Sweet-Dream Songs and Spellbinding Stories
40 Winks. Jessica Harper. Alacazam! Records. CD: $11.98; cassette: $9.98. (800) 541-9904. Her fourth album puts Jessica Harper securely among the top children’s music artists. Her gifted, witty word play and knowledgeable vocal stylings--a tapestry of soft jazz, gospel and folk--combine with pure solo vocals and silky harmonies that are notable for a stunning, honey-smooth lower register and a quality of embracing maternal warmth. A few treasures: the humorously jazzy title song about what a tired mom really wants; “Slow Down, Lizzie” (“Bedtime now, little Lizzie, sun won’t set without your sweet smile”), and the inventive rhythms, word pictures and a cappella punctuation of “Dream Song” (“I dreamed I went to Egypt in a pink wheelbarrow; I danced across the desert with a very friendly pharaoh”). In the traditional “Great Big Dog,” the album’s hauntingly sweet finale, Harper evokes a peaceful rural cabin at dusk and a young mother quieting her baby for sleep.
Night-Night Lullabies. Baby Music Boom Inc. CD: $15; cassette: $10. (888) 470-1667. Infants and up. There are so many exquisitely tender and lyrical songs on this dreamland odyssey by the talented artists known collectively as the Dream Factory that they can be forgiven for very brief lapses into sugariness. In Tab Laven’s poetic “Lost in a Dream,” a child imagines becoming the wind, bouncing off trampoline clouds, whistling down white-capped mountains. Laven’s lovely “Ship of Dreams” sails “over the edge of another day,” on an ocean “where dreams and imagination fill your sails.” Kathy Mueller’s “Wonderful Land of Dreams” is a multilayered song of the heart, perfectly capturing a mother’s soothing understanding for a reluctant little sleepy head. Even Lee Blaske’s sparkling instrumental arrangements of the traditional “Hey Diddle Diddle,” “Goodnight Ladies” and “Day Is Done,” though brief, are delights to savor.
She Set Out to Seek Her Fortune. Word for Word Storytelling. 60 minutes. Cassette: $10. (510) 525-5987. Ruth Halpern is a spellbinding master storyteller. Her eloquent voice, captivating tales and obvious respect for children are magical ingredients in these “Tales of Adventurous Heroines.” All superbly done are a Norwegian fairy tale, “The Princess on the Glass Hill”; the enjoyably “scary” “The Girl Who Wanted to Learn How to Shiver”; and the exotic “A Conversation in Signs,” in which a woman of peace protects her people from thieves in an unexpected way. They’re topped only by Halpern’s skillfully improvised, delightful fantasy, “Purple Styrofoam,” created with the help of an audience of children clearly transported into Halpern’s world of the imagination.
Around the World. Lou Del Bianco. Storymaker Records. CD: $15; cassette: $10. Ages 4 and up. (800) 923-2692. Lou Del Bianco, a performer with an easygoing, accessible style, puts his own quirky stamp on folk tales from around the world, sparking each with comic, varied voices. Included are “Not Our Problem,” a Burmese yarn about how ignoring minor mishaps can lead to big disasters; “How Anansi Got a Thin Waist,” a Ghanaian story about a greedy spider; and the mischievous “Leprechaun’s Tale.” A few other fun selections: “The Stolen Aroma” (Peru), “It Could Be Worse” (Russia) and “The Magic Spring” (Japan).