August 31, 1994
Sitting in for a guest appearance is my lovely wife, Gail. After spinning the discs with Franklin (age 2) and Natalie (age 4 months), here's her reviews of three fine new albums for younger children.
Children, Children, & More Children -- They seem to be everywhere! Sony has even created Sony Wonder, a special division that features a series of family artists. Tom Chapin, Nicolette Larson, and Kenny Loggins are a few of the signed artists.
Sleep, Baby, Sleep (Quiet Songs for Quiet Times) by Nicolette Larson (Sony Wonder 1994) is dedicated to her three-year-old daughter, Elsie May. Larson previously hit the big time as a pop crooner, but has now settled gracefully into motherhood. Her new CD is composed of lush arrangements but simple lyrics; with Nicolette's soothing voice, it makes for a peaceful, relaxing 35 minutes. Great for both parents and children, especially when mellowness is the mood.
At the other end of the scale is Tom Chapin, whose music is peppy and action-filled. Both Zig Zag and Mother Earth (Sony Wonder 1994) are worth the investment for your children's music listening pleasure. Chapin's witty lyrics and light, positive messages are aimed at the post-toddler, pre-teen set. Topics covered in his songs are good nutrition, politeness, and "R-E-C-Y-C-L-E," just to name a few. His music offers something for everyone, as it spans an extraordinary range of styles, including folk, classical, jazz, ragtime, and Texas swing.
There are so many talented musicians who have crossed over into family music -- let your children enjoy and explore the music!
Paul Weller, Wild Wood (Go! Discs/London 1994) -- Wild Wood is the second solo release from British rocker Paul Weller. Weller, who was a member of the influential 70s and 80s groups, The Jam and Style Council, brings a sense of newfound musical energy to this album. Instead of focusing on political and fashion statements (as he used to do), Weller allows his music to build a mood -- and the result is one of the best discs of the year.
Weller is a big star in England; he dabbled in national politics (much to his subsequent chagrin) in 1987, and the new album has sold briskly in the U.K. Featuring a three-piece band, Wild Wood has a rootsy, bluesy feel that is reminiscent of the 60s.
Though some critics have compared the new album to releases from the Small Faces, I get more of a CSNY or Jethro Tull vibe -- pipes, flutes, and other more acoustic instruments are used (in a rock format), and the vocals subdued but driving. By the end, the album reaches a majestic, resonant intensity.
Weller readily admits that intensity has long been one of his strong suits. He adds, "I've got no rules any more. When I was younger, I really felt like I was on a mission -- 'I've got to say this, we've got to do this.' I was very intense, and I can still be intense about what I do, but in a different way.
"I've gotten a lot more instinctive about the whole thing. I don't question it as much as I used to, and I don't feel like I have to justify it any more...I have a lot of fun whenever I play now. In the past, I would have felt guilty about that, because I had that big thing about how the artist has to suffer. Bollocks to that. There's a lot to be said for being happy and feeling secure, and writing songs from that point of view."
This sense of secure intensity comes through loud and clear on Wild Wood. From the splendid title track to the uptempo "5th Season" to the more refined "Foot of the Mountain," there's a real feeling on Wild Wood that Weller has tamed the demons of his youth -- he is now ready to direct his musical energies toward projects with subtler (yet still deep) themes, rather than lionizing the fashion statement de jour.
Like the great albums from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Wild Wood keeps the vocals clean, which allows the honesty of Weller's lyrics to come through unaffected. There's a deep groove to Wild Wood that takes time to fully reveal itself -- but when it does, you'll be hooked.
Thinking of a Career Change? -- "That's why I got into the rock 'n roll business to begin with: to get out. It made me feel stuff, it made me feel good. I remember the day: I was a senior in high school. It was a beautiful spring day, and I was looking out the window and I realized: If I become a lawyer, I'm going to be sitting just like this, uncomfortable, with weird grease forming on my face, and my neck all red and tight, with people I hate. But if I was a musician, I'd be out there right now. I'd be doing what I wanted. I'd be free." Rock singer (and Detroit native) Iggy Pop.
-- Randy Krbechek
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