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FAMILY

From Anna Moo to Winnie-the-Pooh

Recent recordings offer the newest from a bluesy singer- songwriter and tales of the beloved bear and his pals.

August 11, 1996|Lynne Heffley | Lynne Heffley is a Times staff writer

Independent and small-label children's and family recordings, without much radio play or high-profile promotion, offer a wealth of enjoyment to take listeners out of the passive TV mode and into an active, positive world of the mind. The following releases, though varied in approach and content, offer family values in the best sense of the term and a celebration of the imagination.

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Childhood Memories: If you think female children's singers must be folk balladeers, girlish rockers or ethereal crooners, you haven't been introduced to Florida singer, songwriter and musician Anna Moo.

Moo's generous, lived-in bluesy-country voice is anything but sweet--a Molly Ivins-K.T. Oslin blend comes to mind--but she makes sweet music with it. Her previous release, "Anna Moo Crackers," was a funny and soulful collection in Cajun rhythms, rock and jazz; her latest, "When I Was a Child," captures a childhood spent noticing the world and making the most of its magic.

Performed in a knowledgeable mix of musical styles by top-notch musicians, Moo's original songs take to the air in "Clouds," celebrate the exhilaration of a liberating bike ride and examine a comic wonder in "Caterpillar."

Moo, the youngest of five girls and a self-proclaimed tomboy growing up, recalls her grandmother's tale-spinning enchantment but also relates in vivid detail what it feels like to be grounded in "Stuck at Home Sitting Down."

Her evocative title tune is a fitting wrap-up to an album that clearly proves that this is one adult who really does remember.

* "When I Was a Child," Anna Moo, Good Moos Productions. CD, $14; cassette, $10; (800) 226-8057.

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Heroic Act: Jonathan Sprout may not be a household name, but this prolific children's music veteran has earned a devoted following for his rock 'n' roll stylings and positive messages.

In his newest album, "American Heroes," Sprout sets out to let young listeners know that real heroes exist beyond professional athletes and cartoon characters, offering an earnest, lyrical tribute to George Washington, Clara Barton, Abraham Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, Ben Franklin, Sacajawea, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Edison and Harriet Tubman.

In rock ballad rhythms, Sprout paints a kid-accessible picture of each historical figure; his songs about Edison and King are preceded by recordings of each.

To lock the message home, Sprout opens and closes with the inspirational "Heroes": "I want to find a hero. Someone to believe in . . . showing me the way."

* "American Heroes," Sprout Recordings. CD, $14.98; audiocassette, $9.98. (888) FUN-SONG or Rounder Records, (800) 443-4727.

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Gone Fishin': Catfish Hodge has a message for kids too. The veteran blues artist and his Endangered Species Orchestra serve up lessons in nature preservation and friendship in "Adventures at Catfish Pond," featuring feel-good, toe-tapping R&B, bluegrass and jazz tunes such as "Down Where the Bluegrass Grows," "1 to 10 Blues" and "Skippin' on Rainbows."

The songs accompany a tall tale of a pancake feast for critter friends in the Southern backwoods--alligators, raccoons, birds, toads--and if the lessons are a bit ponderous at times, the music is a romp.

* "Adventures at Catfish Pond," Music for Little People/Rhino Records. CD, $15.95; audiocassette, $9.95. (800) 727-2233.

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Pooh Corner, Not for Kids Only: Last, but by no means least, any adult or child who is captivated by Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore, Rabbit and all of A.A. Milne's creations--as he wrote them--will find magic in a new top-quality two-volume set, "The Original Pooh Treasury," performed by British actor Peter Dennis.

Each volume contains three audiocassettes and three corresponding hardcover books of Milne's stories, with Ernest Shepard's original illustrations.

Dennis has pleased critics and audiences around the world with his faithful treatment of Milne's stories and poems in live theater performances.

With "The Original Pooh Treasury," the actor brings to charming life each endearing character in these unabridged tales for the young and young at heart.

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* "The Original Pooh Treasury," Vols. 1 and 2, Kid-Tel. $17 each. At major retailers or call (800) 328-6640, Ext. 418.

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