From Williamsburg to the World, BROOKLYN BABY Hits Home
It was once said that there are two kinds of people in this world: people from Brooklyn, and people who wish they were. In the newest album from Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights, BROOKLYN BABY, we have a kids’ record by a bona fide Brooklynite, with many songs centered on kids growing up and living in that wonderful corner of the world.
When I set down to write this review, looking over my notes and jottings, I realized right away that this was not going to be an easy review to write. It was not going to be easy for a couple of reason. For one thing, although not from Brooklyn, I grew up very nearby and all of the places and things Joanie sings about or references, I know of. I’ve been to and hung out at these places, so it was going to make impartiality a bit more difficult. Secondly, this album is supposed to be for kids, but after listening to it several times I have come to the conclusion that this is easily one of the best three or four albums I have heard in the last two or three years –easily--and I have listened to a lot of good albums in that span of time. But this is a kids’ album, so how can I actually say this? I’m an adult, right? Kids’ records should be too “light” for me, with not enough “meat” lyrically or musically to hold my interest. It should be too childish for me, right!?
Well, wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong! This album is so good, on so many levels, that it makes my partiality to Brooklyn actually not relevant, because I believe anyone and everyone would enjoy this album, no matter where they were from!
So let’s see, I said it had a lot going for right? So what does that mean? It means it is recorded exceptionally well, and the band is tight and plays everything from rock to easy listening to punk. Joanie’s voice is sublime, and the harmonies that prevail throughout the songs are just beautiful and make you just sing along and remember the chorus and harmonies long after the CD is put away. The songs are written with such vibrancy that you can’t help but move your body to them. Even if you are driving, your head will bounce back and forth.
This isn’t a sing-along record; this is a sing with it record, because the music is so good.
Joanie paints such wonderful, colorful pictures with her words and music that you can imagine the scenes she is singing about; and the songs have relevancy, too. They’re not just beautiful. Kids listening to the songs will learn from them, and the parents will relate to the different stages of development that the songs cater to.
And speaking of the songs, what about them? Well, I will tell you my personal favorites are “Ferry Nice,” “Subway” (I can relate to every word of it, and listening to it from the perspective of a child—brilliant!), and “Stoop.” (People with yards and huge homes may have trouble relating to the joys of just sitting on a stoop watching the world go by on a summer day, but after listening to this song they’ll yearn to.)
“Brooklyn Baby” is easily one of the best songs I have ever heard in any genre. I can see in my mind’s eye a new mother looking over her sleeping baby in the crib, bed, or arms and singing this song to them. How she ties it together with a spin on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is, again, just brilliant.
Then there’s “Shayne Punim.” How great is this song! The rest of the world may hear this song on this album and wonder why a song with so many Yiddish words would be relevant in a kids’ album titled BROOKLYN BABY. Well, let me tell you, only someone from Brooklyn would know and understand just how truly relevant it is. If you live there, you know that everyone from there knows some Yiddish, and speaks it in their everyday vernacular--and it has nothing to do with being Jewish! Brooklyn has been a melting pot, and, yes, at one time it was heavily Jewish. Over time, Yiddish words have become part of all the people’s language. I think it so apropos, too, that there is another song that teaches about tolerance, as Brooklyn is this melting pot where everyone gets along there more than anywhere else in the world.
I truly believe I could write something glowing about every song on this album, but that would take away the fun of not knowing what to expect, and I don’t want to do that to you. Well, okay, one more. “By Myself” is a song that reminds me so much of not only my daughter when she was young, but myself too, when there were times I was self-confident and didn’t want any help to do something--but still wanted an adult nearby “just in case.” And also in those times when things were scary and my daughter was too happy to let me help and show her how to act in a certain situation. Oh, and there’s “Rainbow Bagels from Outer Space,” a quick little dittie that reminds me in music style of when I used to see the Ramones at CBGB’s in the Village. (I was almost disappointed I didn’t hear someone shout “1,2,3,4!” and start playing.)
You must be saying to yourself, “There must be something he doesn’t like about this CD.” Let me see. Maybe the CD box it came in? No, it’s a nice jewel case, brightly colored with pictures inside and out, with a nice little lyric book tucked inside the outer sleeve, so it ain’t that. Hmm. I’ve got it! There is one thing I don’t like about this CD! There’s only one CD, not two, so there is not enough great songs!
I’m sorry if it upsets anyone (and it will, because it seems so many people today are so cynically self-centered, and will say something just the opposite because they think it makes them more special) that I don’t have something negative to say about this album. I am a music lover that loves music of many genres, and when I come across an album that rises above, I will stand on my soap box and shout its praise till the cows come home, no matter what or who it was originally written for.
So there you have it. I cannot think of any reason anyone, anywhere, would not love this album. I don’t care if you have, had, or don’t have kids; BROOKLYN BABY is an album everyone will enjoy, even if they’re not from Brooklyn. Kudos to Joanie and her band, The Nightlights, for hitting a home run. And that’s a home run if you aren’t from Brooklyn.
If you are, then it’s a “bases-loaded grand slam in the bottom of the ninth with the Mets down three runs in the 7th game of the World Series” home run!
Or to put it another simpler way, take it from this Italian New Yorker: If you don’t get this album, then you are quite frankly meshugana!
Songs on this album include:
Rainbow Bagels from Outer Space
Love Is Love
Hipster In The Making (Remix)
Apples in My Apples
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