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Tunes for the Kids (8/21/98) Write to CD Shakedown

Let's start with a pair of children's reviews from my bride, Gail:

Mulan coverSoundtrack to Mulan (Walt Disney Records 1998) - Mulan is a wonderful film; Disney is still the king of animated films. Once you take your family to this film, you will definitely want to purchase this soundtrack. The sounds and songs of this film are captivating. It's an exciting blend of humor, high adventure and warmhearted emotion. The Mulansoundtrack contains 12 tracks to delight and entice listeners.

Christina AguileraChristina Aguilera and the youthful Motown vocal quartet 98° sing remarkable songs. Christina, age 17, sings a heartfelt and emotional "Reflection" of the title character, Mulan, as she longs to discover herself. Aguilera showcases her passionate style and breathtaking vocal range. My young daughter, age four, has often commented what a "beautiful voice" Aguilera possesses.

"True to Your Heart," the first single from the Walt Disney Records soundtrack is performed by the pop sensation 98°, joined by the legendary, Stevie Wonder. This song celebrates the emotion and adventure of this compelling film by its upbeat and rich melody. "True to Your Heart" has always encouraged us to get up and dance; it truly lifts the heart.

Donny Osmond performs a strong and courageous, "I'll Make a Man Out of You," which is sung to the new recruits in the Emperor's army as they train to fight the invading Huns.

"Honor to Us All," "A Girl Worth Fighting For," and "The Huns Attack," are other vibrant tracks on Disney's adventurous Mulan soundtrack. Go to your local music store and "Be a man" (see the film to understand this line): Buy this CD for your family.

Sesame Street castSesame Street, Elmopalooza! (Sony Wonder 1998) - Sony Wonder and Sesame Street have put together a musical extravaganza with Elmopalooza! Get ready to rock 'n roll to the tunes on this CD. It was an instant favorite in our family.

Many talented artists have teamed up with the Sesame Street Muppets on such hits as "Nearly Missed," "Just Happy to Be Me," "Caribbean Amphibian," "I Love Trash" and "Happy to Meet You." Elmo is paired with Rosie O'Donnell; Jimmy Buffet strums with Kermit the Frog; and Gloria Estefan mambos with Rosita. In addition, Canadian superstar Celine Dion is paired with the Cookie Monster, Big Bird and Elmo.

Elmopalooza! delivers great music and positive messages for children of all ages. This is not a "boring children's album" (as my son would say); it contains a variety of styles, instruments and muppet personalities. Sesame Street is first-rate and it's expressed in this CD. Invest your purchases of CD wisely, buy Elmopalooza! Your kids might even say, "Thank You" (and mean it)!

Money Mark coverMoney Mark, Push the Button (Mo Wax/London 1998) - Mark Ramos-Nishita, also known as "Keyboard Money Mark," is perhaps best-known for his work with the Beastie Boys.

Push the Button continues Money Mark's pop sensibilities, with a delirious mix of prog-fusion psychodelia, CD skin-flick funk, electro, and hip-hop, all steeped in Mark's minimalistic lyrics.

Money Mark photoBorn in New York to a jazz-loving Japanese mother and a Mexican aeronautical engineer father, Money Mark's interest in music was fostered in the household of eclectic musical tastes. The family moved to L.A. when Mark was six, and he started playing keyboards at age 11. Later in his teens, Mark drifted in and out of bands with a wide range of influences. Following in his creative vein, Mark also became a skilled carpenter.

Which led to a fortuitous meeting with the Beastie Boys. Called to repair a gate after one of the Beastie's renowned parties, Mark was asked to help build the studio for 1992's "Check Your Head" LP and ended up jamming on the album. Explains Mark, "The Beasties knew me as a carpenter before they knew me as a musician. When they found out I could do both of those things, I guess I was the person they needed."

The follow-up to 1995's Mark's Keyboard Repair, Money Mark features 18 self-penned and self-produced tracks, with the artist on all instruments and vocals.

Push the Button veers from the sublime to the beautiful. Among the more solid cuts are the title track and "Hand in Your Head," a reworked cut that was the outcome of a jam session with Sean Lennon on bass and Russell Simins (from the John Spencer Blues Explosion) on drums. Money Mark's 60's influences are all over the album, on such tracks as the organ-influenced "Dha Teen Ta" to the deconstructionist, "Destroyer," which could come from side four of the Beatles' White Album.

Money Mark reminds me of Stephen Merritt, the self-contained musician and collaborator who have worked on such projects as the "Wasps." Like Merritt, Money Mark takes trippy hip-hop and psychodelia elements and steadies them with a classic up-temp 60's pop sound.

As a self-produced album, Money Mark may not be consistent. (The liner notes, which are typeset in a spiral format, are almost impossible to read.) But Push the Button has its moments.

- Randy Krbechek © 1998

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