Music Review: Sing Along with Putumayo

I didn’t get it, but eventually it got into my head. My wife picks a lot of our toddler music and I usually give it a thumbs down, but as per usual, I grow to love it.

Cover art for the music CD Sing Along with PutumayoSing Along with Putumayo works for me because it’s a mix of different sounds and artists, mostly well known folk and blues songs, covered by a variety of today’s singers. So don’t be misled by the CD title. Putumayo isn’t a person. It’s a reference to the recording company, and I suppose, also the Putumayo river in South America. Here is a rundown of my favorite tracks:

Bling Blang by Arlo Guthrie
To me, on this song, Arlo Guthrie is just the guy whose voice sounds like Ned Flanders from The Simpsons. While Guthrie never adds a "diddly" or "doodly" to the lyrics, it doesn’t hurt that the chorus includes the phrases "bling-blang" and "zing-o zang-o." The thrust of the song is about new parents building a house for their family.

"Run bring rocks and I’ll bring bricks
A nice pretty house
We’ll build and fix
We’ll jump inside when
The cold wind blows
And kiss our pretty little baby-o"

Bananaphone by Rhonda Vincent
This cover of Raffi’s classic Bananaphone is fatally flawed. There is no boop-boop-a-doop-a-doop. If you don’t know of what I speak, listen to the authentic original Raffi sample available at Amazon.com. Fourteen seconds into the clip you hear the genius boop-boop-a-doop-a-doop. Without this reoccurring musical device the song just doesn’t work. But don’t get me wrong. I still sing along to the Rhonda Vincent version, because, well, it is Bananaphone. It’s a parental obligation.

"Don’t need quarters, don’t need dimes,
To call a friend of mine
Don’t need computers or TV
To have a real good time
I’ll call for pizza, I’ll call my cat
I’ll call the White House, have a chat
I’ll place a call around the world,
Operator get me Beijing jing jing."

Man Gave Names to All the Animals by Tim O’Brien
This is a crafty little song. It sounds like religious Garden of Eden stuff, but it’s not. (The Christian "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" is on another track though.) I would be happier if "Man" was changed to "We" in the chorus for a gender neutral approach, as in talking about humankind.

Anyhow, the craftiness of the lyrics comes in the rhyming scheme employed to explain animal names, such as this one:

"Saw an animal up on a hill
Chewing up so much grass until it was filled.
Saw milk comin’ out but he didn’t know how.
‘Ahh, I think I’ll call him a cow.’"

Other songs of note:
Keb’ Mo’ does a sedate, but sincere rendition of Love Train which I prefer to the original. And Belly Button Song by "Music for Aardvarks and Other Mammals " is a spot on mimicking of Louis Armstrong.

Lyrics for many of the songs are available in PDF format.

FYI, the Sing Along with Putumayo web page has 45 second audio clips in Real Media format. I found the Real Media player to be a hassle, so I use the free and simple Media Player Classic (non-Microsoft, non-Real) program for playing Real Media files.

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