Life and Science Lessons

Mr. Ray’s Welcome to the Music Room offers life lessons for those little ones left behind when older siblings go to school. Mr. Ray introduces kid-sized philosophy by asking “if everyone waits their turns, does it matter if you’re first or last?” on “Wait Your Turn.” He rocks out with the response.

Mr. Ray promises a simple concept on “Share with You,” then delivers the lesson with outstanding multi-leveled production that works both educationally and musically. His haunting instrumental break on “How Was Your Day?” deftly echoes “Eleanor Rigby.” This sloppy heart was almost encouraged to clean by his catchy “Let’s All Clean Up.”

“Use Your Manners” gets a reggae approach. The anthem quality of “Responsibility” is realized by its joyous kids’ chorus. Mr. Ray has the right light touch with his kids’ choruses, creating an atmosphere of inclusiveness while never losing his own voice. Kids are in the Music Room, but Mr. Ray is in charge all the way.

They Might Be Giants’ Here Comes Science musically delivers a variety of scientific concepts that works with a variety of ages. This electronically charged CD/DVD aims at a school-age audience with inventive educational songs about “Photosynthesis,” “Computer Assisted Design,” “My Brother the Ape” and more.

The duo never loses the simplicity of melody that marked their previous three kids’ albums. “Put It to the Test” rhythmically declares “a fact is just a fantasy until it can be put to the test,” and teaches scientific method with one line. Their updated rocking “Why Does the Sun Shine?” reinvigorates the song originally learned from old Tom Glazer science records.

This 19-song-packed CD does for science what Jonathan Sprout’s “American Heroes” did for history: creates one-stop shopping to engage and entertain kids in its single subject area. The band puts science to full use by embracing every technological production tool in their kit. The result is something that is melodically electronic — not an easy mix in other hands, but TMBG delivers.

The CD’s simple, hand-drawn cover is full of scientific identifications such as “magnoliophyta.” The accompanying DVD might work better for younger kids, with literal illustrations driving home concepts. The DVD keeps the focus where it belongs: on the songs, including a menu of songs presented alphabetically for kids raised on their “Here Come the ABC’s.”

It’s an entertaining science lesson.

Kathy O’Connell is a contributing writer to MetroKids and host of the Peabody-award-winning Kids Corner, weekdays 7-8pm on WXPN 88.5 FM.

Categories: Music Reviews