Frank Migliorelli And The Dirt Nappers – We’re Not Kiddin’ Around – Album Review
“I just want parents and kids to remember how important reading and books are.”
Well heck…technically I’m neither of those things, though my wife might tell ya differently.
Thankfully, I agree with the sentiment 100% – and I actually recognize quite a few of the inspirations behind these songs, though I’m definitely drawing on memories of my own childhood to do that. I’m freakin’ 40+ y’all…no kids…but I do read! Slowly. Way more slowly than I can type or write in fact, which I’ve always thought is completely strange. That being said – I not only write every single day of my life, but I do read every day as well & never stop. My achievements are sadly minimal compared to most of you I’m sure – I literally crawl along at a pace of about 2-5 pages per day. Case in-point, I’ve actually only read two books this year & I’m still in the process of reading one of’em – silly me chose to re-read The Stand by Stephen King…which is 1157 pages long – and now you can imagine just how long it’s taken me to get through it. I think I started it way back in March if I remember correctly, and I’ve still got about 200 some-odd pages to go. The point is, no matter how quickly or slowly you might read something yourself – it doesn’t matter – keep going & never stop; there’s magic to be found between those covers, and I can promise ya, you’ll always come out better for having the experience every time.
When it comes to this particular album, “when your friends include a bunch of musicians who play with Bruce Springsteen, Hall and Oates, and The Avett Brothers to name a few, you know it is going to be a pretty damn good record.” Pretty hard to argue against that, so I won’t! Sounds about right to me.
Plus I’m a melody guy, and I’ve never really grown up at all – so I figure the advantage is actually mine, even despite this being an album geared more for the kids out there. A track like “Where The Wild Things Are” isn’t all that far removed from something like The Monkees or early R.E.M., The Fountains Of Wayne, Tom Petty, or even The Boss himself when it comes right down to it, despite not having the gruff vocals of the latter. It would have been weird with Bruce’s grizzled years of wisdom shoutin’ at ya as opposed to the smooth sweetness that Frank Migliorelli And The Dirt Nappers will tend to bring to the music on this record, you feel me? For myself personally, as a grown dude, “Where The Wild Things Are” ended up being not just a great introduction into an experience I probably wouldn’t normally be having in most cases, and proves that enjoyment can indeed be had – it’s a solid first cut. You can hear how this band are united in their vision & mission for this record, and that focus you’ll hear at the very beginning is an attribute of their music that remains super consistent from the start to the finish – there’s simply no doubt whatsoever about this band knowing their respective instruments & how to execute on a resoundingly professional level. Great imagery in the lyricism, awesome drums in this cut, and a melody that’s brilliantly endearing…all-in-all, “Where The Wild Things Are” becomes an extremely pleasant surprise, and I’d imagine that’s the case for all of us universally. For the childless adults out there like me, you’ll love how much you genuinely enjoy listening to what you hear – for the parents out there, you’ll love the fact it’s something your kids will dig on that won’t drive you nuts in the slightest – and for the kids…well…I suspect that’s the easiest part of the equation – songs like this are made for’em.
A track like “Hey, Mike Mulligan!” would be again, not too distant of a cousin to a band like, say The LA’s or something along those relentlessly innocent & sweet Pop/Rock vibes. I have no clue who Mr. Mike Mulligan is, but it sounds like the guy gets it done and really digs what he does! Is it well-played & all that? Frank & his crew have no problem navigating their way through a cut like this…which I’m sure is fair to say about the entire record to a degree. I don’t think they’ve necessarily short changed any of us, or themselves for that matter when it comes to the effort they’ve put into making these songs as perfect and flawless as they are…but yeah, I’d imagine they’re likely playing down to their audience a little in terms of their overall skill levels and what they’re probably capable of in their careers outside of making kids music. Give Frank real credit here…I’m not 100% sure this would be the vocal tone he’d be rockin’ outside of making a children’s record – but for what it’s worth, the way he sings these songs is perfect for them – “Hey, Mike Mulligan!” is an excellent example of how his passion & enthusiasm would generate sincere interest in the kidlets out there. Dude’s put together a record that’s like a storybook – or several storybooks for that matter – come to life, and he’s done it with all his good friends around – awwwwwww! Right? I mean, it is what it is folks – it’s pure intentions & sweet sound combined – and even in the method’s Frank has employed to bring it to life, he’s catered to the kids in a way that’s both sincere & interesting. Again, I’m not a kid, but I’d wager a guess they’ll all really appreciate his efforts.
“My Monkey Got Lost” sounds like it would be a whole lot of fun for the kids crowd for sure. It’s got that extra soul & funk groove to its core…and Frank & his crew of talented cohorts bring an audible level of coolness to this vibe. If anything, I think that’s what I personally loved more than everything else about listening to this album…the commitment is always there – just because it’s intended for the kids out there doesn’t mean they’ve skimped on the entertainment factor – and they are clearly INTO it! It makes a huge difference…the more Frank Migliorelli And The Dirt Nappers just tap right into energy like this, the more they’ll make that impact on their intended crowd. For the rest of us adults out there…it’s very much harder to say…and again, I have no frame of parental reference or instincts myself – all I can imagine is that this has gotta be miles better than listening to another round of The Wiggles, isn’t it? “My Monkey Got Lost,” but the soul has been found in this song right here…there’s no doubt a track like this would be a hit with the kids – the pace, the dynamics, the undeniable groove – this is what it sounds like when you meet’em all halfway y’all…as in, yes it’s for kids – but tell me they’re not having some serious fun jamming this out too! You know they are. It’s kind of like something like “Mr. Cab Driver” by Lenny Kravitz, or something with the flash & flair of Morris Day & The Time…but for kids, you know what I mean? Tons of stylistic sound at work, great energy, and words that are also fun for the kids as well – between the hooks of the rhythm and being able to say & sing “Monkey” in a variety of ways…I mean…I might not really know for sure what single-worthy sound is in a children’s song – but I’d have to guess that what I’m hearing on “My Monkey Got Lost” would have to at least qualify to be in the running, yes?
Ha! It’s so weird for me to try and think about this record along the same lines as I’d review something else. Here I am thinking, well heck, whatever comes after “My Monkey Got Lost” on this album is sure gonna have the toughest slot on the whole record to fill, boy howdy – and then two seconds later I’m wondering what kid under ten years old something like that would even matter to. Do they consider the album layout? Flow? Fluidity? Did the transition from the grooves of “My Monkey Got Lost” into the bright, sunshiny vibes of “Five Chinese Brothers” end up disrupting the smoothness of the set-list – or was it a pleasant shake-up back to the melodically-driven part of We’re Not Kiddin’ Around? For real – feel free to e-mail me a response or two or @ me if you like – I’m thinking that not many kids out there factor that stuff in, though I know firsthand I knew when to fast-forward or rewind with confidence of what I was searching for myself by the time I was only eight & got my first ghettoblaster. Anyhow – “Five Chinese Brothers” – probably a bit too on the kumbaya-side of sound for me personally, but sure, for the kiddos, I can’t imagine this not being a huge hit with them too – ultimately it’s one of the most lively melodies they’ve got in this record…handclaps, violins, smart keys, smooth bass-lines, stellar backing vocals, and a lead that’s willing to get right into it and connect with the kids on their level – not too much more you could ask in a performance on an album like this than what you’ll find in this track. There’s counting, cultural awareness, inclusivity, family values, friendship…all I’m saying is that if I was a parent out there, I would totally have no problem letting them learn a thing of two from this band here.
Now HERE is something I know everything about! “Harry The Dirty Dog” – I might not know this loveable pup by name, but I’ve got Opie The Dirtiest Dog I’ve ever met sitting right here beside me as faithfully as ever right now, stinkin’ up the place, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Well – I might have it a bit cleaner than the situation is right now…but you get the idea – dogs are everything, dirty or otherwise, they’re essential to our happiness in my opinion, and Frank & his Dirt Nappers capture the joy perfectly within this cut. I’ll be real with ya…I think kids will get this…at the very least, I think they’ll get it enough. Did they miss an opportunity or two for an extra dog bark here & there somewhere along the way? I’m thinkin’ yes! But I don’t hold it against them…dogs are notorious divas on the microphone and demand an incredible appearance fee. What I can tell ya, is that “Harry The Dirty Dog” seems like it’s another great example of the band meeting their listeners halfway – only this time, instead of the kids, really it’s the adults. Will the kids like it? Yep! As much as the rest? Nope! But I can’t imagine that’s not the obvious conclusion…I don’t think I’m telling Frank or the band they wouldn’t have realized already about this song – “Harry The Dirty Dog” is a great song, truly – it’s just more geared towards the adults this time around. Subject-wise…they might be able to win over some of the older kids a bit more easily with a song that’s all about our furry friends…I mean heck, I’ve thought about giving Opie here a bath about a dozen times as I’ve listened to this song, but I’ve left her happy & dirty in tribute to Harry. And because I’m really lazy. And because she hates it. But other than that, yes, because of Harry! Opie and I are simply showing our solidarity over here is all. Cleanliness is next to dogliness, as they say.
“Flat Stanley” is…something I’m vaguely aware of…I just can’t remember why. I seem to remember this dude had a habit of popping up in the least expected places and has traveled the globe many times over if my memory serves me correctly. But again…don’t quote me on that – I am not a kid, I am a man that is already too old for his actual age…so all you can really count on, is that these memories of mine are about as fuzzy as the ears that keep’em on the inside of my head. I dig instrumentation though – and “Flat Stanley” has a ton of that working in its favor…it’s lively, it’s engaging, it’s entertaining…I mean, if you’re gonna make a record geared towards kids, you better bring ingredients like these; which they do. Cleverly borrowing a little bit from The Strangeloves original “I Want Candy” as it twists towards the end – think “Go Flat Stanley” instead of the main title-hook from The Strangeloves hit. Even that choice is an insightful once that gets noticed…”I Want Candy” would have more than enough appeal to children as it is already, so adapting a piece of that here and incorporating it into this track is a pretty smart move in terms of generating that natural appeal. Probably a bit more on the Country side of sound for my own taste for the vast majority of its length – but I think that downhome style is one that’s bound to catch the kids attention and keep it engaged…when you listen to how animated & lively the performances are, especially in the vocals of this tune…I could see kids having no problem gettin’ down with “Flat Stanley.” As far as you adults go though…my word…if you’re really paying your full attention mom & dad, you’ll hear a whole ton of musicianship & instrumentation that should pretty much blow your mind skill-wise.
“It’s A Beautiful Day (For Owen & Mzee)” keeps the vibe upbeat, engaging and fun…the right ingredients are all still right where they should be. Detailing a full list of characters I have absolutely no idea about, Owen & Mzee seem like they know how to have themselves a good time – hard to object to that, and the spirited & sweet mix of vocals & music they’ve got at the heart of this tune brings out the sunshine for’em. Promoting the good ol’ values of friendship with Pop melodies leading the way, drawing from the golden-era on-forward…there’s an oddly timeless sound here at the core that seems like it’s always been a part of the fabric of tunes made for kids in some way…but it’s a familiar vibe that’ll be appreciated. Songs like this are important inclusions…there’s arguably a bit more value in the story of a cut like “It’s A Beautiful Day (For Owen & Mzee)” for morals & life-lessons & all that as opposed to a good tune to turn up and bop to…but make no mistake, the kids get the best of both worlds here. I’m a HUGE fan of disguised learning techniques…and songs like this are perfect to educate the children with good values that’ll help them later in life, without inducing the rebellious spirit that comes along with learning stuff. I know I hated learning stuff as a kid. What stuff? All stuff. But LOOK at me now will ya? I don’t know anything about anything other than music – and that’s probably because I didn’t have a Frank Migliorelli And The Dirt Nappers to listen to, or guide me along as a kid to help me learn some stuff! So the real moral of the story here kids…is be like Owen & Mzee…don’t be like me – I’m basically a shell of a human being, or a robot with one setting on his operating system – the characters in this song are leading far more interesting lives already in their fictional world than I could ever lead in my real one. It’s a pleasant tune…it got my wheels turning…I could use some friends like Owen & Mzee myself.
Now HERE is something I know all about! “Go Dog, Go!” – you freakin’ bet! I was all over that book outta the Dr. Seuss collection from back in the day, and now being an adult & all…I appreciate Frank Migliorelli And The Dirt Nappers bringing back one of my favorite memories…like…ever. I used to go to my Grandpa’s house probably every week or two weeks as a kid, and no matter how long it had between the last time & the next, he always had a brand-new shiny Dr. Seuss book for me to add to my collection. “Go Dog, Go!” being among my favorites…heck, I’d still read a ton of those just for fun now even at my age…gotta wrap up that final 200+ pages of The Stand like I was telling you at the very beginning of this review, but you never know – I might just put’em in queue for later and revisit my entire childhood now after listening to this one tune! At the end of the day, I really don’t think anyone with a career in anything-words can argue against the wordsmith genius to be found in Dr. Seuss – the man was gifted in that regard, no matter how controversial his works become over time. As they dive into the golden-era of the dawn of Rock’n’Roll to create the vibe of “Go Dog, Go!” – it’s like part Jerry Lee Lewis, part Speed Racer, and heck yeah – all awesome. I’m not above this, I don’t care how old I am – I’d throw “Go Dog, Go!” on over this past week and be more than proud to turn it right UP, because there’s no doubt that’s it a ton of audible fun – and this time, they put in those dog barks in many spots, which I think is pretty essential when it comes right down to it. If anything, there might be room in that regard for Frank Migliorelli And The Dirt Nappers to evolve a bit more in the future to follow – that show me, not tell me type of writing, whereby when they’ve got imagery in their lyricism & words that resembles something a kid would recognize like a party sounds in the background of “Go Dog, Go!” or working construction sounds rumblin’ through when they’re referenced…that kind of stuff does wonders to create even more tie-ins for the kids to make that connection between what’s happening in the music and their own everyday lives. At least that’s the way I’m seeing it…it’s a minimal observation at best – Frank Migliorelli set out on a mission to create a kids album that helps celebrate the joys of reading & learning through a variety of different stories & sounds they’ll recognize plenty as it stands – anything else they could go on to add in from here is likely only to strengthen the connection they’ll make with the kids listening out there…and hopefully, keep a few moms & dads entertained as well.
Find out more about Frank Migliorelli And The Dirt Nappers at the official website: http://www.frankmigliorelli.com