This review is not about George Harrison. It’s not even about Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads). But there is parallel between George Harrison and They Might Be Giants‘ bassist Danny Weinkauf. George was “given” about one track per Beatles album for his own material. Later, when he went solo, he surprised everyone with his prodigious output; even a triple album that is still listed as the most successful individual project from the esteemed group. When TMBG started their children’s music CDs, Danny was granted a similar ration. And it just wasn’t enough for him.
Danny Weinkauf and the Red Pants Band (Tina Kenny Jones, Russ Jones, and Steve Plesnarski) have released their third CD (and Danny’s fourth solo effort), entitled Inside I Shine. A generous frontman, many of the 15 tunes feature Tina on lead vocals, including the title track and the groovin’ “Dozen Good Reason.”
A prodigious songwriter and producer, Danny makes sure that Inside I Shine is crammed full of pop appeal and preteen zeal. “We Love to Verb” gives a vocabulary-building lesson without rubbing your kid’s nose in the educational aspect. And do you think pumpkins are vegetables because they grow on vines? Let the band set you straight on the SiriusXM Kids Place Live “13 Under 13” chart-topper “Pumpkins Are My Favorite Fruit.”
Much like the Beatles, TMBG never set out to intentionally make music for children. After 20 years in the business, though, tunes like “Dr. Worm” just lent themselves to that genre. Danny and his band have the opposite in mind. “Dozen Good Reasons” could be a simple, traditional love song, except in this context it’s generational, from mother (or an older relative) to child. With songs like “Teddy Bear” and “Tricycle” the listener is back in the standard “independent children’s music band” zone.
The song structure on Inside I Shine also detours from the typical kid’s CD, placing “Good Morning to You” as track 13. Most children’s musicians will open with an AM or “can’t wait to play” song, and build like a rollercoaster with dance songs in the middle, before coasting to a stop with a lullaby. Danny closes Inside I Shine with a piano version of “The Moon Is Made of Cheese,” followed by show tune “Wiggle Wiggle” and a short piano blooper. I’d say he’s subverting expectations, but that would be delusionally pompous and improper. The Red Pants Band just wants to have fun, and what’s more fun that a good surprise or two?