In case you didn’t know, Caspar Babypants is Chris Ballew, and Chris Ballew is Caspar Babypants. Sing Along! is Ballew’s fourth album of family music in three years, and includes almost two dozen tunes for kids and their grownups. Sing Along! follows Ballew’s familiar pattern of including inventive and catchy originals and re-worked and re-imagined nursery rhymes, but this time around the theme is call-and-response tunes, chants, rhymes, and sing-along songs.
Chris Ballew once fronted The Presidents of the United States of America, an indie pop trio from Seattle who used their sense of humor and unique instrumentation to garner a couple of Top 40 hits during the mid-'90s, including "Kitty," "Lump," and "Peaches." On his four albums for families, 2009’s Here I Am! and More Please!, 2010’s This is Fun!, and 2011’s Sing Along!, Ballew translates his musical vibe into kids' tunes that, well, aren't really that different from his grownup songs!
The Music of 'Sing Along!'
Chris Ballew is an obviously well-liked and highly-respected musician, as a bevy of guest stars help him perform throughout Sing Along! Musical satirist Weird Al Yankovic shows up with his accordion and Stone Gossard from Pearl Jam lends percussion assistance, alt country musician and soundtrack artist Pete Droge plays a guitar solo, while kids’ music star Frances England, Rachel Loshak (the wife of Gustafer Yellowgold creator Morgan Taylor), hip hop artist Outtasite, and fellow Seattleite kids’ musicians Johnny Bregar and Recess Monkey help out with their vocal talents.
Sing Along! starts off appropriately with the sing along-able refrain “Yes, Sir!” from album opener “Bad Blue Jay.” For the song “Wild Wild Time,” Ballew borrows from the second movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata, a piece that also served as the basis of the chorus to Billy Joel’s “This Time,” a tune from his 1983 album An Innocent Man. And if any of the tunes on Sing Along! were to make the Top 40 as Presidents of the United States of America songs, “Funny Bone” and “Shadow” would probably be the ones, with their irresistibly catchy melodies and choruses.
More Music from 'Sing Along!'
Sing Along! contains several well-known musical memories like “Ba Ba Black Sheep,” “Ring Around the Rosie,” and “Pussycat Pussycat,” and as with most of the traditional tunes and nursery rhymes Ballew re-imagines as Caspar Babypants, these oldies include both a smattering of original and updated lyrics, as well as imaginative musical arrangements. The spirited “Spider John” may be a tribute to one of Ballew’s musical heroes “Spider” John Koerner, best known as a guitarist and vocalist for the blues trio Koerner, Ray & Glover, but for sure it’s a great audience participation sing-along.
Ballew updates the old nursery rhyme “Row Row Row Your Boat” with his own “Long Long Dream,” a super catchy tune that starts out quietly and builds into a rousing beer hall sing-along, featuring the awesome accordion talent of Weird Al Yankovic. “Me and My Echo” is not only a great pop song, it’s a cool little call-and-response tune perfect for live performances. The absurdist “Butterfly Driving a Truck” is another super catchy song that features an infectious “Yeah yeah!”, while the minimalist “Helicopter” features a slow and steady sing-along “helicopter” mantra. “Sun Go” features the vocals of kids’ music star Frances England, and sounds very much like an acoustic tune that Nirvana might have written, with its angular chord progressions and catchy verses.
The ridiculously prolific Chris Ballew has filled four albums with almost 90 songs as Caspar Babypants over the past three years, and his creativity and imagination show no signs of waning. Sing Along! is another musical triumph for Caspar Babypants, and easily finds its way onto our list of Best Kids’ Music of 2011.
Released August 16, 2011; Aurora Elephant Music
- “Bad Blue Jay”
- “Wild Wild Time”
- “I Wanna Be a Snowman”
- “Funny Bone”
- “My Flea Has Dogs”
- “Ba Ba Black Sheep”
- “Spider John”
- “Loud and Quiet” (featuring Frances England)
- “Mister Winter Bee”
- “Long Long Dream”
- “Ring around the Rosie”
- “Them Bones” (featuring Outtasite)
- “Pussycat Pussycat”
- “Me and My Echo”
- “Butterfly Driving a Truck”
- “Sun Go” (featuring Frances England)
- “Baby Cloud” (featuring Rachel Loshak)