Thursday, April 22, 2010

Review: Uncle Rock - The Big Picture

Happy Earth Day everyone!

I recently received a review copy of Uncle Rock's new CD The Big Picture from Beth Blenz-Clucas over at Sugar Mountain PR and I thought that today would be a perfect day to write a review of the CD given the fact that there are a couple of environmental themed songs on it.  The album was recently released on April 13.

This is the fifth family music CD by Uncle Rock, AKA Robert Burke Warren, who is a singer-songwriter, author, actor, bassist, and sometimes Buddy Holly impersonator.  The album is billed as a "socially conscious salute to Uncle Rock's musical heroes".  Parents will enjoy hearing the nods to David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Cat Stevens, The Ramones, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, and Billy Idol.

First let me say that this is not the kind of CD that I'd normally get for my kids.  The whole environmental aspect of the album would probably make me bypass it, and that's a shame.  The problem is that it's pretty difficult to craft songs about environmentalism and social consciousness without sounding like you're lecturing.  It's hard to make serious issues, environmental or otherwise, into a song that is worth listening to.  However, Uncle Rock manages to put the idea on the table, let you think about it, and I believe, use it as a jumping off point to talk to your kids.  Most kids will probably have some idea of what the songs are about if you listen with them and talk about the topics together.  It seems that kids are now bombarded with environmental impact statements from the moment their squishy little brains are able to comprehend the area around them.  Cartoon characters are preaching to "go green", teachers are talking about it in the classroom, and those funny little electric cars are hard to miss.  They are aware; they just may not know how it affects them.

The first time I listened to the song There Is No Away, I felt like I'd never throw anything away again and I went on a pretty long guilt trip.  With lyrics like this, how could I not?

One day I looked out across the green water
And a sea turtle's head I did see
But, he was covered in paper and old plastic bags
And here's what he said to me

Away, away, there is no away
There is no away turtle said
Everything that you throw in the trash
Goes somewhere else instead

The lyrics go on to say that Uncle Rock met a blue bird, and then a wolf, and both had some kind of garbage covering them.  Whoa.  Serious bummer, man, I'm telling you.  You almost start to wonder how this could be a kids song.  However, the fact remains that the song is beautiful, hauntingly so, but beautiful none the less thanks in part to the duet provided by Elizabeth Mitchell.  And, as I said, a great starting point to talk to your kids about things like the impact that garbage has on the environment.  To most kids garbage is sort of a magical thing.  You put it in a bag and it disappears.  It's sort of the opposite of the magical food that appears in the kitchen.  Who knows where it comes from or where it goes?  Right now you can get a free download of the song on Uncle Rock's homepage for a limited time.  Go check it out.

Uncle Rock is generally described as having a rockabilly vibe, but on this album musical styles abound.  The album doesn't just have songs pertaining to the environment, and there is such a musical variety that everyone is bound to find a favorite.  A couple of my favorites are Stop at a Mom n' Pop about supporting local businesses and The Night the Lights Went Out about, well, the lights going out in a storm.  I also really enjoyed the ridiculously fun Buddy Holly's Got the Hiccups in which Uncle Rock sings about the uniqueness of Buddy Holly.

The thing that I love the most about this album is the fact that he ends it with a cover of Carol Burnett's theme song Thank You and Goodnight.  The CD finishes on a high note instead of the usual "wind-down song" that is so prevalent on kids music albums.  Not that lullabies are a bad thing, but thank you Uncle Rock for proving that it's okay not to have a wind-down song and that it's more fun to go out with a bang instead.

So, thoughts?  Definitely worth checking out.  I can see this CD getting a lot of play in our house.  If you think you'd like to get your own copy, get it here.

By the way, I received this review copy from Sugar Mountain PR.  My views and opinions are my own and I was not paid in any way to write this review.

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