Can you think of any children's albums by good adult artists?
June 28, 2004 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Can you think of any children's albums by good adult artists? (more inside)

Most of the albums I've found are bland pablum by musicians like Kenny Loggins, Olivia Newton-John, Linda Rondstadt, Dave Koz, and the like. Where are all the good kids' albums?!?

So far, all I can come up with is Harry Nilsson's The Point, Carole King's Really Rosie, They Might Be Giants' No! and Jason "guitarist for Jellyfish" Falkner's Bedtime with the Beatles. I'm not counting compilations (e.g. Saturday Morning Cartoons' Greatest Hits or Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks).

And why aren't indie artists making music for kids? (I'd love to hear albums from musicians with a young spirit, like Jonathan Richman, Mates of State, Mirah, Of Montreal, and Ben Kweller.)
posted by waxpancake to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: And yes, I know that many albums recorded for adults are enjoyed by kids... My son is instantly calmed by Linus of Hollywood's Let Yourself Be Happy, a great album of Beatles-esque indie pop. I'm interested in albums that were recorded specifically for kids, but with parents' musical sensibilities firmly in mind.
posted by waxpancake at 9:01 AM on June 28, 2004

Art Garfunkel has done quite a nice one (barring the track sung by his son) - maybe that would fall under 'bland pablum' for you. Best children's album ever, though, is the soundtrack to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Up from the ashes! Up from the ashes... grow the roses of success...!
posted by humuhumu at 9:02 AM on June 28, 2004

Try Troutfishing in America. "It's a Puzzle" is a wonderful album.
posted by plinth at 9:03 AM on June 28, 2004

Elizabeth Mitchell and Daniel Littleton of Ida have made two good indie-folkish childrens albums - 'You are My Flower' and 'You are My Sunshine.' Once you get past the titles they're pretty fun. Website here.

Good strategy, by the way - Start the brainwashing early!
posted by adamkempa at 9:03 AM on June 28, 2004

Not counting compilations? Because Stay Awake is excellent.

We only have a couple of kids albums. It's less maddening for us to find music that we already have that's suitable for the kiddos.
posted by whatnot at 9:09 AM on June 28, 2004

Dan Zanes of the Del Fuegos is doing interesting stuff for kids these days, if you can stomach guest appearances by Lisa Loeb and Sheryl Crow to get to the tunes with Aimee Mann, John Doe (!), Lou Reed (!!), etc.
posted by bcwinters at 9:09 AM on June 28, 2004

Trout Fishing In America is one of my favorite bands. About half of their CDs are aimed at kids, but the music is still good enough that the adults can enjoy it. (On the linked page, the kids albums are labeled as "Family".)

On preview - plinth beat me to it. (Twice)
posted by tdismukes at 9:10 AM on June 28, 2004

In addition to No!, I would most highly recommend The Bottle Let Me Down, which is just plain great. Plus, while this doesn't address your question directly, don't discount the music from Sesame Street -- I hate to recommend the box set right out the gate, but I don't know that another collection has "Jellyman Kelly" and "Nasty Dan" and "African Alphabet" and "Mah Na Mah Na" and "I Don't Want to Live on the Moon" and "This Frog" and "Bein' Green" and ...

Also, surprisingly, Martha Stewart's imprint has released two kids' CDs, Playtime and Sleepytime that are all right. We have Sleepytime and it's pretty good, with a great lead track by Alison Krauss and the Natalie Merchant song from Mermaid Avenue Vol. 1 (which, BTW, also features the great kids' track "Hoodoo Voodoo") to counterbalance the Linda Ronstadt.
posted by blueshammer at 9:13 AM on June 28, 2004

Response by poster: The Ida and Dan Zanes albums are perfect! And with that much Frisell, "Stay Awake" has to be good.

To clarify, I'm looking for established artists (that make their living creating music for adults) that have recorded childrens' albums. Trout Fishing in America isn't for us.
posted by waxpancake at 9:18 AM on June 28, 2004

Response by poster: Someone without a Mefi account just e-mailed me with another good recommendation: Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell's Catch the Moon. This sounds great, from the samples.
posted by waxpancake at 9:22 AM on June 28, 2004

Jerry Garcia and David Grisman did a great children's album called "Not for Kids Only."
posted by eastlakestandard at 9:23 AM on June 28, 2004

Jerry Garcia and David Grisman's Not For Kids Only is pretty good.
posted by bondcliff at 9:24 AM on June 28, 2004

Peter, Paul & Mary - Peter, Paul and Mommy
Burl Ives - Little White Duck
Nena - Komm Leiber Mai (sung in German)
posted by nixxon at 9:28 AM on June 28, 2004

No! by They Might Be Giants is a favorite of my niece and nephew (or so I've been told).
posted by JoanArkham at 9:28 AM on June 28, 2004

the artist from the webcomic buttercup festival is making a children's book...
posted by ubersturm at 9:46 AM on June 28, 2004

The thing about most kids CDs is that even the ones that are good to tolerable cannot be listened to a thousand times in a row the way some kids like to without driving the adult into irrational hatred of material that they originally liked. I got my daughter 'No!' by TMBG for her fourth birthday. She listened to it and my wife liked it at first, but after about the five hundreth time in a row she could stand it no longer and now hates the band. The moral of the story is: Variety is the key to being able to stand any kids music.
posted by Apoch at 9:48 AM on June 28, 2004

Sting served as narrator for an otherwise unexceptional version of Peter and the Wolf a while back. This was part of my intro to classical music waaay back when, and I'll always have a soft spot for it.
posted by clever sheep at 9:48 AM on June 28, 2004

I take back my "unexceptional" comment above. The amazon page I linked has "listen now!" samples, and it took just one (try the last one, about the duck) to make me realize that this might be good stuff even though I'm not six anymore.
posted by clever sheep at 9:56 AM on June 28, 2004

Pete Seeger's "Stories and Songs For Little Children" is a classic of the genre. I had it in the 70's and it's still used frequently at my fiancee's high-concept preschool. Abi-yo-yo! Abi-yo-yo!

Woody Guthrie also made really great children's albums. "Nursery Days" (his best one) and "Songs to Grow On" (excellent as well).
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:57 AM on June 28, 2004

...why aren't indie artists making music for kids?

There is an awesome Canadian CD compilation called Somebody Needs a Timeout (link)
Great Canadian indie, punk and hardcore bands doing (mostly) original childrens songs. Sooooo good.

Also, my favorite for in the car with my five year old son is Ralph's World (which I found about via this Mefi thread).

"M-O-MM-Y needs C-O-FF-EE / D-A-DD-Y needs C-O-FF-EE"
posted by Quartermass at 10:09 AM on June 28, 2004

As an adult singer Sarah Hickman is good, although I haven't tried her kid's albums.
She is on the Martha Stewart comp that blueshammer mentioned.
posted by milovoo at 10:13 AM on June 28, 2004

Chris Daniels and the Kings' album Jazz Joint Jump is a favorite of adult and child friends of mine.
posted by bradhill at 10:27 AM on June 28, 2004

Canadian indie-heroes Rheostatics have a kids album that comes with an illustrated storybook. It's fantastic: The Story of Harmelodia.

It's about two children who discover music as a form of personal expression in, what else, a magical far-off land.
posted by Robot Johnny at 10:52 AM on June 28, 2004

Jon Lithgow - Singin' in the Bathtub
Larry Kirwan (Black 47) - Keltic Kids
posted by terrortubby at 11:14 AM on June 28, 2004

a couple i've come up with

Gary Lucas - Busy Being Born
all music guide: Accomplished guitarist Gary Lucas sends listeners on a multicolored carousel of "songs for children." He marches Jewish fight song singalongs, strums out Marx Brothers' tunes, and fingerpicks delicate acoustic originals. Busy Being Born includes great slide guitar; a Fiddler on the Roof tune; a traditional tune about turning clay into a dreydel done Ritchie Valens style; and what Lucas calls "an anti-lullaby" with a narrative reminiscent of Nick Cave's from-the-depths voice that's sure to frighten kids in a delicious way. Recommended for old and young alike. In all, the album is a rare, successful combination of silly kid-appeal and adult-sized ability, wrapped around a tweaked eccentricity that only the stodgy couldn't enjoy.

Los Lobos - Papa's Dream
all music guide: Los Lobos accompany Papa Lalo and some children on a trip to Mexico to celebrate his birthday, finding time along the way to sing everything from "La Bamba" to "Wooly Bully." A delightful children's tale with some typically eclectic folk, rock and Mexican traditional music from Los Lobos.
posted by chacal at 11:14 AM on June 28, 2004

Riders in the Sky have several fun cowboy/western records, chock full of fun harmonies and upbeat yodelin' numbers. Corny, but good stuff for the whole family.
posted by Guy Smiley at 11:19 AM on June 28, 2004

Response by poster: Another AskMefi reader e-mailed me with Lunch Money, the side-project of the Verna Cannon, an indie band in Columbia, SC. It's another very good recommendation.

The Rheostatics, Gary Lucas, and Los Lobos albums look very promising, thank you. We're not country or folk fans, but keep the suggestions coming.
posted by waxpancake at 11:26 AM on June 28, 2004

Maria Muldaur's Swingin' in the Rain is a favorite of everyone in my family.
posted by tommasz at 11:40 AM on June 28, 2004

The Rheostatics album, I'll add, also features the talents of Sarah Harmer and Kevin Hearn of Barenaked Ladies.

(and... cough cough... the book uses a font created by yours truly...)
posted by Robot Johnny at 12:18 PM on June 28, 2004

Fatcat and Fishface.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:39 PM on June 28, 2004

"To clarify, I'm looking for established artists (that make their living creating music for adults) that have recorded childrens' albums. Trout Fishing in America isn't for us."

Trout Fishing are established artists who make their living creating music for adults. They also make music for kids. I personally fell in love with their work before I ever heard any of their music for children.

Of course, if you're not a folk-pop fan, you might not like their music anyway. That's cool. I just wanted to set the record straight for the benefit of anyone else reading the thread.
posted by tdismukes at 12:47 PM on June 28, 2004

Laurie Berkner is fun...though she really didn't take off until she started doing kids music

But mostly my kid and I rock out to light rock, ala Rilo Kiley, Train, etc...anything that won't screw up her ear drums but she can sing along with.
posted by taumeson at 12:50 PM on June 28, 2004

The Wiggles do a cover of "Six Months in a Leaky Boat" with Tim Finn.
posted by gnomeloaf at 1:21 PM on June 28, 2004

Popular folk singer and storyteller John McCutcheon released a number of children's albums when his kids were young (and was nominated for three Grammys in the process), taking an unplanned two-decade trip into the world of kids' music that's well worth listening to.
posted by waldo at 2:59 PM on June 28, 2004

Little Richard did a thing about 12 years ago "Shake it all About" that my kids loved and I could take when played over and over on long car trips.
posted by mss at 3:48 PM on June 28, 2004

Raymond Scott?
posted by boneybaloney at 5:17 PM on June 28, 2004

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