tunes for tots

p>For the past few years, we’ve been building a collection of cool music for kids. Usually, we’d buy the CD in question mostly because an artist we like had something to do with it–but we also know that most children’s music is maddeningly terrible, so the more of a head start we give ourselves on staving off the inevitable pile of crap, the better.

Here are a few of our favorites so far. Most of them are worth owning whether or not you have kids (which, by the way, is my primary criteria for a good album of children’s music):

Jason Falkner – Bedtime with the Beatles

Falkner, a member of late-and-lamented bands such as Jellyfish, The Grays, and The Three O’Clock, is a giant on the modern power-pop scene, which means most people have never heard of him or anything he’s been a part of. That’s a shame, especially with regards to this lovely album. It’s exactly what the title makes it sound like–instrumental versions of Beatles classics, slowed down to lullaby speed. I love this record, and our little bean will be hearing a lot of it. For added excitement, you can choose between the pink or blue cover!

Various Artists – For the Kids

VH1 has always been MTV’s dorky kid sister, and in recent years its programming slate has grown increasingly lame; their Save the Music campaign, however, is pretty darn cool. This was released in conjunction with the program in 2002, and it’s great. We got it for Guster’s version of the Sesame Street classic “Got To Be Clean,” but there’s so much more: Cake doing “Mahna, Mahna”; Barenaked Ladies doing “La La La Lemon”; so on and so forth. The originals are solid, too, especially Glen Phillips’ “Have A Little Fun With Me.” And it’s hard to find fault with a children’s album that includes a Tom Waits tune.

Various Artists – For the Kids, Too!

Not quite as cool as the first installment, but that’s no big deal (and mainly, as far as I’m concerned, because of Jason Mraz’s lame version of “The Rainbow Connection”). Good stuff from David Mead, Ron Sexsmith, and Matthew Sweet–and Matt Nathanson’s cover of Prince’s “Starfish and Coffee” steals the show.

They Might Be Giants – Here Come the ABCs

Our friend Rahul is a big fan of TMBG’s first kids’ album, No!, which is a little too weird for either of us. Here Come the ABCs is weird too, but in a more educational way–songs like “Who Put the Alphabet in Alphabetical Order?” instead of “I Am Not Your Broom.” I can see this CD driving me crazy at some point, but it’s hard not to like their goofy enthusiasm. The CD even includes “Clap Your Hands,” the best song from No!. Also, it beats the pants off The Wiggles. There is a Here Come the ABCs DVD, too; we don’t have it, but we’ve given it to enough children-of-friends that we hope to eventually get some trustworthy feedback on its merits.

Various Artists – In Harmony

I love this album. It was released in 1980, so my kids will probably think it’s lame, but they’ll be buckled into carseats and won’t be able to reach the controls on the stereo. We’ll skip past some of the more painfully dated songs–George Benson’s “A Friend for All Seasons,” for instance–and zero in on classic tunes like James Taylor’s “Jelly Man Kelly” and the Ernie & Cookie Monster duet, “Share.”

And speaking of Sesame Street…

Various Artists – Songs from the Street: 35 Years of Music

Everyone from my generation should have this. If you’re like me and you look back fondly on the Sesame Street of the 1970s, you will join me in having no use for the more recent stuff on this box set–the Spin Doctors doing “Two Princes” on the show, for instance, or R.E.M.’s damn “Shiny Happy Monsters.” Not to mention everything involving Elmo. As far as I’m concerned, Telly is the most recent addition to the cast; everything else is a terrible nightmare that we will all wake up from someday. Anyway, Sesame Street albums have a bad habit of going out of print, so this box set is the only place you can find a lot of the older songs. I couldn’t believe how many of these I remembered.

That’s all for now. Do you have any recommendations?

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