The all-star-musician benefit concept goes back years, of course, to George Harrison's Bangladesh concert, and a bit later the "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and "We Are the World" singles. But with the exception of a few giants like Pete Seeger (who's been doing benefit and charity work with his music his whole career, really), there haven't been enough big names in kids' music for such a thing to be possible in the genre.
But Dean Jones (no, not the one from the original Love Bug movies—the frontman of kids' band Dog on Fleas), with a little help from the recent explosion of talent in this genre, has changed all that. Back in January, Jones desperately wanted to do something to help the earthquake victims in Haiti; he came up with the idea of a kindie-rock album to raise money. He joined forces with KindieFest cofounder Bill Childs, and the pair proceeded to put together an incredibly impressive roster of artists for the project.
The result is Many Hands: Family Music for Haiti, a CD of 22 songs, one each from many of the top children's musicians working today. Seriously, if I were making a list of the genre's top echelon of talent, it would look a lot like this track list: Recess Monkey, They Might Be Giants, Frances England, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, Jonathan Coulton, Dan Zanes, Gustafer Yellowgold, Elizabeth Mitchell...the list goes on and on. Even the venerable Seeger himself contributed a track!
The proceeds (all the greater because everyone involved in the album's production, replication, and distribution either donated or heavily discounted their services) will benefit the Haitian People's Support Project, an organization with a long history of important work in the country. Knowing this is certainly one benefit to parents and kids who purchase this CD.
But of course, you're also getting the best possible sampler of the cutting edge of today's kids' rock, pop, folk, and hip-hop. If your kids are already familiar with most of the artists, they'll be excited to get a new song from so many of them between new releases. (My five-year-old's favorites: "Fiddlehead Fern," by Recess Monkey, and "Quite Early Morning" from Seeger.) And if they're not, Many Hands offers the best single way I've seen to get a taste of so many of the genre's leading lights, all in one place, and find out which your kids (and you!) might want to hear more of.
So it's a great album, and a great opportunity, all serving a great cause. (I should also mention that there are still a few release shows upcoming in September in Brooklyn; Portland, Oregon; and Northampton, Mass., each featuring a number of the artists on the CD, so if you're in or near those places, check those out, too!)
[Cover image courtesy of Spare the Rock Records]