As a musician, I naturally listen to all the parts of a song and say to myself, “well, if this was my record, I would have “blah, blah, blah.” As I listened through this record, those thoughts never crossed my mind. It became clear that considerable diligence and attention to detail was put into this record. Combine that with an artist who has rich experience in this genre, and you have one of the best albums I have heard in a long, long time. There is nothing that can be improved on with this record, so my inner “blah, blah, blahs” are kind of useless in this review. Let me explain why I like this so much.
Mrs. Kate knows how to keep the listener engaged. I, as a 57-year old man, am not the target audience but I couldn’t quit listening. I am probably listening a little more critically than kids would, so I can only imagine the smiling faces when a child hears this the first time. The varied lyric content, which any kid and parent can relate to, the instrument choices, the sound selections, the various time signatures, the sequencing of the album, the different song structures and the diverse tempos - all of these elements are masterfully delivered on this record. I learned a lot listening to this record. I learned that when an artist/writer knows their audience and how to engage them, it’s magical. The production, songwriting and instrumentation are as good as it gets in this genre.
Vocals Mrs. Kate’s voice is lovely, with great tone, and her phrasing is flawless for the audience she is singing to. It is clear that she has not only written in this genre many times before, she has also performed and perfected her vocal delivery to children.
And Mrs. Kate is not the only one who shines here. The kids singing the background are wonderful and one cannot listen to this without smiling, especially the phrase in the second song (at 43 seconds in), “Let’s Exercise,” that ends with “.......yes we will.” That pretty much summarizes the entire record - very positive and uplifting. The vocal performance and lyrics on track 3, “Be A Friend,” damn near brought this guy to tears. It’s a perfect marriage of melody, lyric and vocal delivery from a kid (I think.) Very believeable. This reminded me of the old contemporary song, “That’s What Friends Are For.” They even threw in a key change at 3:22. On Track 7, “When Mama Says No,” both Mommy and Daddy get to sing a verse. Although Mrs. Kate sings most of the lead, there are many different vocalists on this record who all hold their own.
Instrumentation It is obvious the musicians can play, not because of the fantastic licks they put down but it’s what they didn’t play that intrigues me. Players of this talent could have easily overplayed, but it’s clear they listened to the music and knew what their role was. While I was listening, the Wrecking Crew, Motown and other session players who knew exactly how to lay it down all came to mind. The subtle guitar parts and the harmonica lick at 1:19 in “I Think I Can,” the opening guitar part on “Be A Friend” was very reminiscent of James Taylor and the clarinet part on “Someday You’re Gonna Be,” has a hint of dixie in the feel. These are all examples of playing the appropriate part for the song. By playing what is needed and nothing more, the musicians on this record demonstrated how tasteful and talented they are. Great work and kudos to the players and producer.
Sound Selection Lots of different instruments and sounds are used, train sounds throughout; chimes, strings and cuckoo like sounds on “Time Is A Gift;” the tambourine on “Let’s Exercise;” the flute, bells and baby sounds on “Whine, Whine, Whine.” Every track seems to have something new that wasn’t heard on prior tracks. Excellent work on the “sounds” used on the record. I spent my formative years sampling and recording sounds and I can’t help but recognize great sound choices when I hear it. This is excellent work.
Sequencing There was obvious thought put into the sequencing of the album. The Title track, “I Think I Can” is the lead and the second “Let’s Exercise” are both upbeat, then track 3, “Be A Friend,” is a ballad that makes the listener “listen.” Then out of that into the more upbeat “Forgetful Ned” in track 4 and then into a lullaby and so on.
Songwriting “I Think I Can,” the title track, is clearly dead center of the children’s genre. “Be A Friend” could be a pop ballad. Track 5, “Time is A Gift,” has a lullaby feel and as I listened to this, I thought this could have been in the Sound of Music and written by Richard Rodgers. Track 7, “When Mama Says No,” has a Western feel to it and the lyric works well with it. Every song is different but there is cohesion and an overall feel and warmth throughout the record.
When a person with this kind of voice and talent dedicates their life to singing positive songs to children, it is inspiring and moving. Her voice sounds like it could have been my elementary teacher singing to me.
I never had a chance to raise a child, but I believe that the parents who hear this would encourage their kids to listen over and over again as the lyrics provide so much guidance and benefit. And the melodies make it attractive to the child as well.
This is fantastic work and congratulations to Mrs. Kate and everyone involved!