Songwriter Randy Kaplan has a wonderfully bizarre mind in just the sort of way that is perfect for what he does, at least part of the time: children's music. He calls his music (Not Just For) Kids' CDs, and his latest effort, "The Kids Are All Id" fits that bill perfectly.
My family has enjoyed plenty of road-trip music. While nothing is going to beat Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf," Kaplan's weird, hilarious and sophisticated songs are the best we've heard this summer. Like the other good children's albums from this summer, he appeals to kids and adults -- but there is something more to his songs that take them to another level of brilliance.
There's about a mischievous bear that learns Hebrew and a boy who laughs when he should cry -- examples of how Kaplan creates a mixture of silly and stretching (the mind) for kids and a wealth of funny and even poignant thoughts for the parents. The title track is a rap of sorts that has me crying as much as laughing as it chronicles a parent whose kids constantly put him on the edge of sanity. At one point Sigmund Freud himself reminds the poor dad that that's just what kids are: all Id. My favorite line is "Please let him go to sleep now..." sung with such pleading and pathos -- it's exactly my sentiments at times putting kids to nap or to bed over the years.
I believe Kaplan doesn't even have kids, but that's not surprising. A great songwriter is like a storyteller who has the sensitivity to can drop in to just about any situation and understand it on a profound level. "The Monkey Song" lays out the thought process of a young boy witnessing in disbelief a girl moving with ease over a playground set -- surely a girl can't do such difficult moves, she must be a monkey, he thinks. Later he debates with himself how hominids differ from monkeys -- really -- and somehow it is not overboard for a kids' album! Another example is "Whistle for Willie," based on the Ezra Jack Keats book. Here Kaplan as a performer captures so well the frustration of a young-un at learning how to whistle. It is not easy!
The quirky songs on the album are a mixture of folk-rock and some hip-hop inspired bigger beats, as well as some excellent covers ("I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'" and "The Derby Ram"), and it is all superbly performed by Kaplan and his friends.
If you have children, "The Kids Are All Id" is like a massage to the head, along with some belly laughs -- all the while being something your kiddos will think is fun and enjoyable. Heck, you might even find yourself turning it on when they aren't there.