These three Seattle elementary school teachers, Drew Holloway on guitar, Jack Forman on bass and keyboards, Daron Henry on drums, have been making kids' music together as Recess Monkey since 2004. They released their first children's CD in 2005, Welcome to Recess Monkey Town, followed by Aminal House in 2006, Wonderstuff in 2007, Tabby Road in 2008, Field Trip in 2009, The Final Funktier in 2010, and Flying! in 2011.
The majority of Recess Monkey’s albums have been presented as concept albums, including the double album Wondertuff, a rock opera about Everett the Wonderbee vs. The Gray in a struggle over the Magical Meadows; Aminal House’s almost two dozen songs about all sorts of creatures, big and small; the school-related Field Trips; and the band’s most recent release, the superhero-themed Flying!
The Music of 'Flying!'
As an example of just how highly acclaimed Recess Monkey have become in the kids’ music world, Flying! boasts over half a dozen guest appearances by kindie rock super stars, including Caspar Babypants (aka Chris Ballew of The Presidents of the United States of America), Johnny Bregar (solo Americana/rhythm&blues kids’ music performer), and Tom Baisden (lead guitarist of the kindie rockers The Not-Its! and member of the grownup band Mostly Dimes), all of whom hail from Seattle.
Other guest performers include Justin Lansing (banjo picker from the Minneapolis-based kindie duo The Okee Dokee Brothers), Chris Wiser (organist in the Oklahoma City-livin’ kids’ music funksters Sugar Free Allstars), Molly Ledford (lead singer of the Columbia, South Carolina kids’ music trio Lunch Money), and Dean Jones (head honcho of the Hudson Valley-based Americana kids’ music band Dog On Fleas). Flying! was produced by Tor Hyams, who also contributed piano to three tunes. Hyams’ additional kids’ music production credits include Frances England, Lunch Money, The Okee Dokee Brothers, Jim Cosgrove, Milkshake, and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo.
More 'Flying!' Music
Flying! is bookended by two versions of the title track, one a driving pop gem, the other a dreamier acoustic take about the self as superhero. “Day Job” follows with another gleaming ditty describing the secret life of the elementary school kid; while “Covered in Band Aids” blasts out of the speakers with a flourish of drums and power chords, then races along to The Young Rascals’ “Good Lovin’” groove, and veers off into Latin jazz territory during the bridge. “Sidekick” features a roadhouse shufflin’ beat and a rowdy harmonica (courtesy Caspar Babypants), and gets mass vocal help from Seattle’s University Child Development School (Drew and Jack both teach there).
“My Valentine” is a tender, but not too sticky sweet, Tin Pan Alley ode to a goldfish, featuring Johnny Bregar’s piano, Dean Jones’ trombone, and Tom Baisden’s trumpet; while the “Bravest Kid in the World” battles various childhood fears and worries via an absolutely rockin’ Elvis Costello-like tune. The next song takes the point of view of “Your Favorite Book” with a taste of mbaqanga; then things take a turn for the Wings as the very Paul McCartney-esque “Toolbox” chronicles a kid’s pride in their craft skills. The skittery funk of “Grandmom’s House” features a great Memphis Horns bridge courtesy Tom Baisden and the underlying organ groove of Chris Wiser.
Molly Ledford lends her vocals to the catchy pop of the Neco Case-like “Invisible Friend,” an ode to a make believe pal; while “Flapjacks” is a rowdy, barely under control celebration of pancakes that features Caspar Babypants on organ and Justin Lansing on banjo. “Bunk Bed” describes a kid’s new double decker living arrangements in the form of an awesome late-1950’s Doo Wop tune, and “Super Stuffies” features a New Romantic new wave sheen while describing the adventures of a toy dog and cat.
Recess Monkey have been at the kids' music game for some time now, so they pretty much have it down. What's impressive is their ability to consistently (and quickly!) come up with inventive, catchy, thoughtful, and funny tunes album after album, and Flying! is no exception. With tunes that would feel just as home on a kids' CD player or on a college indie music radio station, Recess Monkey's Flying! definitely deserves a place on our list of Best Kids' Music of 2011.
Released June 21, 2011; Monkey Mama