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Prime picks for young ears

By Gloria Goodale Arts and culture correspondent of The Christian Science / December 10, 1999



LOS ANGELES

The good news in children's music is that there's a lot of it these days.The bad news is ... there's a lot of it these days. And that makes it harder to find the good stuff. But we took up the challenge and hereby present our holiday list with some prime picks to stuff stockings for young listeners.

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Influences from all over the globe enrich this season's offerings. Because the big music labels often overshadow the little guys, we've made a special effort to take a look at the boutique labels as well as those Internet entrepreneurs who are giving a good name to self-publishing.

The young Welsh phenom Charlotte Church, who stormed the world with her first album last year, has released her follow-up on Sony, called simply "Charlotte Church." A mix of classical standards and traditional songs, it is not strictly speaking a children's album. But then, she is only 13. That alone makes it a good listen for any age as an object lesson in the pure joy of singing.

For the youngest set, a slew of self-improvement CDs are available, including Sony's "Build Your Baby's Brain 2 - Through the Power of Mozart," a nice assortment of classical music arranged for kids. Sony Wonder brings back Carole King's appealing rendition of Maurice Sendak's books in the CD "Really Rosie," and Sony Classical showcases jazz great Wynton Marsalis in the multicultural "Listen to the Storyteller."

A sampling from boutique labels would have to include almost anything from Music for Little People, based in Redway, Calif. (800-346-4445). "Hippity Hop" spins fun new sounds from classic children's songs to produce the first hip-hop album for kids, while "On the Good Ship Lollipop" puts The Persuasions to a cappella work and fabulous effect on everything from "Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me" to "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."

The fourth and latest disc in the wonderful Ellipsis Arts (www.ellipsisarts.com) multicultural lullaby series, "Brazilian Lullaby," follows haunting African, Latin, and Celtic collections. It complements the latest Putumayo (www.putumayo.com) release, "World Playground: A Musical Adventure for Kids." This label has done a wonderful job of presenting artists from around the world to new audiences.

On the self-publishing front, the prolific and established singer-storyteller Bill Harley brings back some of his hilarious favorites on "Play It Again," and some new stories on "The Battle of the Mad Scientists." He has his own Web site for direct purchases (www.billharley.com).

On the other hand, newcomer Paul Cuneo lends an elegant simplicity to his own lullabies for voice and piano on his debut CD, "rest here." The disc will be available Dec. 24 (www.paulcuneo.com).

This quick roundup, of course, barely skims the surface of what's out there. So here's a solid list of online resources for your own perusing: www.bestchildrensmusic.com, www.funmusicideas.com, www.childrensmusic.org, www.cmnonline.org (The Children's Music Network), and www.childrensmusichouse.com.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society