OWTK Kindie Album Reviews

YES TO RUNNING! Bill Harley Live

Every once in a while a CD arrives in the post and it ends up knocking my family’s socks off. These records come out of nowhere for us, typically because we’ve never heard of the acts before cracking open the mailbox door and peeling apart the sticky side of an over sized yellow envelope.

The spirit of the songs on these albums shoot off the disc and envelope you completely for a time. It’s a beautiful thing to have happen as a music lover…to be overtaken by a single collection of tunes. It may only last a week or two but for that time you are utterly consumed by a single album, spinning it virtually ’round the clock.

Joe McDermott’s “Everyone Plays Air Guitar” qualifies, as does Justin Roberts’ “Meltdown”, Dr. Noize’s “The Ballad of Phineas McBoof”, Ellis Paul’s “Dragonfly Races” and, of course, Frances England’s “Fascinating Creatures”. Now you can add another, actually two, discs to the list in “YES TO RUNNING!” Bill Harley’s boisterous, excitable and truly laugh-out-loud hysterical live double disc (and wonderful DVD, available separately or as part of a package).

It’s sort of criminal that I’ve never heard of Bill Harley, considering he’s been at this kid’s music/storytelling thing for years, is a Grammy winner and is a contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered. But alas, I had no idea who the guy was a month ago. Now, he is an OWTK favorite and we’re about to dive into his back catalog of music and spoken word records (both kiddie and adult) – which is another sign that an artist or record has taken hold of you…the desire to hear EVERYTHING the dude has recorded previously.

“YES TO RUNNING!” (to be released officially tomorrow, 8/12/08) is a live album recorded in front of a huge, energetic group of Harley-heads. These folks know all the words to all the songs and stories. It makes for a great listen as the crowd’s enthusiasm enhances the at-home-listener’s experience by really making you feel a part of the event. The Bear, age 4.5, and her 10 year old cousin both adore the stories of The Teacher’s Lounge, Mrs. Ammons and the Boy’s Room, and The Ballad of Dirty Joe. As much as a 4 and 10 year old love this disc, I imagine the real range of audience may be even wider. I could see 2-3 year olds and 10-12 year old tweens finding joy in hearing Bill tell, in a 1/2 (clean) George Carlin and 1/2 Bill Cosby manner, stories & songs about childhood, sibling rivarly and grade school life. I can certainly attest to the fact that adults will positively flip for Harley’s dead-on recollections of those by-gone years. This is because as much as they are his experiences they are really shared memories with anyone who went through the 2nd grade and survived the 4th. Every adult will be time warped back to their own childhood and will find this live album to be incredibly enjoyable to listen to over and over again. His songs, while much shorter and less meaty than the tales, are no less interesting. “You’re in Trouble” and “Is Not is Too” are absolutely hilarious and will provide for hours of sing-along fun even after the disc stops spinning.

I’ve reviewed a lot of music and kid’s media on these pages but I must tell you, this is the most refreshingly enjoyable collection of songs and stories I’ve ever heard. To me, YES TO RUNNING! is a must own for any family with grade school age kids or with adults who managed to escape primary school with their lungs and fingernails in tact.

I strongly recommend that you consider picking up the double CD and/or DVD today.

Check out video samples from YES TO RUNNING! here.
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