Everyone gets older. It’s a fact. For this reason, children’s recording artists constantly must cultivate new audiences. Once a performer cycles through an entire family’s lineup (from big brother straight down to baby sister), teens generally move on to more contemporary tunes. That’s the “Cat’s in the Cradle” situation in which I find myself—reviewing music that is mostly irrelevant to both of my sons… with a few exceptions. When I tell my younger son (10) that I’ve got an “exciting new release,” he may roll my eyes, until I tell him that it’s Recess Monkey or a related CD from venerable Recess Monkey man (and SiriusXM Kids Place Live host) Jack Forman.
That brings me to Jack’s new 12-song CD, Can’t Buy a Thrill Ride, conceived in COVID and performed in PJs. A longtime elementary school teacher, Jack used his training in the art of listening to kid-driven ideas to generate his first three solo CDs. Recess Monkey, consisting of Jack and fellow teachers Drew Holloway and Korum Bischoff, has generated 14 CDs and performed for audiences for nearly two decades.
The pandemic presented new challenges—you don’t say—that Jack faces head-on with new this (Steely Dan tribute titled) collection. Jack had a home office head start, having broadcast “Live From the Monkey House” from his Seattle, Washington remote studio for the past seven years. He kicks things off with the jaunty “PJ Year,” a song that celebrates the luxury of sleepwear. Jack addresses the need for little victories and self-gratification on the doo-wop ditty “Give Yourself a Present.” Two boisterous kids in Zoom classroom sessions inspired “Plates Spinning,” one of the “parents-in-purgatory” tunes. Another is “No Parking,” where Jack and the family wind up moving into a lot they perpetually circle, never finding an open spot.
As far as family fantasy goes, Jack creates a brand new Jewish holiday creature on “Hanukktopus,” an eight-day mascot that all kids can embrace more fully than the nebulous Hanukkah Harry. He continues to indulge his passion for all things Star Wars with “Cars for the Stars,” fancying himself a used auto dealer suggesting “There’s the Mandolorian, try a DeLorean” and “For Jar Jar Binks, I got a Mercury Lynx.” For homes that have pets, Jack sings from the persona of a dog longing to get outside on “Goin’ for a Walk.” Jack wraps up (the collection and the pandemic) with “The Beginning,” as the world starts to reopen as “each new day sees the story change, from page to page.”
The year 2021 is almost half over and we’ve already seen the remarkable optimism of kids’ music produced during the darkest times of their young lives. Jack Forman delivers unabashed, upbeat fun for family audiences. Maybe you Can’t Buy a Thrill Ride RIDE. Few of us have the financial resources or the real estate. But you can give your kids a quick slip and slide through Jack’s compelling new compilation.
Here is a video for Jack’s song “Yodeling Yoda”: