various artists,
Animal Playground
(Putumayo, 2007)

Sometimes, a CD doesn't need to give us anything more than a good time.

Animal Playground, a kid-oriented album from Putumayo, is exactly that. Each song is, as the title suggests, about animals, and they're all fun, bouncy and child-friendly to an extreme.

Yeah, we've all heard children's recordings that drive adults absolutely bonkers, especially when a darling cherub hits "repeat" on the CD player over and over and over again. But Animal Playground passes the grownup test, too, because it's enjoyable, interesting for all ages and of a consistently high quality.

The interest level is high, in part, because this is not a homogenous collection of songs. Putumayo is nothing if not varied in its selections, and on this CD the music comes from as far afield as Honduras, Italy, Brazil, Australia, South Africa and Chicago, U.S.A. Some of the songs are performed by established musicians, while a few feature youngsters at the microphone. Most of the songs are in English, but even those in a foreign tongue are toe-tapping fun. The liner notes are an easy read (in English, Spanish, French and German) and just a little bit educational, too.

Personal favorites here include "No More Monkeys" by Asheba, "Nella Vecchia Fattoria" (an Italian "Old MacDonald Had a Farm") by Quartetto Cetra, "The Littlest Birds" by the Be Good Tanyas, "The Three Bears" by Gary Rosen, "L'Otorhinoceros" by Les P'tits Loups du Jazz, "Don't Ever Step on a Snake" by Don Spencer and "Mbube" (a recognizable variation on "The Lion Sleeps Tonight") by Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

review by
Tom Knapp

13 February 2010

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