At the time this album first appeared, Burl Ives was already an accomplished actor, singer, performer, and radio personality. Animal Fair: Songs for Children, originally released in 1949, was rereleased first in 1974 as part of the album Burl Ives Sings Little White Duck, and again on CD in 1995.
Originally released in 1949 as a two-record set of 10-inch albums by Columbia Records, Animal Fair: Songs for Children features the familiar warble of Burl Ives and two acoustic guitars performing seven songs about all kinds of animals.
As is with many ancient folk and fairy tales, some of these songs aren't as sunny as their musical accompaniment. But if you can get past "The Grey Goose"'s death and miraculous revival, the economical use of every piece of the family pig after "The Sow Took the Measles," and a farmer's angry reaction to Jim the goat eating one of the farmer's shirts in "The Goat and the Train," there are more treasures in store.
Highlights include the wonderfully bizarre lyrics of "The Whale," the wistfully beautiful rendition of the oft-covered "Buckeye Jim" (especially well done lately by both Elizabeth Mitchell and The Hollow Trees), the brief story song "The Tailor and the Mouse," and a jaunty tune about "Mr. Rabbit"'s physical apearance.
While not as striking or memorable as Woody Guthrie's or Pete Seeger's music for kids, Burl Ives' Animal Fair is a great document of Anglo-American folk tunes. All seven songs can currently be found on Burl Ives Sings Little White Duck, which compiles Animal Fair with more orchestrated, almost soundtrack-like children's tunes recorded by Ives in the early 1950s.
Originally released 1949, Columbia Records; Rereleased 1995, Sony Wonder