Music Review: We're Not Kidding! A Tribute to Barry Louis Polisar
We're Not Kidding! A Tribute to Barry Louis Polisar by Various Artists
Who is Barry Louis Polisar and why would dozens of artists get together to record a tribute to him? Well, even if you've never heard Polisar's name before, you might have heard his music. The guy has been writing kids' songs since 1975, some of which have appeared on Sesame Street. His work most famously came back into the public eye (or ear?) when his almost supernaturally hummable tune, "All I Want is You," appeared in the movie Juno. (It's the one that goes, "If I were a flower growing wild and free/all I'd want is you to be my sweet honeybee.")
On this phenomenal two-disc set, 40 artists (including Polisar himself) perform 60(!) Polisar cover tunes. Not every track is an absolute winner, but there are enough unquestionably great songs on here to fill several regular-length albums. We're Not Kidding! is a smorgasbord of musical styles as well. You've got indie acoustic ("I Want to Be Your Baby," by Pages), punk rock ("I Eat Kids," by Radioactive Chicken Heads), country ("With a Giggle and a Hug and a Tickle and a Kiss," by Alyssa A. Robbins), Celtic ("Potty Training," by the Michael O'Brian Band), klezmer ("Don't Put Your Finger Up Your Nose," by Deborah Berman & the Nogoodniks), ska ("Bad Guys Broke into Our Car," by Los Huevos) and more. Some songs appear in the set twice, recorded by different artists in remarkably different ways. "Never Cook Your Sister in a Frying Pan" is interpreted as both a goofy honky-tonk number and as industrial electronica. "I Need You Like a Donut Needs a Hole" appears in both ballad-rock and synthpop forms. "All I Want is You" gets multiple treatments, too: once as acoustic alt-rock, once with a Motown twist, and once in French with a zydeco spin. The fact that each version can come off equally good is a testament to Polisar's songwriting.
And speaking of that writing ... In case you couldn't tell from some of the titles, Polisar is a bit subversive as a children's musician. But his naughty nature comes out in the form of some very funny lyrics. And when he's not writing about underwear or hating to brush his teeth, he manages to pen some of the loveliest love song lyrics you're likely to ever hear. So if you still don't know the answer to the question I opened this review with, you owe it to yourself and your kids to listen to the album and find out.
Related: Music Review: "C'Mon" by Renee & Jeremy
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