CD REVIEW: Papa Snow - Junior Jukebox Volume 1
By Dan Cohen - 05/07/2012 - 02:03 PM EDT
Artist: Band: Papa Snow
Album: Junior Jukebox Volume 1
Genre: Children's (ages 5-13)
Sounds Like: The Meters strained thru the Wiggles
Technical Grade: 8/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 8/10
Best Songs: Blue Mother Goose, Two King Coles, My Darling Clementine
Papa Snow claims a 49 year pedigree in the music business. He lives and works in Nashville, but came of age 'in the Liverpool of the early 60s'. His aim is to 'take well known pieces, add freshly written material as needed, compose some new songs and then invoke a series of distinct classic rock 'n' roll and R&B styles...'. Fair enough. I'm open. But something got a little lost in translation.
This was clearly a labor of love, production values are generally good, and there are some lovely moments on the cd. It sounds like they had fun making it. There's a nice organ break in 3 Blind Mice (The Coasters). A pretty, dead-on version of My Darling Clementine in the classic two-step rhythm of Johnny Cash. Some interesting post-modernist percussion on Paddycake, a tribute to the cajun rhythms of Allen Toussaint and Dr. John. Two King Coles offers an interesting pairing of Chuck Berry and Nat King Cole, two contemporaries that you think of in entirely seperate universes. And they're kept that way in this song!
Perhaps he got a little too specific with his stylistic references. Each song is assigned a specific artist whose sound he's trying to emulate, ie, She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain (in the style of the Beach Boys) or That's What the Baby Say (Ben E. King), or Good Night My Dears (Otis Redding). It would have been better perhaps to simply cite genre-- doo-wop, rockabilly, etc.-- because firstly, the production values don't always hew to classic tropes (4X4 kick drum & piano featured on Bo Diddley tribute??), but mostly because it's awfully hard to measure up vocally to people like Otis Redding and Ben E. King, some of the greatest popular music singers of all time. Snow has a decent, burrish voice, but it would be better served by more harmony from his family members (especially on She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain, his ersatz tribute to the Beach Boys) and perhaps a mix that didn't put his vocals so prominently front and center. For an album that tries to capture rock and roll spirit for the younger set, the drums are mixed curiously low. I know there's a concern about cranking up the crunch on the guitar too much. You don't want to scare kids;) But my solution has generally been to treat it like a real tune, make the guitars how you want them (making sure the vocals are clear, to be sure), and allow moms and dads (and kids) control via the volume knob on whatever playback device they're using nowadays.
Some songs go on a little too long, and while they cover familiar territory, they don't necessarily have activities or chants built in. But I can certainly imagine alot of pretend pushing and kneading and baking going on during Paddycake live. Rock and roll- and push and knead!
There's a lovely little ditty at the end, a throwaway, sung no doubt by Papa Snow's granddaughter, reprising 'That's What The Baby Say'. It's fresh, genuine, full of life. I wanted more. Now THAT's rock and roll!
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