CD Review of My Green Kite by Peter Himmelman

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My Green Kite
starstarstarstarno star Label: Rounder
Released: 2007
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In the not-terribly distant past, children's music was the exclusive domain of performers who – whatever their credentials as entertainers for the kiddie set – had an incredible knack for recording music that was almost always guaranteed to drive parents crazy. There are two kinds of people in the world: Those with fond memories of – or inexplicable soft spots for – the songs of Raffi, Barney, and the Wiggles, and those who will scream if they ever have to hear “Baby Beluga” one more time.

Clearly, there was a huge marketplace for children's music that did not suck, and that void has been filled in recent years by a slew of savvy songwriters who record what has come to be known as “kindie music.” A number of these artists – including They Might Be Giants, the Del Fuegos' Dan Zanes, 700 Miles' John Carlin, and Peter Himmelman – are expatriate rockers whose “adult” music has either become a low-profile hobby or been given up on entirely.

Himmelman, whose recording career stretches back to the early '80s, falls into the former camp; he's been alternating between straight-up rock albums and kids' releases since the late '90s, when his first children's album, My Best Friend is a Salamander, helped usher in the kindie era. (He's also kept busy scoring television shows such as “Judging Amy,” “Men in Trees,” and “Bones,” thus proving that you can find great songwriters pretty much anyplace other than the radio these days.)

My Green Kite is Himmelman's fourth children's album, first for Rounder, and – as luck would have it – his best. Really, it's no accident that Raffi records tend to drive adults nuts; if illustrated on a Venn diagram, music that kids and adults can agree on would be represented by the slenderest of overlaps, and Himmelman – though he's thus far managed to avoid the genre's traditional saccharine overkill – has occasionally wandered too deeply into cutesy territory. There are no such missteps here, however; My Green Kite is a dizzyingly colorful blend, full of sly musical touches that parents will be able to appreciate, alongside lyrics that successfully walk the fine line between endearingly whimsical and gratingly sweet.

It's a tour de force, really, and parents who aren't grinning and bopping their heads after making their way through the opening triple punch – the percussive, horn-drenched “Feet,” the charming power-pop confection of a title track, and the barnyard ballad “Another Bite of Hay” – should have their heads examined. Throw out those Veggie Tales CDs and hop on the kindie bandwagon. Start right here.

~Jeff Giles