Night of the Witch's Brew: Songs to Chill & Thrill. Global Creative Group. CD: $16. Ages 7 to 14. (310) 937-7275.
There's more going on in this unusual independent release than the title suggests. The inventively atmospheric songs--which paint such images as a haunted house with a "whispering floor," rooftop gargoyles with teeth "green with mold" and a ghoulish switchboard operator for the dead's "Afterline"--skew older than expected for a reason. They tell the coming-of-age story, rock opera-style, about an angst-ridden teenage vampire named Vinny.
Production values are outstanding, and a nifty illustrated booklet of lyrics bridges the songs with a dramatic narrative about the spoiled "son of a well-known Count and Countess," whose spine-tingling journey toward self-discovery includes a magic mirror that reveals the true face of evil.
The urgent, wickedly fun Oingo-Boingo-ish music is by multi-instrumentalist Patrick Bolen; Heidi Nye wrote the story and the clean but devilishly evocative lyrics--not recommended for preschoolers or nightmare-prone grade schoolers--are by Jack David Grimshaw.
Singin' in My Heart: Songs of Love and Friendship. Music for Little People. CD: $17; cassette: $11. For the Family. (800) 409-2457. www.mflp .com
Music for Little People can be counted on for heartwarming, family-friendly compilations of pop music for special occasions, and that pretty much sums up this almost-Valentine's Day release.
Mostly performed by the original artists, songs include "Lean on Me," with Bill Withers; "Put a Little Love in Your Heart," with Jackie DeShannon; and Seals & Crofts' "Get Closer." Maria Muldaur's version of "Bushel & a Peck" is here, and the Music for Little People kid singers pipe up sweetly in their version of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love."
Adventures in Oz With Cheryl: Yellow Brick Road. Ozsome Enterprises. VHS: $10. Ages 3 to 8. (800) 234-8318. www.adventuresinoz .com
What if Dorothy were an exercise guru with biceps the size of grapefruit? Would it be smackdown city for the Wicked Witch?
Not in this offbeat, upbeat, nonviolent kids' fitness video, one of three in a series from "American Gladiators" champion and personal trainer Cheryl Ann Silich. In this Oz, niceness and healthy living conquer all.
Decked out in an arm- and midriff-baring Dorothy outfit and magical, talking tennis shoes, Silich gives the L. Frank Baum classic an anti-couch-potato twist. The yellow brick road takes viewers through a musical adventure that includes physical and breathing exercises, nutrition tips and positive, character-building messages.
Her companions are pretty much what you'd expect--Scarecrow, TinKid and Lion--although TinKid's clearly been pumping iron and Toto's replacement is the talking Lizard of Oz, a small, green, peculiar-looking animatronic reptile in a fez.
The colorful, theatrical sets and special effects are professionally done, with a big-budget look. Silich's positive energy is infectious, once the sheer magnitude of her physical presence ceases to startle. Her actors are notably professional, and the easy-to-follow exercises are presented with a sense of fun and sing-along rhythms.
The least effective element is an animated "Key to Fitness" character who pops up at strategic moments, freezing the action to shine down on the travelers and dispense advice. His voicing could use more clarity.
Available Feb. 12, "Yellow Brick Road," the second video in the series, is intermediate level; "Munchkidland," the first in the series, is for beginners; the third, "Emerald City," features advanced exercises.