You've seen Sandra Boynton's cartoons, they've been everywhere for decades, appearing on—now get this—4,000 greeting cards alone. Yow! She became a children's book writer and illustrator (helps when your father is a famous publisher and progressive educator and you come from a talented family) and then branched into music, releasing popular book/audio combinations. Basically, ya just can't hold this woman down. One of her teachers was Maurice Sendak, but her drawing style has been influential to a lot of budding cartoonists. Though I've greatly liked her work since the mid-70s, I've not followed Boynton's career and so was surprised when receiving this CD, a cornucopia of polished goofiness by her and Michael Ford (Boynton: lyrics, music composition, and singing; Ford: music composition and the playing of nearly every instrument on the CD [!!!]).
Blue Moo is very much in the tradition of Sesame Street, the Putumayo label, and, if you wanna look at it that way, and I certainly do (and I'm writing the review, so now you must as well), PDQ Bach. Somehow, the cartoonist was able to snag a terrifyingly stellar cast of singers: B.B. King, Steve Lawrence, Sha Na Na, Neil Sedaka, Davy Jones, Bobby Vee, Gerry & the Pacemakers, Brian Wilson…I mean, Jesus, even Eric Clapton couldn't assemble a gaggle like that! The songs are completely original while faithful to their 50s and 60s antecedents but manage to slip in Spike Jones, the Bonzo Dog Band, 10cc, and the recent tradition of modern musical satire VERY generously on all levels, from the lyrics to the middle eights. Steve Lawrence sounds every inch as pro as he did back in...what was it? the Pleistocene? Sometime around when my father was a juvenile delinquent at any rate…and you'd swear Sandra lifted the cut from a hit 50s LP of Steve's.
With titles like Gorilla Song (almost the only lyric is "banana"), Your Personal Penguin, and The Uninvited Parade Strikes Again, you know you're not in for standard radio fare, though the level of artistry is very much the equal of all that. Perhaps ironically, the funniest stuff isn't wrought through the big names but through Ford, Boynton's son Keith (a playwright), and her husband Devin McEwan (an Olympic athlete). There's nary a micron's separation between them and the storied celebrities. The music is crazy, the lyrics humorous, and the atmosphere festive, commodities very much in short supply in any era. Blue Moo is actually a re-release of an earlier publication in book/CD format and probably a great move, as it will now appear a bit more ubiquitously in stores in CD racks rather than the Kids Books section (a lot of music-only stores would never carry that format). If you're lucky, you'll hear it over the PA system while you shop. Be sure to watch the reaction around you; people will start busting up.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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