For many youngsters of the 1960s and ’70s, the late Bruce Haack’s music was a gift of sorts. Apparently, plenty of musicians who grew up singing along to it are all too eager to return the favor to a new generation of listeners.
On Dimension Mix: The Music of Bruce Haack and Esther Nelson (Eenie Meenie Records), a compilation to benefit autism charities, the songs of the renowned children’s songwriter and electronic music innovator (and close collaborator Nelson) are lovingly re-created by an extensive lineup of artists. Roughly half of the 18-track disc pays homage to Haack’s techno side, such as Stereolab’s rendition of “Mudra,” a mish-mash of trippy beats and effects that suggests the composer had a wide influence on the group. (And only a well-versed techno geek would know it’s a cover song to begin with.)
The real payoff is in the sing-songy selections that may have been intended to get 6-year-olds’ feet tapping, but are belted out by adults who seem to be relishing the chance to relive a bit of their youth.
Beck kicks off the disc with “Funky Lil’ Song,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on one of his own albums. Surprisingly, the track features one of the album’s simpler arrangements, but the ever-experimental Beck makes up for it by shifting into a exaggerated falsetto and, at one point, even seemingly mimicking Kermit the Frog on the nonsensical refrain, “Ding dong, funky little song/Everything’s up, nothing’s down.”
Apples in Stereo pour their indie-pop hearts into “Liza Jane,” rhyming “We are big and we are small” and “all in all we’re 10 feet tall” with boundless enthusiasm. Likewise, full-throated Eels front man E gives his all on his band’s take on “Jelly Dancers,” making it easy to picture him holding court a children’s birthday party, barking out for kids to “Shake yourself from the tip of your toes, all the way up to the tip of your nose!”
The band Oranger, with one of the more rocking contributions, provides a more Sesame Street-type of entertainment with the track “Catfish.” It serves as a catchy primer on the fish itself, with sing-along facts like: “Water runs out and the water runs in/He knows the fish by the smell of its fin.”
Educational value aside, it’s an album for a worthy cause that is chock full of indie rockers and synthesizer maestros lightening up and engaging in some big ol’ goofy kid stuff. Does a record containing a song called “Army Ants in Your Pants” really need further explanation?
— By George Henn