With Halloween coming up, I thought I should gather all of the Halloween themed kids' CDs I've received since starting this blog and do a collective plug for them. Then I realized, um, wait a minute... I've only received one Halloween CD that I can recall. So that means that M. Ryan Taylor's Thirteen for Halloween gets all the attention, and deservedly so, because it's quite a nice collection of spooky Halloween tunes.
There have been a number of good Halloween songs by many different kids' artists, including Ralph's World, Monty Harper, The Hipwaders, etc. (here's a list that Stefan from Zooglobble and Bill from Spare the Rock compiled last year), and a great compilation CD could certainly be made from them. But many of those songs, fun as they are, are really just the same kind of pop/rock/folk as their creators' normal work, with a bit of spookiness or Halloween flavor added on top. And that's certainly to be expected, and the same thing would probably be said for my song, "The Cruelest Lullaby", a Halloween themed lullaby which is available as a bonus download from my Snail's Pace CD.
But what I love about M. Ryan Taylor's Thirteen for Halloween CD is that it is really its own thing, and it has a perfect sense of the creepy kind of atmosphere that really screams (and shrieks) Halloween. Of course, Halloween can encompass the goofy and funny as well as the genuinely spooky and macabre, and normally I'm all for goofy and funny stuff, but it's almost as though the genuinely creepy kind of Halloween songs have gotten short shrift lately. I suppose that the most famous Halloween song of all-time, "Monster Mash", kind of set the standard for the novelty/goofy and pop/rock aspect of Halloween songs, but for me growing up, Halloween was also about the Horror Sounds of the Night kinds of records, and it's nice to hear a new album of Halloween songs that is a bit more frightening in nature, while not being gory or gross or demonic or anything like that.
The album begins with the beautifully scary "Welcome, said the Spider", with its deliciously creaky doors, jangling harpshichord and chilling vocals. M. Ryan employs his operatic vocal range to great effect throughout the CD, ranging from the softly mysterious to the powerfully ominous, as on the Phantom of the Opera style organ song, "Three Little Ghostesses", or the wonderfully string-laden "Old Witch, Old Witch". The vocal effects, sound effects and arrangements are very nicely done throughout; creative and varied and not always what you expect, but also not overblown. He even finds a way to use a jaw harp in a spooky way on the mummy song, "We're Back". I gotta tell ya, that ain't easy...
Some of the songs are reworkings of traditional tunes like "Mactavish is Dead" and many are originals (including "We're Back", "Welcome, said the Spider" and the pirate counterpoint number, "The Ghost Ship"), or folk songs with original lyrics and arrangements. There are a few bonafide startles and there is a very authentically nail-biting atmosphere throughout the CD, so some parental discretion is advised as far as who should listen.
Now that he's tackled one of the major holidays so well, I'd like to see what M. Ryan Taylor can do with other major holidays, like National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day (Dec. 16) or Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day (Jan. 29). I'm sure he's hard at work on those as we speak.
Thirteen for Halloween website
Thirteen for Halloween on iTunes