No longer is it just Raffi or Sharon, Lois and Bram dominating the children's music market. The recent explosion in the marketplace has meant rapidly increasing listening options for young consumers.
Here's a look at four recent additions to the children's music market, beginning with two choice selections on the Golden Music label, from the publishers of Golden Books (Western Publishing Co. Inc.):
Bob Schneider's exuberant tribute to an American tradition, "Playing Baseball," captures the myth and the magic of the sport with an infectious combination of musical styles from '50s rock and turn-of-the-century pop to gospel and ballads. Titles include "De Ump," "Run Do Run, "Play by Play" and "Spring Training Delight." An evocative ballad, "Baseball Hall of Fame," pays homage to such greats as Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays. It's a treat for fans of any age.
Meanwhile, upbeat David Jack scores with "Gotta Hop!" Like his winning "Dance in Your Pants" album, "Gotta Hop!" is sheer whimsy, cleverly executed and tuneful enough to prevent parents from climbing the walls during repeat playings. 1950s-style rock, calypso rhythms and kid-pleasing silliness highlight original songs such as "Mookie-Pookie Yodelin' Cow," "The Dinosaur Dip" and "Walkin' Through the Jungle."
\o7 At toy stores, department stores and bookstores\f7 . \o7 Cassette, $6.99 to $8.99.
For a smoother road trip, don't leave home without "A Car Full of Songs," written and sung by folk great Tom Paxton. It's a mellow sing-along, a grin-producing grab bag full of tunes such as "Are We There Yet?," "Somebody's Hungry," "I've Gotta Go" and "Dad's Not Lost"; game songs "License Plate," "I Spy" and "The Wheels Go 'Round" and a warm, nostalgic lullaby for weary young travelers, "Sleepin' in the Back Seat." Paxton's buttery voice and wry wit make an effortless transition from adult to children's fare.
\o7 From Pax Records, distributed by Alcazar in Vermont. Available at specialty children's book and music stores, and Waldenbooks. Cassette, $9.98. Distributor information: (802) 244-5178.
"Aesop's Fables, the Smothers Brothers Way" is a curiosity, more likely to appeal to adults than children. In this re-release of their '60s album, Dick serves as storyteller, interrupted by the ever-befuddled Tom, who can't quite grasp such Aesop conclusions as "honesty is the best policy" and "necessity is the mother of invention." "Are we going to be authentic Aesop's fablers, or are we going to be derivative?" Tommy asks.
Dated references to the Culligan Man and "the little old winemaker" may lose young listeners, as may the smart brother/dumb brother, "Mom-always-liked-you-best" bickering that stops each story in its tracks. When they get around to singing, however, the battling Brothers' smooth folk harmonies are as appealing as ever.
\o7 From Music for Little People: cassette, $9.98; compact disc, $12.98. To order: (800) 346-4445.