Recommended Children's Music Part IX
Michael Mish (And April Winchell)
Michael Mish doesn't write children's songs, he writes songs that children will understand. Unlike Joe Scruggs or Tom Chapin (both highly recommended and reviewed here earlier) who's songs are frequently from the child's point of view, Michael Mish presents adult subjects in a way that anyone can relate to. He writes about animals and the solar system, and the kids will get it.
The MishMashMusic Sampler is a very nice 12-cut selection from several releases. If you want to put your toe in the water, the CD is usually cheap (CDBaby has a nice $5 sale, if you get three or more of the Special CDs, and they have a large Kids/Family section, including this sampler) and a good start. It has the marvelous Gorilla Walk ("who took the jungle?"), the barnyard Coup de Cluck, some doo-wop with You (are the world to me) and the upbeat I Feel Good. Still, if you have kids (or want to feed your inner child), I'd recommend skipping the sampler and go get the originals.
Currently only on cassette, Sleepy Time is "for the restless baby and tired parent". Gentle lullabyes, soothing even for pre-verbalizing tots. Aside from one long story about a princess and one lullabye from a young girl to her newborn baby brother, the songs are lullabyes sung by a father to his child. After a hard day of Barney and Teletubbies, these songs are perfect naptime music.
Also only on cassette, I'm Blue refers to the Earth, and most of the cuts have kids talking about the various subjects before the adults explain the concepts. The title song is a wonderful, weightless, description of our home planet from the ground and from space. Pan flute on the ground, strings in the ether. Kids try to explain gravity, then Michael sends in the funk ("jump as high as you can jump, come down every time..."). Rockin' To The Sound of Nature is Elton John-style dance rock that teaches how to listen to sounds all around you. John Cage would be happy. I'm Blue is a friendly, tuneful, introduction to some advanced concepts that affect all children everyday. Help your child understand the world around them and provide the vocabulary to talk about some basic questions.
We Love The Animals is also available on CD and his web site claims "This is Michael's personal favorite recording" and I can see why. Loads of animal fun! Coup de Cluck is a bouncy, clucking, country tune about (are you ready) chickens. Betsy Bovine is a loping honky-tonk about a favorite cow. Gorilla Walk (my introduction to Michael Mish through its inclusion on a Radio Aahs CD) has a jungle beat, describing the primate's life and lamenting the loss of his habitat.
Michael Mish understands music; more, he understands sound. He talks to kids without talking down to them. All his CDs and tapes (even the ones I haven't heard) are worthy and highly recommended.
Michael is busy transfering a bunch of his tapes to digital, so this review covers only two that are currently out on CD and available on CDBaby: The MishMashMusic Sampler and We Love Animals. The other two were digitized review copies and they'll be available sometime, so bug him to keep at it! Even for adults, much Michael Mish Music is iPod worthy (MMM=iPw, heh).
April Winchell keeps a large collection of very strange music in mp3 form on her site. This week, she has 15 different covers of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, ranging from Paul Anka to British Ukulele to gregorian chant to (the best) Weird Al.
If you want Frank Sinatra Jr. singing the Gumby Theme Song or Norwegian Wood done to the tune of the Mission Impossible Theme or Milton Berle riffing off Yellow Submarine or the Star Trek theme as done by Nichelle Nichols or as German techno or have a desperate hankering to hear the Muppet Theme Song in Hebrew or YMCA in Cantonese or need the spiritual awakening of Amazing Grace as sung by Donald Duck... this is the place to go.
I don't know anything about her, but she was described to me as "Paul Winchell's estranged daughter", and she talks about her experiences in and around the show. She apparently has a weblog with archives going back to June 2001 and keeps a large multimedia collection available to the public. I just found out about all this from Shockwave Rider Brian Westley, and am passing the information on to you. Use your knowledge for good. With Dr. Demento not on locally, I can tell what I'll be listening to for a while.