The last time Michael & the Rockness Monsters put out a CD, they were looking back at a century of music, which was ironically called Seeing Life In 2020. Obviously, Michael Napolitano could not foresee what would actually occur during our pandemic year. But he used his quarantine to livestream a variety show for children called “House Party,” with songs written with contributions from all over the world. Those compositions make up the heart of Similarities, the new release from the Family Napolitano – Michael, wife Heather, and their daughters, Emilia (13) and Sienna (11).
Not to put too fine a political point on it, but the United States has been a polarized country over the past four years. The Rockness program seeks to unify and nurture listeners with positive influences. Hence, the title track on Similarities focuses on cultural parallels and what brings us together. Although Zoom meetings posed some challenges, engaging with children allowed Heather to perpetuate their Rockness Music education program, a female-owned family business.
Rockness channels a Story Pirates vibe with their comical tune, “This Is Not a Song About Unicorns.” Band drummer Edd Duran croons in his native Chilean (Spanish) on the acoustic “Perezoso.” Rockness draws material from four generations. The son of a professional drummer, Michael pays tribute to his grandfather on “Italian Farmer.” Similar to last fall’s Songs With My Daughters from Elliott Park and his three teenagers, Michael sought inspiration from his kids. Sienna co-wrote “The Fox and the Feline” about a pair of unlikely friends. Both girls co-wrote the final two tracks, “Campfire” and “Together,” which became a familiar singalong on their YouTube variety shows.
The pandemic brought together many artists to interface on their respective releases. This CD features a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Down on the Corner” that will get your kids jumping (unless you’re driving). Two-time Grammy winner Lucy Kalantari and Americana roots musician Red Yarn provide vocals, with blasts from the band’s horn section. Über-producer Dean Jones guides Similarities with a steady hand, resulting in one of the Rockness Monsters’ strongest CDs in their 10 year-plus history.
Here is a Rockness Music class about animals and alphabet letters: