Monday, December 19, 2011

2011 Holiday Guide: Part 3 - Gifts of Music

"Street Corner Snowman" photo by Paula Slade

Today we wrap up our section on musical gifts, which are perfect for not only the holidays, but year round listening as well.

The products, which appear below were released during 2011 and are performed by an incredibly diverse and talented mix of musical artists.

All of these albums have been researched for quality as well as value, and are geared to provide the children in your life with many hours of positive and fun-filled entertainment.

Best pricing options, available at the time of this posting are provided below, but it is suggested that you cross-compare CD and MP3 prices with your favorite online as well as stick and brick retailers when available.

From now, and until December 21, 2011, more offerings will continue to be featured in other entertainment categories.

As a reminder, you may want to bookmark this page to further enjoy the musical journey at your leisure, and enable you to connect with the many other product reviews that occurred this year and in 2010, which are available through archived posts on the right side of this page.

As always, you are the best judge of what is appropriate for your child’s entertainment.

Christmas in Concord

From Grammy Award-Winning artist, Dan Zanes and Festival Five Records comes a recent digital release, Christmas in Concord, a delightful small-scale celebration of old Christian tunes that have been a part of Christmases in Zanes’ hometown of Concord, NH for generations.

Of the EP Zanes notes, “I moved away from that narrow canon in the years since I left home as a seventeen year old in favor of more varied musical pastures, but this holiday season something pulled me back. From my vantage point here in Brooklyn, where every holiday tradition is represented and the parties are much more mixed and worldly than anything I could have imagined back then, I now realize that there were some very moving songs being sung year after year and I’m grateful for the memories of those parties and for the experience of gathering year after year with friends and neighbors to sing, eat, have a few laughs and eat some pickled herring.” 

Tracks include the following selections:

1. Angels We Have Heard on High
2. Deck the Halls
3. It Came upon a Midnight Clearer
4. Joy to the World
5. Silent Night

Sound samples for Christmas in Concord are available exclusively through iTunes, where the MP3 downloads for each track is $1.29, or all five tracks for $3.99.

Tumble Bee

Acclaimed indie folk artist Laura Veirs' first family recording Tumble Bee delves into the great American folk song tradition

The recording covers a wide range of folk songs, from early 20th century work songs to the ballads of Jimmie Rodgers, Woody Guthrie, Peggy Seeger and Harry Belafonte.

The youthful innocence in Veirs’ voice lends itself well to the jaunty spirit of the album.

Veirs and renowned record producer Tucker Martine, her long-time collaborator on seven of her eight records, have created a piece of art that is sure to appeal to children as well as adult fans of Veirs’ previous work. The album features guest appearances by Colin Meloy (Decemberists), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Béla Fleck and Brian Blade (drummer for Bob Dylan) among many others.

Inspired by the birth of her son and by countless fans who’ve told her over the years how much their kids love her records, Veirs became curious about the history of American children’s music. She and Martine listened to hundreds of songs from the past several centuries, including Harry Smith’s famous Anthology of American Folk Music and the deep catalog of American music from Smithsonian Folkways. They selected what Veirs calls, “a sampling that reflects our richness as a people.”

Sound samples for all 13 tracks Tumble Bee are available at where MP3 downloads are offered at $0.89 per track or $8.99 for the entire album.

Best price for the “New” CD is from Amazon Marketplace for $9.37.

The CD package includes a D.I.Y. kit to make your own Tumble Bee mobile.

Golden Kids Rules

Chip Taylor, renowned musician and songwriter, who is probably best recognized for music mega hits “Angel of the Morning” and “Wild Thing,” has created a charming contribution to family music with this Smithsonian Folkways Recordings release, Golden Kids Rules featuring Chip Taylor and the Grandkids.

Generational love, wisdom and original songs fill the 13 tracks on this 38-minute album blending Taylor’s seasoned voice with the youthful interplay of his three granddaughters, Riley, Kate, and Samantha.

A true family affair, Taylor's brother, actor Jon Voight, provides an insightful introduction to the artist and the album in the accompanying liner notes which also include a 20-page book of song lyrics. Voight writes, “Charm is an ingredient we seem to have lost in music over the years...and purity. To me, this album is a treasure that comes just at the right time to lift us to a reminder of the power of family and the majesty of children.”

In the video below, Chip Taylor discusses the making of Golden Kids Rules at the 2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, where songs from the album debuted.

Sound samples for all tracks of Golden Kids Rules are available through where MP3 downloads are $0.99 per track or $8.99 for the entire album.

Best price for the Golden Kids Rules CD format is through Amazon Marketplace “New” for $7.27.

Music Play for Folks of All Stripes

Award-winning musician, author and child development specialist Jim Gill released his sixth playful recording for young children and the adults who care for them: Music Play for Folks of All Stripes.

Like all of Gill’s CDs, Music Play for Folks of All Stripes invites active participation from listeners. Known as the “Poet of Play,” Gill’s style, when he toys with each of the song’s lyrics and music, has the effect of inviting kids, parents and caregivers to play together. Opportunities abound in this album for physical movement and active expression. There are clap-alongs, finger plays, pretend games and imaginative dances, all suitable for playrooms, family rooms and even classrooms.

The 15 new songs represent a range of musical styles, from symphonic to country, improvised jazz to polka, so there is something for music lovers “of all stripes.” There are also show tunes, a country waltz, a piece that includes bagpipes, and a special number called “Living Inside of a Jar,” which is accompanied entirely by musicians who blow, pluck and strike, xylophone-style, on glass bottles.

Gill is a nationally acclaimed musician and child development authority who often speaks to early childhood educators, care providers and children’s librarians on the intrinsic value of play and the many connections between music play and literacy.

Music Play for Folks of All Stripes is available to sound sample and purchase direct from Gill’s website where the CD is available to purchase for $16.00 and includes a DVD featuring live-action music videos relating to selected songs on the album.

Below is a video of Jim Gill and “Beethoven's Five Finger Play,” which is one of the tracks featured in Music Play for Folks of All Stripes.

Small Potatoes

On September 6, we featured a post about the launch of “Small Potatoes,” a series of animated shorts on Disney Junior. Over the last several months, that article received an extensive amount of page views, which attests to the fact that this adorable block of children’s programming has an enormous following. 

The show now has a fun and eclectic selection of downloadable songs from the program, which are available to sound sample through iTunes for $0.99 per track, with the video, “Imagination” downloadable for $1.49.

These are delightful and cheerful tunes that entertain with a capital “E."

Plus, there’s a brand new track, just in time for the holiday season, “Jingle Spuds.”

Below for your enjoyment is the Small Potatoes animated short, “You Can Be What You Want to Be".

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