The true Dean of children’s music is Dean Jones – über-producer of many acts like Gustafer Yellowgold, Frances England, and the Lucky Band – as well as an individual performer and part of the three-man band, Dog On Fleas.
The latter is returning after a five-year hiatus with their newest release, “I’m An Optimist.” The CD certainly wins a “truth in advertising” award, as it’s one of the most unrelentingly sunny and upbeat things I’ve heard in quite some time.
“Wanna Be” is a call-and-response song about growing up and choosing to be original, different, and fulfilled. “In a world of talking, I wanna be a listener,” Dean sings. “In a world of rangers, I wanna be a black bear.” The nature ode “Sting Along” will spark joy among the young animal lovers in your midst, recounting how every creature has its own family, genus, and species within its taxonomy.
Dog On Fleas must have wanted to land a funky dance groove and they succeeded with “Village d’Ãtoile,” which is french for “Star Village.” That’s also the entire extent of the lyrics for the song. “Doppelganger,” based on a true story of misidentification, starts with its’ Alan Parsons Project vibe and changes personality a moment later. The anti-educational “It’s a Miracle” takes the modern world at face value…
It’s a miracle…that an airplane can fly up in the sky.
It’s a miracle…that an apple tree comes from an apple seed.
It’s a miracle…when you see ants work together, and how about the bees.
It’s a miracle…that our heads don’t pop off every time we sneeze.
Dog On Fleas is more than Dean Jones, surely. John Hughes (not the filmmaker) provides bass, guitar, and vocals. Chris Cullo sings and plays drums and percussion instruments. The trio spent the past year ensconced in upstate New York, fiendishly plotting their return. Hard to believe it’s been half-a-decade, but Dean had other fish on his plate. And knowing Dean, that could have been a song right there.
It’s almost retro for Dog On Fleas to come back as the 2010s are ending. The Fleas (or Dogmen or whatever you call them) sound as if they’ve always been a part of the children’s music scene and never left.
I’m An Optimist is best characterized on “A Little Hiccup,” where the narrator could have become dejected by mistakes or adversity, but explains that life still went on and yours should, too. Time doesn’t stand still and Dog On Fleas is optimistic that there will be more days to dance and celebrate in the future.
Here is their recent video for the song, “Doppelganger”: