Here Comes the Band
From the Children's Music that Rocks web site: Here Comes the Band ***Stephen Cohen*** A red-jacketed band of half-human, half-animal musicians comes marching down the street, accompanied by a couple of oversized birds ... what an awesome introduction to Stephen Cohen's Here Comes the Band! With a smoky-voiced delivery, vocal phrasing a little like Rickie Lee Jones, and an intimate coffee house presentation, Portland resident Stephen Cohen whams, tickles, and strums the strings of his guitar, which acts as much a percussion instrument as a keeper of melody, intertwined with the tinkles, knocks, and wobbles of his handmade musical gear. Rhythms are suspended and sometimes done away with entirely in several songs, tying together everything in a cohesive dream-like collection of thoughts put to music. Sound too heavy for a kids' album? Au contraire, my little ones, for that's the amazing thing about this CD: yer tiny kids can sing right along with every single song on the album, while grownups can bask in the glow of Cohen's musical inventiveness. Even though Cohen has been recording since 1979, Here Comes the Band is his first album specifically for kids. Soon-to-be Toddler Time classics include the mantra-like 'Give Me That Toy!', the boppity 'Mr. Knickerbocker' and 'Baseball, Baseball'. The controlled chaos of 'The Elephant Walk' mirrors, coincidentally, sounds produced by bands of the Elephant 6 collective (Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, etc.), while the ethereal 'Rain, Rain, Rain' fully utilizes Cohen's self-created percussion inventions. The three-part thread 'Here Comes the Band / There Goes the Band / Sleepy Dreams (of the Band)' that runs through the CD gives Cohen a chance to name check his old group, the Talk Talk Band. By using a few tunes culled from some of his grownup albums, real life and fiction and Many Hats, Cohen shows his trust in kids' taste and intelligence. He's not making music for children, but just making music. Not only do you get Cohen's wonderful songs, the CD is also packaged with a lyrics booklet full of artwork by Christopher Shotola-Hardt, instructions on making your own instruments, and explanations of everyone's duties in the making of a CD ('The producer chooses the songs...'). Check out more of Cohen's work, it's pretty inspiring and amazing. Posted by Warren Truitt @ 1:21 PM From the Zooglobble web site: November 08, 2006 Review: Here Comes the Band - Stephen Cohen Based in Portland, Oregon Stephen Cohen has been making art of one sort or another for nearly 30 years. Creating music, musical instruments, and visual art, Cohen integrates these three into his performing career. This is exactly the kind of person that should be making kids' music. On his recently-released Here Comes The Band, Cohen gives reason to be optimistic for the future of music for families. A heady collection of multi-instrumental folk music, Cohen weaves together an album that flows seamlessly from start to finish. The opening title track serves as the prelude to the whole album, with a melody that pops up at least a couple more times later on in the album. It segues almost imperceptibly into 'Give Me That Toy!,' which, thankfully, doesn't tell the young listener to ask politely -- it's written from the child's perspective. And from there into the traditional children's rhyme 'Mr. Knickerbocker,' in which Cohen's distinctive voice (ever-so-slightly nasally and slightly-less-slightly raspy) repeats the phrase 'bobbity, bobbity, bobbity-boo' until it gets lodged in your brain. Another favorite song of mine is 'The Planetarium,' which although is written from the point of the parent taking his son to the planetarium is written with the words of a child ('Then a baby cried and had to go outside / While we watched the lights / Stretch across the black dome sky.') To talk about the lyrics is to miss the album's chief allure, which is it's music. As noted above, some of the musical transitions are seamless. Which isn't to say this is an entirely low-key album. 'There Goes the Band' lists 13 people playing or singing on the track. 'The Elephant Walk' sounds not a little bit like Fleetwood Mac's 'Tusk.' The lullabies at the end of the album are sweet as well. I can't review this album without noting the album packaging, which is one of the best I've seen this year. Lyrics, gorgeous illustrations by Christopher Shotola-Hardt, activities are in the liner notes, along with an explanation of what various people on the album (producer, engineer, visual artist) actually do. The album is most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 9, though it may create fans of parents who are 39. You can hear samples of 5 songs at the album's CD Baby page and hear 'Baseball, Baseball' here. Stephen Cohen's album is a little bit like what might happen if Mr. David and Randy Newman decided to record a kids' album live on Prairie Home Companion. Here Comes the Band establishes a mood and a world that will draw in you and your kids. It may not be the album your family listens to every day for a month, but it will be one you listen to occasionally for many years. Recommended. Posted by SAShepherd at 08:47 PM From 'The Lovely Mrs. Davis Tells You What to Think' blog: January 31, 2007 Here Comes the Band One of the more unique and sophisticated kids' albums I've come across in the last year is Stephen Cohen's Here Comes the Band. Although Cohen has a long career as a musician, songwriter, and artist-in-residence for numerous schools, Here Comes the Band is his first kids' album. Cohen has a somewhat Zanesian (did I just invent a new word?) approach to kids' music -- friends and family joining in to play or sing along, laid-back vocals, a folksy singer-songwriter style. But I'm guessing Cohen is also a fan/follower of composer and instrument-builder Harry Partch. Through the use of sculptural percussion instruments and other sounds, Cohen incorporates sound-as-music, much like Brian Wilson did on Pet Sounds. The title track, which opens the album, sets an intimate tone; and Cohen's voice is raspy, but warm and conversational. The album, overall, is very mellow and sleepy, and the production is reminiscent of Tom Waits. Songs like 'Give Me That Toy!' and 'Baseball, Baseball' are a bit less mellow than than the rest, but I found myself waiting for a more upbeat, energetic track that never came. In fact, the album winds down with not one or two, but four lullabies. The album's liner notes include brief explanations on the various instruments played on each song, including several home-made percussion instruments. There are also simple instructions for playing slide guitar on a regular acoustic guitar, and illustrated how-to's for building your own instruments. Cohen's creative use of sound, combined with sophisticated rhythms and lyrics that express the wonder and innocence of childhood, make music that could easily appeal to listeners of any age. Listen to sample tracks and order your own copy here (CD Baby). posted by Mrs. Davis @ 3:51 PM.