When you listen to the first couple of songs on Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang's latest album, Get Up & Dance, your brain may have a hard time putting together what you're hearing... well, perhaps it's just my brain that has that problem... On the one hand the music is very down and funky, almost like Sly and the Family Stone at times, but then there's the voice of Gwendolyn singing, and... well... her voice is about as far removed from Sly Stone's voice as you could possibly imagine.
There are several words and phrases to describe Gwendolyn's voice, along the lines of "cutesy wootsey", "Barbie doll", "bubblegum", and "Chipmunks without helium". I imagine she might list Helen Kane ("I Wanna Be Loved by You"), Bernadette Peters and Betty Boop among her vocal influences. I doubt she'll want to use "the Betty Boop of kids' music" as a tagline, but there is that kind of cartoonish and kittenish quality to her voice. Ultimately, though, as a singer and entertainer Gwendolyn is unbelievably adorable and smile-inducing in a completely wholesome way, and contrary to Betty Boop's flirty flapper-ness, her voice paints a sunny picture of Shirley Temple and Cindy Brady having a tea party with their Raggedy Ann dolls. Her voice combined with the punchy and upbeat music from the band has an effect that might actually be prescribed by doctors as a mood enhancer. If you don't feel good when you listen to this music, then you're just way too jaded, duuuude. Lighten up, already, and let the sunshine in!
This album is nothing but fun from start to finish, and is almost as participation-inducing as a Jim Gill album. Needless to say, my girls (ages 2 and 4) loved it right off the bat. The title track has a great "Twist and Shout" kind of feel and is guaranteed to get your little ones up and moving, and perhaps you, too, unless you have officially reached the age of "fuddy duddy". "Red Means Stop" is a take on the old Red Light/Green Light game and is heavy on that aforementioned Sly Stone sound. The participation continues heavily on "Run Baby Run", which changes nicely from fast to slow parts. Other highlights for me include the very catchy toe-tapper "Sweet Marmalade", which would have been a big hit for CCR, Three Dog Night or The Brady Bunch (or if you prefer, The Silver Platters); "Bicycle Ride", which reminds me of Elton John's upbeat 70's tunes; "Ode to Pets", a rock 'n' roll song which cleverly introduces the band members' pets; "Snuggle Wuggle", a sweet lullaby that I have a hard time listening to without chuckling because I keep thinking of Nanny G singing "Peek-A-Boo" to Frasier; and "Out in My Garden", which starts with a really cool laid back riff that quickly folds into a fast bluegrass song, complete with some tasty jaw harp.
I don't have the band's first album, but listening to samples on their website tells me that there's a lot more yummy stuff on that CD; "Farm Animal Friends" is a really cute (gosh, there just aren't enough synonyms for "cute" to supply me for this article) folk song, featuring a "wall of Chipmunk sound" as Gwendolyn harmonizes with herself way up in the vocal stratosphere (see the video below); "Please" features some virtuoso slide whistle playing and more engagingly adorable vocals; there are more Brady Bunch hits with "You Can Be Anything" and "Freedom of the Heart"; "Anatomy" names various body parts in the verse and then goes into a great chorus; "I Don't Think I Like It" is funny and catchy in a Monty Python "I Like Traffic Lights" kind of way, but I'm not sure if the accent of the singer is supposed to be German or Oriental; and "Little Monkey", which is a bit of a cop of both "Da Doo Run Run" and "I Love a Rainy Night", but is still fun in its own way.
So unless you're just a plain old grumpy grump, you and your kids should really love the effervescent Gwendolyn and her highly musical gang. Even if you are a generally happy person, you are bound to feel your mood being enhanced. And certainly if you need something to pick you up and cheer you up, this will do the trick, in which case, take two CDs and call me in the morning.
Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang website
Here are my girls having fun to Get Up and Dance...