Judge Eric Profancik warns you not to mistake this for The Libertines. Funky UK college rock it ain't.
Starring Billy Jonas!
This DVD presents a concert of children's music by songwriter and "industrial re-percussionist" Billy Jonas. I had never heard of Billy before I received this disc, so I asked some of my coworkers if they had. Nope. That struck me as unusual as they seem to follow children's entertainment, especially singers. I decided a quick perusal of Billy's website would be in order to give me an idea of who this fellow is. It turns out that Billy is not strictly an artist for children; in fact, doing the "kid thing" seems to be a side road in his main career.
Whether or not this is Billy's main gig isn't important. What is important is that he is actually a highly gifted singer and songwriter who puts on an entertaining show for young kids—whom I pegged at about six and under. The show on this disc is a mixture of two performances. The first and main part of the show is one that looks to have been filmed at an elementary school. Billy is onstage, singing his song, and getting the large auditorium full of kids involved in the show. Every now and then, the show switches over to a more intimate performance of Billy and about a dozen kids in his "backyard"—really just an outdoor set—where he sings his songs. At the beginning of each song, Billy sets up the song and clues you (the parents?) into what the children will hopefully learn.
The list of songs in this concert includes "We're in the Bucket Brigade," "Bangin' and Sangin'," "What Kind of Cat Are You?," "Watermelon," "Vitamin Alphabet," "Rockin' Robin," "Bear to the Left," "Nocturnal," "Cabeza," and "Any Way You Go You're Gonna Get There." I believe that these are all original compositions by Billy, except for the classic pop-rock song "Rockin' Robin." Each song has a catchy melody, is performed quite nicely by Billy, and, as required in a children's show, teaches a lesson. For example, "We're in the Bucket Brigade" teaches kids what a bucket brigade is and the history of the word, "Vitamin Alphabet" teaches sign language, "Bear to the Left" teaches homonyms, and "Cabeza" teaches a few words of Spanish. I was impressed with the lessons embedded in the songs; they seemed a bit advanced for children at that age. Additionally, a booklet included with the disc provides other games and lessons related to the music.
I was surprised that watching this disc wasn't as tortuous as expected, as I don't have a paternal bone in my body. What helped was that Billy has a very good voice and is energetic in his performance. And now that I know he's an "industrial re-percussionist," I understand why he had so many "homemade" percussive instruments onstage with him.
Though not many are concerned about DVDs when it comes to children's programming, the quality of this disc is good. The full-frame video is clear, with robust colors and nice details. I did detect a spot of artifacting, but nothing severe. My main quibble is with the audio track. While the Dolby Digital 2.0 mix presents the music and dialogue very well, I firmly believe that anything related to music on DVD must have a 5.1 mix—and that includes children's programming. A few bonus items are also included: "school versions" (Billy sings the song at school and not in his backyard) of "Bear to the Left" and "What Kind of Cat Are You?," a preview of Billy's other concert, Bangin' and Sangin', and a minute's worth of outtakes.
Worth noting is the lack of subtitles on the disc. Some sort of subtitles or even a karaoke version of lyrics would be of great benefit to this type of concert disc.
This disc is a nice value, entertaining, and worth a try at teaching your kids a thing or two.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Big Kids Productions
• "School Versions" of "Bear to the Left" and "What Kind of Cat Are You?"
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