William Wegman's Mother Goose. Sony Wonder/Sesame Street. 25 minutes. $12.98. At the hands of acclaimed artist William Wegman and at the paws of his canine muses--Weimaraners Batty, Crooky, Chundo and Chip--24 nursery rhymes come to hilarious life. Three Men in a Tub, Old Mother Hubbard (and her wall-eyed Boston terrier) and Miss Muffet, in golden curls and frilly dress, are among many unforgettables.
Wegman's positioning of the dogs in their costumes (hands and feet are supplied by concealed human helpers), his artistry with lighting, the sets and musical punctuation are half the fun. The other half is Wegman's sly, comic narration, perfectly attuned to the dogs' delightful deadpan gazes, head movements, yawns, blinks and tongue action. A bonus at the end: a passel of chubby, sleepy puppies.
Celery Stalks at Midnight. Al Simmons. Youngheart Music. 45 minutes. CD: $13.98; cassette: $10.98 (800) 444-4287. Al Simmons' first album, "Something's Fishy at Camp Wiganishie," was highly enjoyable; this second release by the musician and comic is a zany masterpiece.
In a musical variety show setting, Simmons romps through classics from the '30s, '40s, '50s, including "Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long," "Open the Door, Richard" and "Cry of the Wild Goose." There's also original material: a pun-filled "Sam's Men's Wear," narrated in hard-boiled '40s detective style; a blues rendition of "Mosquito" ("She gonna bite you bad, she gonna make you mad"); and "Clothes Encounters," a laundry mishap reminiscent of "St. James Infirmary." Simmon's delivery is dead-on; the music is impeccable.
My Teacher Turned Into a Fish. Bob King & Friends. Turtle Records, 37 minutes. CD: $12; cassette: $10. (204) 895-7978. The "Full House" Olson Twins scored big when they recorded Winnipeg-based artist Bob King's song "Brother for Sale" on their album and video of the same name. But it's great to hear King, who has written for many other family artists and Canadian TV, do his own stuff on this super collection. Happy and heartfelt songs range from the wickedly fishy title track to mysterious Reggae Man in "The Witch of Sand" and the soulful "When All the Other Feelings Go Away," written with Norm Dugas. Youthful friends make charming vocal contributions.
Pictures on the Fridge. Norman Foote. Youngheart Music. 32 minutes. CD: $13.98; cassette: $10.98. (800) 444-4287. Dynamic instrumentals and Norman Foote's slightly off-the-wall jazz and pop vocal phrasings add up to a tasty mix in these family-resonant and witty story songs: "Everybody Pitchin' In," "Spider Dan" (a picky eater), the evocative "Skip a Rock" and the title track, familiar to anyone whose fridge door is a trip down memory lane.