Artist: Duo: Klosner, Cher & Gene
Genre: Children's (ages 5-13)
Sounds Like: John Denver, Carpenters
Technical Grade: 10/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Commercial Value: 9/10
Overall Talent Level: 10/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Songs: Pillow Time, Seepy Sams, For Baby, Count Your Blessings
I listen to a lot of children’s music in my various roles as parent, teacher, musician, and critic. With my first listen, I’m looking to see if it’s something I can tolerate repeatedly – every parent knows how important this is.
So I listened to Stardust, a collection of lullabies, the first few times to hear whether kids and families can enjoy this together. (They most certainly can.) And now the last few times I’ve settled in with the collection, it’s with the ears of a music fan – and I am continually struck by the many delights of this ambitious two-disc set.
This brother-and-sister duo has created a lush, subtly beautiful release that makes use of only “authentic” instruments. So you get to hear oboe, clarinet, cello, vibraphone – and it’s the real deal, courtesy of top-notch symphony and jazz musicians.
Disc one opens with “How Pretty the Moon,” Cher’s lovely voice accompanying delicate piano chords. If the whole disc were in this soothing vein, it would be still be nice, but there is so much more.
The lilting “Wynken, Blynken and Nod” lured me in and made me want to hear again this cherished tale I remember from my youth. Then Gene comes in with “Pillow Time,” a mellow, jazzy number that comes from a Monkees album.
I love the adorable echoed vocals on the aptly titled “Little Sir Echo,” as well as the flute that wafts in and out. And “La La Lu” is sultry in a late-night jazz club way, if you can say that about a song on a kids’ CD. It’s one of several songs to which Steve Raybine lends his vibraphone skills.
“Pillow Soft, Blanket Warm” is soothing like a Dan Fogelberg or John Denver ballad. In fact, disc two contains a beautiful version of John Denver’s “For Baby.” Gene’s voice is comfortable and earnest, and his acoustic guitar picking is pretty.
Disc two begins with the folksy, gentle “I See the Moon,” which shimmers with washes of oboe and cello. The duo harmonizes splendidly on the chorus, as they do so often throughout the set.
“Seepy Sams” is a delight, definitely one of my favorites. Cher has a rich, jazzy bounce to her vocal, and Tom Hartig’s clarinet dances throughout. Another favorite is the soulful reading of Irving Berlin’s “Count Your Blessings.”
“Crystal Lullaby” and “Watercolor Ponies” both are buoyed by light, hypnotic percussion. “Crystal Lullaby” boasts lush harmonies, and “Ponies” features lyrics of deep imagery and spirituality by Wayne Watson.
The discs also contains instrumental versions of all the songs, a nice touch that can be used to lull young ones (and grown-ups too, I’m sure) to sleep.
But Stardust is not just a sleepy-time listen. It is a tapestry of gorgeous sounds, a welcome musical respite. And you don’t have to have tired kids to listen to it.