various artists,
Hear & Gone in 60 Seconds
(Rounder, 2003)

On your mark, get set ... go! I'm writing this review as fast as I can to emulate the mostly-charming but at times frenetic pace of Hear & Gone in 60 Seconds, the new CD on Rounder Kids produced by Regina Kelland and Richard Perlmutter.

It's a colourful bunch of short songs for little people, and it includes some pretty big names in the children's music biz, including Fred Penner, Jack Grunsky and Marcy Marxer, plus Tom Paxton, an entertainer known for his ability to entertain any age group. All these songwriters took up the challenge of writing a good kid's song exactly 60 seconds in length. Any style was acceptable, so this is an eclectic sounding collection that includes everything from country to blues, samba to hip-hop.

Many writers fell prey to the temptation to write a "fast" song, so the disc has a slightly hurried feeling. Fortunately, the whole thing is only 30 minutes long. (OK, OK, I know this should have been obvious -- it's 29 one-minute songs after all -- but at first glance I found the long track list a bit daunting, probably because, like the rest of this project's target audience, I'm an overworked parent who is often distracted and frequently dim.)

I decided on my favourite tracks with the help of my children who are 7 and 9 years old. Top marks go to "More Than Just a Minute," a genuinely funny and insightful song by Justin Harper ("My grandmother, she is more than just a minute, she is many, many, many, many minutes...") which can be forgiven for its similarity to Paul Simon in his "Graceland" period. Second place is awarded to "Heartbeat" by the tasteful and engaging Fred Penner. And the runners-up are "I'm Not Tired," an appealingly goofy piece by Ralph's World, the wildly sophisticated "Music is a Lovely Language" by Beethoven's Wig (the producers of the CD), Tom Paxton's "I Love My Brother (Sometimes)" and Jessica Harper's "Hey Picasso," which is thoughtful and (whew) slow.

Some writers used time itself as the subject matter while others just tried to write entertaining songs for children about whatever topic happened to present itself. The weaker songs tended to find a groove and just stick with it for 60 seconds, while the better ones followed good principles of songwriting structure, developing and resolving in a satisfying way. Some of the songs went over the limit, so the producers faded them out. (This struck me as perhaps a bit too picky. Then again, maybe some people would stand there with stopwatch in hand?)

On the whole, Hear & Gone in 60 Seconds is a cheerful and energetic children's record that doesn't take itself too seriously and an ode to the pleasures of a good creative challenge.

- Rambles
written by Joy McKay
published 21 February 2004

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