Kids' music in the 1960s -- that
is to say, kids' music before there was even a name for it -- basically
took the folk music path that was one of the dominant musical strains of
the era. For Pete Seeger and Ella Jenkins, there was some distinction
between folk music for adults and that for kids, but it was a
distinction more of presentation than of subject matter. And that folk
music orientation was basically the default kids' music option through
the '80s if not the '90s until the kindie wave swept through at the
start of the 21st century.
Imagine, however, if other musical
strains of the decade -- psychedelic pop, Phil Spector's Wall of Sound
production -- also found themselves working their way into kids' music
with songs for the youngest listener. Were that to have been the case, Alison Faith Levy's brand-new album The Start of Things would be a stellar example of that alternate reality rather than sounding so unique in today's kindie landscape.
Levy first came to the attention of the kids' music world as a member of the Bay Area band The Sippy Cups, which started out as a kid-friendly cover band for the music of the '60s and '70s
before gradually becoming a band which wrote its own
psychedelic-inspired kindie pop. The band had been on hiatus for
several years before Levy released her first solo album, World of Wonder,
in 2012. While there were echoes of the Sippy Cups' psychedelic and
Wall of Sound production on that first solo album, it's much more
pronounced on The Start of Things. The opening title
track features a groovy organ, horns, and the theme of how it's OK to be
nervous when tackling a new project (first day of school, opening night
of a play, etc.). It's my favorite track on the album, just a great
pop song for kids that a lot of adults might sneak into their own
The track "Pull Your Weeds" envisions a friendship
between Cinderella and Snow White and the empowering lyric (printed on
the inside of the CD package, so clearly resonant with Levy) "Do your
thing / Love what you do / Appreciate your beauty / Pull your weeds and /
Stand your ground / And the world will come around." While "The Start
of Things," Pull Your Weeds," and songs like "Rainbow Tunnel" and
"Little Dreamer" sound like they could easily be part of a musical Levy is working on based on World of Wonder.
songs, however, are rooted more in interactivity -- the raucous "Are
You Happy?" runs through a series of emotions that the kid-listeners are
encouraged to mimic. The "Ballad of Boo Ghosty" is a silly little
story about a ghostly friend, while "The Froggy Dance"
is a nonsense poem. Given these tracks, the 32-minute album will be
most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 6, though some of the songs
mentioned earlier in the review have a slightly older age range.
The Start of Things has
a '60s-inspired sound, but it still sounds fresh. That colorful and
rainbow-adorned album cover nails the vibe of Levy's bright and
empowered songs. Definitely recommended.