Archive for John Wood

Big Block Singsong Volume One – A Review By John Wood

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John Wood Here's Johnny!

John Wood Here’s Johnny!

John Wood Channels Andy Rooney

My name is John Wood and I was the children’s music reviewer for the NAPPA awards for 14 years, which should merit a medal of some sort – but it would probably entail a happy face and what’s so happy about a happy face? (Turn it upside down and it will rain on your day without the parade!) I am also the reviewer for, and I like long walks on the beach and am comfortable in jeans or Evening Wear.

The category selections for NAPPA entries ask that you check one of the appropriate boxes to define your target age range for your music. OK, so far so good. Now, most people lump into an “early elementary” slot that pretty well covers your entry, albeit against strong competition. But, don’t get me wrong; there is family music that I totally dig that won’t send me sharpening a Number 2 pencil to slam into my ear. But, here’s the rub. NO, your album is NOT for all ages and NO, parents will NOT listen to it after they drop the kids off at their prospective private and military schools.

Indeed, they imagine all sorts of ill-fates and indignities for that round spherical much-played gift from HELL! But hey, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

That labor of love was mostly birthed without drugs or a C-Section and most likely has a song at the beginning that references “Good Morning”, “Hello Sun!”, “Welcome” or the definitive version of “Wheels On The Bus” in some sort of otherworldly world rhythm. Be that as it may, but I digress.

Here’s what I am proposing: Let’s put that ‘good for ages 1-100’ CD to the test at Guantanamo Bay for 24/7 hours of listening pleasure – Bin Laden would have bought Old McDonald’s farm years ago and Global Warming would be no more! (Can I get a high paw polar bears!! Let’s Punk some unsuspecting adults in a trapped elevator and play some nuggets from ‘good for the entire family’ and witness an event that will make the Donner Party look like a trip to LEGOLAND – ‘scuse me are you gonna eat that?)

Oh, I know what you’re thinking this is what happens when reviewers go rogue – we’ve got a runner!! Naw, I’m just blogging my Twitter yo…What? –


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John Wood

John Wood

By: John Wood
Re-printed from NAPPA

Imagine there’s no music. It’s easy if you try. No drums or synths or sitars or songs that make you cry. Imagine all the people living life so plain…
As an early cave couple sat in their split-level cave, let’s call them Bob and Estelle, Bob wandered aimlessly to what someday would be the front door to watch the rain and listen to the thunder god Moog shake the sky with loud and scary thunder claps of anger. Lightning lit up the sky and that was really scary because Estelle’s cousin Dewey was fried a few moons ago while hiding near a tree. Bob never liked Dewey, but I digress. Bob exhaled a big sigh of boredom and inexplicably a sound came from his lips that sounded like the whistle of a bird. He did it again. And again. He clapped his hands together trying to catch the invisible bird. Estelle came from the kitchen to see what was going on. Bob’s clapping and whistling had a nice cadence to it and Estelle started tapping her foot in rhythm – who knew Estelle had rhythm? – but wait, there’s more! Estelle picked up two animal bones and started beating them on their rocker (made from rocks) and she laid down a serious groove, like early Santana, circa Woodstock.

FLASH FORWARD SIX MONTHS. Estelle started an all girl group called the Boogles but had to drop out for an hour when she had her baby, Bobo. Bob was still looking for the bird but had developed a talent for drawing on his cave wall that was the rage of the neighborhood and he would sing about the stories he would paint in a style that now would be called reggae. His friend, Larry, would tickle the ivories behind him until the mammoth woke up and then it was every man for himself. Estelle found that if she sang some of Bob’s songs to baby Bobo he would fall asleep faster – there would be a gentle lull and then Bobo went bye-bye hence… oh, never mind. All the cave dwellers would get together and sing and dance and make music on some crazy looking instruments like they have in Albania. All the cave people that is, except the ones in the last cave on the left. The people of the caves were happier when they sang. They realized that music was all around them if they just listened. One of the best listeners was Dorothy Com from far away Silly Con Valley. Dot listened to the animals, listened to the waves and the wind rustling through the trees and was generally one with the Earth, like Raffi. This is a true story; I saw Bob’s drawings that were discovered in their cave in France!

The world is a better place because of music and NAPPA was fortunate to have some of the best music by some of the best musicians in the world this year. Thanks Bob and Estelle! And thanks to Honors winner Jon Samson’s song “Everything is Music To Me” from Another Kid’s Album for the inspiration for this tall tale.

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We Always Remember What We Hear as Kids

John Wood Here's Johnny!

John Wood Here’s Johnny!

By: John Wood

Children’s artists have an intrinsic love to entertain, educate and nurture their audience, still seek their niche in the entertainment pantheon and, somehow, find new ways to record “Wheels on the Bus”!

Since the age “head room” is getting lower and lower for what is considered children’s music for Baby Boomer’s kids, what are GenX and GenY’s kids listening to? It started me thinking about what kinds of music children are surrounded by these days – at home, in school, on the radio and TV.

The first thing many parents expose their children to are lullabies; whatever their babies find soothing and familiar enough to lull them to sleep. Among the NAPPA winners, you’ll find a variety of musical styles and ethnicities to be appreciated. Whether in your native tongue or not, many of these songs provide opportunities to introduce little ears to a wide range of beautiful sounds and rhythms– vocal as well as instrumental.

Next, many parents think back to what they listened to as children and now look forward to sharing with their offspring. When I was growing up, we listened to artists like Burl Ives, Danny Kaye and Patti Page who sang for an adult audience, with crossover songs for children. Singers like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie kept alive the American folksong traditions. What about you?

What I realize is that what we listen to as children, stays inside us all our lives. It seeps into our very being. As Garrison Keillor quipped, he can’t remember where he left his car keys but he can remember a poem he had to learn in grammar school. That makes us think about what we would like our children to listen to now that will become an inseparable part of them.

What kind of music does your child like? All of our NAPPA winners have had to pass the same criteria that albums do for the Grammy awards. Is this children’s music? Does it appeal to children? Does it talk about issues that children can relate to? Is the quality of the performance good and does it stay consistently good throughout the recording? Is the production quality professional? Is the song selection strong and related to the theme of the album? Does the album do anything special that sets it apart from others; does it have spark?

For kids who like rock music, there are plenty of NAPPA-winning artists who can rock with the best of them. Take, for example, Here Comes Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could (NAPPA 08); Justin Roberts’ Pop Fly (NAPPA 2008), and The Boogers Road to Rock (NAPPA 2009).

Do your kids like listening to something that’s funny? Both parents and kids love They Might Be Giants’ funny and clever way of doing the alphabet in Here Come the ABCs (NAPPA 2005). Known for his songs and storytelling, Bill Harley’s Yes to Running (NAPPA 2008) and I Wanna Play (NAPPA 2007) are as hilarious to kids as they are to parents and grandparents. The songs and patter among the artists in Trout Fishing in America’s Big Round World (NAPPA 2008) is contagiously funny. In Baby Banana (NAPPA 2009), Debi Derryberry’s set-ups to her songs are funny, especially in Freckled Faced Freddie” and “Scoops of Ice Cream.”

Do your children like to move and groove? Don’t miss cELLAbration! A Tribute to Ella Jenkins (NAPPA 2006), which features many of her most loved songs performed by a potpourri of popular children’s artists. Both Jessica Harper’s Inside Out (NAPPA 2002) and The Laurie Berkner Band’s Rocketship Run (NAPPA 2009) have great participation songs on their albums, as do most children’s artists.

After listening around to a bunch of different artists with your children, create your own playlists and CDs – download your favorite tracks from a variety of musicians and musical heritages. Those will be the songs, and family times, your children will always remember.

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