned, though you may have heard their voices without knowing it.

Consumers would no more buy a children’s recording because it’s on Sony than they’d buy a book because it’s published by Random House. What the creation of a big new children’s label means for consumers is the increased likelihood of finding its products in record stores, instead of just in mail order catalogs.

These Sony Kids’ Music releases are worth finding:

“Billy the Squid,” Tom Chapin: Nobody does children’s music better these days than Tom Chapin. With songwriting partner John Forster, Chapin concocts melodies you want to sing along with and lyrics you want to learn. Take the title tune, about an underwater outlaw who “robbed from the selfish and gave to the shellfish.” Its wordplay is laugh-out-loud funny, and its arrangement is bouncy country and western, with backup singers, electric guitars, tambourine and, for grownups, the five-note riff from the old Clint Eastwood movie “A Fistful of Dollars.”

There’s the Chapin trademark of putting words to a famous piece of classical music. (Remember “Don’t Make Me Go to School Today” set to the

“Dying Swan” theme from “Swan Lake”?) Here it’s “The Ghost of Bleak House,” a funny song about a friendly ghost, set to Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette,” better known as Alfred Hitchcock’s theme music. “The Missing Parade” celebrates the delights of literally marching to a different drummer. The calypso-tinged “Great Big Words” emphasizes another kind of joy: “Give me a massive ideogram, a big word to make my point/When you can verbalize yourself, you can really rock the joint.”

“Daddysongs,” Kevin Roth: If you’ve heard the theme song of PBS’

“Shining Time Station,” you’ve heard Kevin Roth sing. Roth, who plays the dulcimer, recorded for Folkways as a teenager. For several years he has specialized in children’s music, and the four-string dulcimer can barely be heard amid all the other instruments on his recent recordings. Roth has an affecting voice and good taste: Selections on “Daddysongs” include “My Girl” (yes, Smokey Robinson’s classic), which works as a song from a father to a daughter; the lovely “Waltzing With Bears” and the definitive baseball song, “Playing Right Field.”

Roth merits a wider audience, something he’s likely to get with “Daddysongs.”

“A Friend, a Laugh, a Walk in the Woods,” Dan Crow: Another voice you may have heard is Dan Crow’s. He sang “Gonna Take a Walk Outside,” the theme song in the movie “Milo and Otis,” included on this recording.

A fine, funny cut is “Zucchini,” a song about gardening in which every other word is “zucchini,” in tribute to the prodigious vegetable.

“Walking on My Wheels” is a cheerful song about a child who uses a wheelchair to get around and who takes delight in confounding a substitute teacher: “I raised my hand/She nearly dropped her chalk./ She thought I couldn’t think/ Just because I couldn’t walk.”

Crow is another singer-songwriter due to acquire a wider following.

“Susie Is a Rocker,” Tom Paxton: Folk singer Tom Paxton needs no introduction, though not everyone realizes he has done children’s recordings on his own label, Pax Records, for years.

“Suzy Is a Rocker” (the title song is about playing soccer, not synthesizer) contains lively, whimsical tunes. “I’ve Got a Bellyache”

employs gargling and a tuba that sounds as if it’s in pain to complement lyrics about having consumed too much too fast. “S’pose My Toes Were Noses” poses several provocative questions and answers them. “Phew! I’d smell my feet” is the first answer.

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