Saturday, January 22, 2011

Despite Being Short, Sesame Street Platinum All-Time Favorites Is Perfect!

The Good: Very catchy songs, Good educational value for some of the songs, Fun
The Bad: Shorter than it needs to be.
The Basics: A perfect album as well as a perfect children's album, Platinum All-Time Favorites is a great compilation of the most memorable and meaningful Sesame Street songs.

It might seem a little odd for me to review a children's album when I have an avowed and true loathing of children and children's music, but sometimes I encounter something that is fun and enduring and reminds me of how wonderful it can be for a child to have music in their life. That is where I fall when I consider the Sesame Street album Platinum All-Time Favorites. This is a compilation c.d. from the Sesame Workshop from their many prior c.d.s and this album pretty much melts the collection of children's songs down into the most pure and memorable collection one may imagine.

Platinum All-Time Favorites is given the unenviable task of finding the best children's songs from Sesame Street that do not involve visual cues and putting them on one c.d. The result is a truly memorable album for anyone who grew up on Sesame Street (the program, not the actual street) and who either wants a great nostalgic experience or wants to pass the best of those moments on to their children. As a result, Platinum All-Time Favorites includes such wonderful "Sesame Street" songs as "'C' Is For Cookie," "Rubber Duckie," and the "Sesame Street Theme." There are also newer songs, like "Elmo's Song" and "We Are All Earthlings."

With twenty songs taking up 45:28, Platinum All-Time Favorites is a perfect compilation (indeed, the only Sesame Street song I remember that isn't on this compilation is the ode to the One Way sign, which relied on visuals from the television show). Vocalists like Frank Oz, Jim Henson and Caroll Spinney embody Bert, Ernie, and Big Bird to sing songs as their personas. The album is appropriately produced by the Sesame Workshop and Ed Mitchell and Christopher Cerf.

The songs on Platinum All-Time Favorites are generally up-tempo - very danceable - piano or guitar tracks which are designed to make tunes memorable and enjoyable. Songs like "Sing" have more complex orchestration, but all of the songs have simple melodies which make them easy for children to learn. Indeed, I suspect there are few in the Sesame Street generation who could not hum "The People In Your Neighborhood." The songs might not be complex, but they are memorable.

Vocally, the songs are all performed with clarity in mind. Most of the songs are sung by men who have clear, clean voices which sound good and are not trying to win any range contests. Again, the songs like "One Fine Face" and "Lambaba" are intended to be easy to learn and perform as opposed to be feats of complex singing by those performing them. In this fashion, the album succeeds at what it sets out to do.

The songs vary between the fun, like "Fuzzy And Blue (And Orange)" which are largely self-referential to the muppet monsters on Sesame Street and educational, like "One Fine Face." On "One Fine Face," the song tries to teach children the parts of the body with a simple back and forth with lines like "I've got two eyes . . . So I can see . . . I've got two ears to listen to / What you say to me . . . I've got a mouth . . . So I can speak . . ." The rhymes are simple but they work perfectly to educate the listener to the parts of the body.

Overall, Platinum All-Time Favorites tries to teach a sense of camaraderie and togetherness. With lines like "Some of us have feathers. / Some of us have fins. / Some of us are furry. / And some of us have grins. / We swim and hop and slither, / And leap and soar and run, / And we all live together / On a planet of the sun. / We are all earthlings" ("We Are All Earthlings") the album tries to engender attitudes that foster peace and understanding. This is admirable for children as well as adults.

In fact, the only drawback of Platinum All-Time Favorites is that it is so short. The c.d.'s capacity is greater than this album uses and more songs could have been included. Indeed, with the child's capacity to enjoy the same things over and over and over again, one might have hoped for more tracks. But still, what one gets is pretty phenomenal with this disc, so it is hard to complain.


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© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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