As long as there have beenfamilies, campfires and stories to tell, there have been songs thatchildren love. But it's only in recent decades that "children'smusic" has mushroomed into a separate growth industry, complete withits own concert tours, TV tie-in shows and recognizable stars.
For parents, this can be a mixed blessing. Compared with the vasttreasure-trove of family-friendly music that has stood the test oftime -- such as American folk (or for that matter, Jewish holiday)songs -- too much of this stuff is bland, boring, saccharin andpainfully earnest. Ask yourself: What would you rather listen to on along road trip -- a Woody Guthrie ballad or a recycling song fromBarney the Dinosaur?
Still, some children's artists elevate the entire kiddie genre,and happily, Craig Taubman is one of them. Along with the recordsthat the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter has done for big labelssuch as Disney, Taubman and his Craig 'n Co. band have carved out asuccessful niche in Jewish children's music on their own independentlabel.
Their latest project, "My Newish Jewish Discovery" ($14.98CD/$9.98 cassette), is a welcome addition to this collection. The joyof connecting with the world around us and with Jewish values such astikkun olam ("fixing up the world"), chesed (acts ofkindness) and being a mensch are offered up by the band with a lighttouch and liberal doses of humor.
Musically, the record plays like a kid-friendly introduction toworld beat. Taubman plays fast and loose with styles andinstrumentation on these 13 cuts, alternately evoking the sounds ofklezmer and Brazilian jazz, New Orleans and Nashville. "The eclecticnature of the music on this album reflects the diversity of theJewish people," he told The Journal. "It's really a celebration."
This month, he said, "One World," the CD's anthem-like firsttrack, will begin getting airplay on approximately 300 adultcontemporary stations, a move designed to coincide with a 50-concerttour by the band that begins in October.
As for parents, they'll get a kick out of featured cameos fromdisparate celebrities, such as Clarence "The Big Man" Clemons of EStreet Band fame, whose signature honking sax enlivens the first cut.Soprano sax great Dave Koz gently accompanies Taubman's 8-year-olddaughter on a slow ballad, and actor Ed Asner lends his gruff,grandfatherly voice for a spoken-word poem by Taubman.
Kids won't care about any of that, of course. But if the ones wholistened along with me to "Newish Jewish" are representative,Taubman's generous use of goofy rhymes, funny accents and a buoyantchorus of young singers will be what school-aged fans appreciatemost.
The track "Shigaon," a retro-funk lesson in Hebrew slang, was aparticular hit during a recent two-hour car trip through the desert.By the time we pulled into Indian Wells, our 3-year-old was bellowing"Rega!" as commandingly as the most seasoned Israeli bus rider.
"My Newish Jewish Discovery" is available at several chainstores, including Borders Books & Music and Warehouse Records.The recording was commissioned by My Jewish Discovery PlaceChildren's Museum, which will receive a portion of album proceeds.For information about upcoming concert dates in Southern California,contact Craig 'n Co. at 1-800-6-CRAIG-8 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.