Archive for Listening

Joanie Takes June


Babies Gotta Have It favorite Joanie Leeds is dropping a new CD on June 25th (like my fancy music biz lingo?).  We got a sneak preview of “Bandwagon,” and just like her previous CD “I’m a Rock Star” this one is a big hit at our house!  This totally delightful collection of songs mixes musical styles and themes, all while exploring kid-friendly ideas with parent-enjoyable melodies and lyrics (I especially love the Ferris Bueller reference in “Back to School”).  Bean’s favorite is “Are We There Yet” – a rocking tribute to that oft-quoted road-trip mantra.  I love “I Love New York” for obvious reasons…but also because along with the familiar landmarks, this super cool rap/chanting/groovy song mentions such insider destinations as the opera, the High Line, MSG, the Central Park Carousel and SOHO.  And it kinda reminds me of that 1980s anthem “Mickey.”  Which is enjoyable.  Also love the beautiful song “My Family Tree,” a lyrical tribute to the beauty of family.

Sirius/XM’s Kids Place Live Program Director Mindy Thomas has said that “Joanie Leeds is that cool babysitter who would let you try on her lip gloss once your mom left the house. You idolized her, and your mom knew she could trust her. That’s Joanie. Only she’s also likely to completely ROCK THE ROOF OFF YOUR HOUSE!”

Want to get to know Joanie for yourself?  Well, you’re in luck!  Starting on June 2nd, Joanie will release 14 new videos on her YouTube Channel.  Each video is inspired by a song from “Bandwagon.”  The series kicks off with “I Love New York” so that’s cool. Check out Joanie’s Facebook page for updates and keep a look out for all 14 music videos on her YouTube channel, with new ones added on alternate days.

You can find Joanie’s CDs on her website or on our affiliate,  And if you’re lucky you can catch Joanie in concert in your hometown soon!  Keep an eye on her upcoming events and facebook page to see when Joanie and the Nighlights will be in your area!

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Stuff Your Kids’ Stockings With Stories – Because Reading Rocks

Do not underestimate the power of storytelling.

In addition to performing, I am proud to have been an artist educator for many years.  I’ve worked with companies that have brought live theater to thousands of kids who would otherwise never have been exposed to it.  And over the years I have continued to be amazed at the way well-told stories can grab a child’s attention.  Even in these days of the Nintendo DS and iPod Touch, kids can get wrapped up in a simple story that sparks their imaginations.  Just this week a theater company I am a member of has been performing a story-theater style piece about Greek Mythology at Lincoln Center.  I have seen, with my own eyes, city kids sitting on the edges of their seats…to watch three actors, several funny wigs and a bamboo staff weave the tales of the Cyclops and the story of Echo.  I have to remind myself of this often.

My daughter responded similarly to Johnette Downing’s wonderful new CD, “Reading Rocks.”  This innovative new album is the singer/songwriter/childrens book author’s first to combine spoken word with music, and it’s a delight.  Downing’s CD interweaves readings from five of her picture books with eleven new songs that range in style from bluegrass to rock.  She’s based in New Orleans and the varied musical influences of that city ooze out of every lyric and line.  My little one was caught up in the CD when we listened to it….asking me questions and singing along.  Amazing, the power of a story. Be it set to music or simply read.

Much like the Greek Myths, many of the stories in “Reading Rocks” cleverly explain natural phenomena.  Stories like “Why the Crawfish Lives in the Mud” or “Why The Possum Has a Large Grin.”  Kids love these tales.

So this holiday season…maybe think about stuffing the stockings with stories.  Pick up a copy of “Reading Rocks” on Johnette Downing’s website or at our affiliate

Your kids will be glad you did.


I received a copy of “Reading Rocks” for purposes of review.  As always all opinions are strictly my own and in no way influenced by anyone else. 


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Sing Loud! with Melissa Green

We have listened to a lot of music this summer.  Many weeks can go by here in our New York City apartment in which we don’t turn on the radio. But in the car on a road trip, you kinda have to.

Doc Hubby is a music snob.  Me, not so much.  When my parents took us on long road trips across the country we listened to Men at Work, taped from a live HBO special and played loudly on a boom box via cassette.  Or John Denver.  Or Johnny Cash.  “The Devil Came Down to Georgia,” “The Gambler,” “Sounds of Silence.” Lots of these songs have pretty grown-up themes.  I memorized every word because I have a freakish ability to memorize song lyrics. I don’t think I realized that when John Denver was sitting around the campfire and singing that everyone was high, that he didn’t just mean in elevation.

We have a now five year old.  She loves to sing.  She loves to sing loud.  She does that thing of inventing words that fit into the rhythms and general sound that she hears on the radio.  But then again sometimes she actually gets the lyrics right.  And when she started dancing in her room belting out “Call Me Maybe” I kind of thought…maybe we need to take a step back.

I don’t think Cate understands exactly what she’s singing.  But there’s a mature nature to these songs on the radio now, and a portraying of girls, particularly young girls, in a certain way, that I’m not so sure I can get behind.  I’m not a puritan about this.  It’s just…well, she’s only five.

Since I created Babies Gotta Have It, I have been introduced to so much wonderful kids music by amazing independent Kids Bands. Maybe we need to go back to them.

I just received a new CD for kids from the fantastic singer/songwriter Melissa Green called “Sing Loud!“. We played it today again while we made tutus for Cate’s fairy birthday party.  The songs are upbeat, rock and roll, catchy…all the elements of today’s top 40 songs.  But I don’t have to subtly change the lyrics as we sing along.  Melissa Green covers the pop hit “We Got the Beat” by the Go-Gos (with backup vocals by Brooke Shields no less) and the classic “Free to Be You and Me.”  Awesome.  Totally appropriate.  Bean loves “4 Nickels and a Dime” and “The Playdate.”  “The Playdate” is about asking a cool boy over to play.  No ripped-jeans-skin was showing. I’m singing along too and I’m not cringing at the lyrics.  I’m feeling good about the content and the musical quality.

The title track of Melissa Green’s CD is “Sing Loud.”  The first lyrics are “Stand Up. Sing Loud. Be Proud. Stand Up for Love.”  I think we should encourage our children to sing loud.  And stand up and be proud and stand up for love. I want my daughter to sing and dance and wiggle and twist and still be a little girl.  Not a woman.  Or a teenager.  Or even a tween.  A little girl.

I see your “Call Me Maybe” and I raise you “Sing Loud.” Watch the video. Stand up for love.

Many thanks to Melissa Green for the opportunity to review her new CD!

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Raise a Ruckus

There’s a new CD out from Hullabaloo, fittingly titled Raise a Ruckus!  If Elvis met Johnny Cash and Keith Urban that would get you close to the sound offered in this great children’s CD.  With its folksy sound and laugh-out-loud lyrics, you won’t be able to stop listening.  CW particularly liked “Dad Upside Down” and I had trouble not laughing too loudly to “Trash is My Treasure” which is about seagulls (full of alliteration… “dirty dumpster diver”)!

I particularly love that the lead singer Steve Denyes is an elementary school music teacher, folksinger, and songwriter, while his cohort Brendan Kremer is a rock ‘n’ roll drummer.  Together they are Hullabaloo.  Together they have created a CD that I would be happy to blast in my car every day.

 When Raise a Ruckus releases on September 4th, be sure to grab a copy!  Your kids will love it (and you’ll find yourself singing along too)!

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Someone Else’s Shoes…A CD Compilation Full of Teachable Moments

CW was immediately interested in Someone Else’s Shoes.  He loved the rhythms, the musicality, and the words.  Of course, he kind of missed the point of “Take a Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes” because he was very worried that it isn’t nice to stand in someone else’s shoes.  CW stated, “You have to ask them first, right?”  Well, I guess he’s at least getting part of the lesson!

In a world full of bullies, it is a struggle to teach a child to stick up for himself while being kind to others.  This CD teaches empathy and manners while encouraging living in harmony with others. Recess Music will release Someone Else’s Shoes on July 31 (it is the third in its “Best Foot Forward series”).

What sets this CD apart from others (other than the positive messages specifically for children ages 4-11) is the compilation of award-winning children’s musicians, including two-time Grammy winders Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, four-time Emmy winning composer/performer Jamie Broza, and Parents’ Choice and NAPPA winner Swingset Mamas.  My favorite songs include “There’s No Place for Bullies in Our School” by The Hill Brothers, “Take a Walk in Someone Else’s Shoes” by Swingset Mamas, and “Say Something Nice About Someone” by The Happy Crowd (CW was bopping his head next to me as we listened to it).  The songs range from folk, jazz, pop, and country-esque arrangements, so there is something for everyone, but you won’t feel like you are listening to children’s music!

If you have been looking for a great way to teach your children about being a kind, empathetic friend to others, Someone Else’s Shoes is the perfect CD for you!  It will be available online at, our affiliate, or iTunes!

photo10 150x150 Dapple Cleans Up Kristin is a former high school English teacher and show choir geek enjoying time as a stay-at-home mom to CW and new baby brother MD.

Thanks to Dapple  for the chance to review their products! As always, all opinions are Kristin’s and her boys’ and were not influenced by anyone.





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An In Tents Circus of Sounds

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: step right up for the clever lyrics, hilarious titles, and original sounds of Recess Monkey’s newest album In Tents! A circus adventure awaits you…and if you love words and puns like I do (yes, I’m an English-teacher nerd), you will love every second of this CD (if the song “Odditorium” isn’t an example that makes you giggle, then I don’t know what is…a pun for auditorium for those of you who need a little prompting).

I can see why Recess Monkey has won so many accolades, including its listing on NPR as one of the “10 Best Kids’ Albums for 2007.”  This CD will keep you and your kids entertained for 47 straight minutes (if you can get them to only listen to it once).


In Tents includes a fantastical journey to the circus with the notorious Boregaard Noregaard!  Your heads will whirl with “Carousel” and “Sit and Spin.”  Your children will be unable to contain their enthusiasm with “Bouncy House” and “Popcorn,” tunes that make even the most sedate ready to dance!  And when you are finished you can take the “Show on the Road,” which is what we plan to do this weekend…we’ll be listening to In Tents on our way to the beach!

And, if you like what you hear, you may want to check out Animal House, a “zoologically correct hit,” or the Beatles-esque Tabby Road. Pick up a copy of In Tents for your children, for your students, or for yourself.  You will not be disappointed.

photo10 150x150 Paper Bees Create a BuzzKristin is a former high school English teacher and show choir geek enjoying time as a stay-at-home mom to CW and new baby brother MD.

Thanks to Recess Monkey  for the chance to review their new CD! As always, all opinions are Kristin’s and her boys’ and were not influenced by anyone.

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Picasso, That’s Who! And So Can You!

No, this is not the title of the latest Stephen Colbert book.  It’s the new go-to CD for kids in our house, “Picasso, That’s Who! (And So Can You!)” by Hope Harris.

My Bean is really hot for this  CD.  She asks for it in the car.  She wants me to play it at home on the stereo.  She’s such a little dancer–her first ballet recital is approaching and I fear she may be paralyzed by nerves and spend the entire presentation in my lap.  Which is fine.  She’s four.  But I just know how much she loves to dance.  She doesn’t walk around the apartment…she prances.  Hands on her hips.  Toes pointed.  The whole nine yards.  Hope Harris’s new CD, “Picasso, That’s Who!” is the accompaniment of choice for her these days.

But more than that, Cate has been asking about the artists Hope Harris sings about on the CD.  Each song features a different famous artist.  The lyrics tell a bit of the story of the artist’s life and the nature of her work, and the song style typically reflects either the artists’s country of origin or something essential about her creations.  The title track has an awesome Latin beat; “A-C-T-I-O-N”, a song about Jackson Pollock, rocks a funky 60’s groove; and Grandma Moses is expressed with lots of country bluegrass pickin’. This is the first CD about artists I’ve come across and I think it’s a really clever and inventive idea to introduce kids to art…through music!  I think we’ll listen to the CD before taking a trip to the Met this summer.  How cool will it be to show her pictures created by the artists she dances to. And I can’t imagine a better CD for art teachers to play in their classrooms.

In Hope Harris’s words (I don’t usually do this, but I think she really talks about her work insightfully):

With Picasso, That’s Who! (And So Can You!) my goal is to spark curiosity and inspire creativity.  I want kids to look at the world around them, be motivated to visit art galleries and museums, and to realize that artists are everywhere making all kinds of art.  I’d like to say to every child who hears this music, ‘Now it’s your turn … paint it, glue it, draw it, mix it, try it!  All the artists on this album did, and you can, too!  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Use your imagination and have some fun!

I hold out that CDs for kids are some of the best birthday presents you can give.  Our kids are drowning in plastic toys and stuffed animals.  Give the gift of music this birthday!  You’ll be so glad you did!

“Picasso, That’s Who” drops on May 22nd.  Buy yours on CD Baby when it’s released or check out her current album, Cousins Jamboree on

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Alison Faith Levy Opens Up a “World of Wonder”

How’s this for a cool name for a kindie band?  The Sippy Cups.  Yup, Sippy Cups aren’t just things from which you drink, but they are also a rock band for kids.  And Alison Faith Levy, Sippy Cups band member formerly known as “Sippy Alison,” has returned to the kindie music scene to create a solo album for kids!  Her newest CD, World of Wonder includes such catchy tunes as “Reach for the Sky,” “Like a Spinning Top,” and CW’s favorite “Detours” (which is all about driving and the detours we take)!

While Levy is not a stranger to the music stage (she spent five years on tour with “The Sippy Cups” and then performed with her grown-up band of “McCabe & Mrs. Miller”), her new album World of Wonder provides new pop songs for kids, with a fresh new sound.  When we popped the CD into the car stereo, I didn’t feel like I was trapped in the car with a CD for the kids.  I felt like I was listening to the radio.  And CW has nearly memorized “Detour” after only listening a handful of times.  It is catchy, I will admit.  There are songs for the whole family on there.  Levy even does a new rendition of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” which had MD bopping along in his high chair!

If you’re looking for something new and lively to listen to, you cannot go wrong with World of WonderAlison Faith Levy will open up a whole new world for both you and your children.  Her rich voice and pop tones will be a welcome break from the other songs you hear over and over in your head, I can assure you!  And if you’re lucky enough to be located in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can attend the “World of Wonder” CD Release Party at the Bay Area Discovery Museum on May 12th. So, say goodbye to Barney and hello to a World of Wonder!
Kristin with CW and MDKristin is a former high school English teacher and show choir geek enjoying time as a stay-at-home mom to CW and new baby brother MD.


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“Monster Suit” Rocks!

Mo Phillips Monster Suit

Did you know that ducks don’t get wet?  Did you know that banana peels work as roller skates?  Did you know that children’s music is fun?

I’ve heard my share of children’s music; and, I’ve never been all that impressed.  Don’t get me wrong I love music.  I love dancing.  I love CW dancing.  But, some preschool music is just so “normal!”  With the exception of The Barenaked Ladies’ Snack Time, I have not heard anything as eclectic, fun, and inventive as Mo Phillips’ Monster Suit. He has a bit of a folk mixed with country and classic acoustic.  I love the minimum of electrical effects…the true acoustic fun of a man and his guitar (like Rusted Root meets Dr. Jean)!

CW Reading the "Monster Suit" CD Notes

His background as an early childhood educator in Portland, Oregon as well as a musician add credit to Mo Phillips, and he attributes his inspiration to the kids he has taught.  As with preschoolers, his music is eclectic and ranges from a crazy jam in “Rollerskate Banana Peels” to a lullaby ballad in “All Okay.”  But, I think “Bed Head” might be my all-time favorite…or maybe “To The Zoo” about “bears dancing around in their underwear.”  It’s a toss-up.  Your children won’t stop dancing, singing, and humming (and neither will you)!

With the April 10th release of his third kids’/family CD Monster Suit, bring Mo Phillips into your homes and cars.  Find some time to sing, dance, and drum to his witty and fun tunes!

Kristin with CW and MDKristin is a former high school English teacher and show choir geek enjoying time as a stay-at-home mom to CW and new baby brother MD.

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New Tunes for Tiny Toes to Tap To

It’s been a while since I rounded up my new favorite CDs for kids. In the meantime my little Bean has stuck to the notion she is going to be a ballerina when she grows up…and a singer…and an exercise teacher…. I’m missing the days when she was going to be a farmer, my little Manhattanite.  But we can hope that those dreams return with the summer sun.

In the interim she’s been dancing and singing up a storm. And here are some of the toe-tapping tunes we’re loving these days.

The Jimmies Kindie Rock Group for Kids

The Jimmies’ first album, “Make Your Own Someday,” was one of the very first CDs we listened to when the Bean was teeny.  She loved it.  Doc Hubby and I love it–it’s wacky and hilarious.  The world loves it–it has won a zillion awards and was even named one of the Top 20 Best Kids Albums of the Decade by ParentDish. So we were absolutely stoked when their new CD, Practically Ridiculous came out.  This album isn’t practically anything.  It’s full on awesome with more of the wide range of tunes in all kinds of styles (I love it when Ashley raps) you expect from The Jimmies.  The lyrics are clever and the melodies are singable and the beats are danceable and so so fun!  Pick your copy up at your local Barnes & Noble or on Amazon today.

Bari Koral Family Rock Band

The Bari Koral Family Rock Band’s album “Rock and Roll Garden” was another early favorite in our little diva’s CD collection.  Doc Hubby learned to play “Hey Ducky” on the guitar and the two of them sing it heartily in family jam sessions. And I have on occasion come into the living room to discover Bean heartily dancing to “Clap It” and following all the dance moves Bari sings! Her new CD has the word “cupcakes” in the title.  Hello lover.  Bean loves “Anna and the Cupcakes” which dropped on February 14th (proper use of the term “dropped” no?).  We especially dig the musical retelling of the “Gingerbread Man” and Bean loves to remind us that they have the story at school but it ends differently.  Bari Koral’s music is upbeat, cheerful, kid and grown-up-friendly. “Anna and the Cupcakes” definitely belongs on your kiddo playlist this spring.

Planning that summer road trip? Get these CDs in the iPod mix before you head out.  And remember, kids CDs make terrific birthday presents for those kids who have all the plastic junk they could possibly play with!  The gift of music.  That’s something babies definitely gotta have.

Many thanks to The Jimmies and to Bari Koral for sending us these CDs to review!

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