The Sound: A songwriter and storyteller with a dry sense of humor, an array of voices and a knack for the sentimental.
In the Cafeteria, They Sit With: Bill Harley, Peter Himmelman, Neil Brewer, Billy Kelly
Best Moments: What kid hasn’t experienced the getting-left-with-the-babystitter blues? A story-song with humor, vivid imagery and a teenage girl’s voice so spot-on you’ll spit coffee the first time you hear it, “Don’t You Leave Me Here” may end up being as beloved a tune as “No Nothing” in Kaplan’s impressive all-ages oeuvre. Prepare to have the the song title’s melody and the accompanying ‘wah-wah-wah-wah’ of the trumpet stuck in your head for days.
Sure, it’s the theme song for NBC’s Parenthood, and Pepsi adopted it for a recent (and pretty stellar) ad campaign, but Kaplan is still able to make Bob Dylan’s culturally saturated “Forever Young” shine (video proof below). His creative guitar arrangement provides for enough of a unique spark that this simple blessing can once again be sung to kids at bedtime or anytime, with or without a soda in hand.
The “Loquat Rooftop” (the song, not the album) of this new disc is the banjo picked “Joe and Finn”. It’s a sentimental tune meant more for the grown ups than the kiddos. “Joe and Finn” may get your emotions going as you think back to your own childhood or reflect on those gone-forever stages in your own kid’s adolescence. Written with a wink and a smile, this beautiful melancholy tune includes one of the best lines of the entire set in “Finn and Joe in case you didn’t know / were the best of friends that three year-olds could be / they’ll maybe even stay a sliver in each others memories”.
A 5-year old who’d rather play outside then accumulate more plastic crap is at the center of Kaplan’s adaptation of “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin'”, a George Gershwin number from Porgy & Bess. Kaplan seamlessly converts this 1930’s showtune into a kid’s song by sliding in the story of a wise-beyond-his-years child who excitedly tells Randy about getting zilch for his birthday.
Fans of Kaplan’s “No Nothing” will be pleased to hear the return of KQXHC, Randy’s pet monkey, in “Is She A Girl Or Is She A Monkey”. Randy Kaplan’s finest vocal performance comes here, with the soulful “She’s got scrapes on her knees / from scaling trees / And brushing against those branches / Like a leaf in the wind / she shakes and dances”. After hearing this song performed live, I wish that Kaplan would’ve extended the conversation between he and KQXHC on the album. There was some funny left on the cutting room floor that would have enhanced the recorded version of “Is She A Girl Or Is She A Monkey”.
Bonus Thoughts: Enjoy Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” performed live at the OWTK Kids Concert Series.
Okay, Time to Wrap it Up with a Nice Little Bow: Always one to sprinkle in familiar covers (“Tomorrow”, Over the Rainbow”), Kaplan digs much deeper into the Great American songbook for “The Kids Are All Id” with cuts from Porgy & Bess, Dean Martin & Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, and an 18th-century drinking song retro-fitted for the juice box crowd. Add the trio of Ezra Jack Keats inspired tunes, all of which shine, to the rest of his clever originals and “The Kids Are All Id” is a masterful work of family music that earns, and more than deserves, it’s ‘all-ages’ label; my 3-year old laughs, my 6-year old repeats the stories and my wife and I sing along. With ample imagery, storytelling, humor, grace and genuine emotion, “The Kids Are All Id” is about as close as a piece of polycarbonate plastic can come to being musical theater.
It’s hard to imagine “The Kids Are All Id” being more superb. With his 3rd “not-just for kids” album, Kaplan has nailed it. Buy the physical CD or download the album from CDBaby.
Read my interview with Randy Kaplan from April 2010 here.
*Randy Kaplan’s “The Kids Are All Id” was provided to OWTK for review. The opinions expressed above are unbiased and true – no arm twisting took place in the review process.