CM . . . . Volume XV Number 13. . . .February 20, 2009.
Monkey Sing, Monkey Do!
Kingston, ON: Mary Lambert Productions (www.marylambertmusic.com), 2008.
1 CD, 51 min. sec. $15.99.
Preschool-kindergarten / Ages 3-5.
Review by Devon Greyson.
Little monkeys love to sing
And love to copy everything
Monkey sing (repeat)
and monkey do (repeat)
Ooh aah (repeat)
Ooh ooh (repeat)
Mary Lambert's Monkey Sing, Monkey Do! album is a bouncy mix of traditional songs (four of the 21 tracks, including The Wheels on the Bus and The Alphabet Song), modified traditional songs (nine tracks, including Do Your Ears Hang Low and Turkey in the Straw) and original compositions (eight tracks, including Five Little Fishies in the Bath Tub! and The Tooth Fairy Loves Ballet).
The CD leads off with a theme of monkeys, featuring a cartoon gorilla named "Hanna Banana."
The modified traditional songs are the strong point of this album, featuring solid tunes with added silliness via lyric rewrites and added verses. Old MacDonald's Funky Farm is a perfect example of a jazzed up version of a traditional song with some minor lyric changes that give the rendition a fun freshness. Some of the original songs are hits (I Love to Sing This Song, which is very catchy and has potential to be a Song That Never Ends), while others are misses (Superdad, which is either an overdone attempt to sympathize with fathers or a sarcastic commentary on fathers' typical contribution to housework).
Lambert's music, itself, is in tune, upbeat, and pretty catchy. This is an active album, with nary a lullaby to be found. Some tracks feature action commands right in the lyrics, and there is a shout-out to Canada in the ABC song ("Zee...or Zed in Canada!"). The beats are strong, and there are a variety of musical styles featured: songs that swing, chanted play-songs, and songs with a traditional country feel. There are a variety of instruments featured throughout, but unfortunately the liner notes don't specify who/what is on each track. There are children (and yes, even a children's choir) singing on this album, an aspect which will bring a smile to some faces and cause others to recoil in horror. Fortunately, the children are generally rhythmic and tuneful, rather than cringe-inducing, even from those who are not fans of the genre.
Don't miss the accompanying the PDF file on the disc. This document contains a larger-print version of all of the album's lyrics, complete with suggestions for actions/activities to accompany the songs, and a few colouring pages featuring the aforementioned gorilla "Hanna Banana," The colouring images are nothing special or particularly well drawn, but the suggested activities (some for groups of children; a few more suited to one-on-one interactions) could be useful to teachers and parents alike. The activity instructions, while inconsistent in target audience, are overall strong suggestions for fun and engaging activities to teach music and literacy skills.
My biggest complaint with the album is that the target age group is unclear or inconsistent. The colouring pages and most of the music seem aimed at preschool/kindergarten (The Itsy Bitsy Spider, The Alphabet Song), but some of the activities are well beyond the skill level of a typical kindergarten child (do-si-do, hand jiving). The printed matter: colouring pages, liner notes and cover, appear rather amateurish and do not do justice to the higher quality of the vocal tracks.
The disc does not appear to have any annoying or restrictive "digital rights management" ("digital locks") technologies embedded within, making it highly usable in situations where young children might damage your original copy, adaptable to making mixes for your personal use, and compatible with a variety of music playback devices.
I would recommend this album for preschool teachers and parents who want fun music to play in the background of active play times, dance or other fun but structured physical activity music for kids, or who would like some ideas for fun spins to put on traditional songs. There are many opportunities to use this album to tie in reading readiness/early literacy skills with fun music.
Devon Greyson is a librarian at the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research in Vancouver, BC.
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