Putumayo issues nice, safe World Music that you hear about first on National Public Radio, a neoconservative endorsement that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will not have a pleasant enough time rummaging through its catalogue once you have given up looking for grit. “Guaranteed to make you feel good” is its slogan, and that’s about right.
So, what about this album of children’s music? From beginning to end, World Playground is tuneful, well-played, satisfying—it makes you feel good. The variety here (music from Brazil, Senegal, Greece, and such exotic locales as Canada and Louisiana) does not detract from a certain pleasant sameness of tempo (mid) and mood (did you expect anything other than happy?); you can keep this in the player all day long and not feel as if the Putumayo slogan has led you astray. And Manu Chao’s “Bongo Bong” is completely wonderful, a kiddie song that ought to have an adult audience.
But will this CD do what the best children’s albums always have done? Make three-year-olds jump up and down and act like complete idiots while you go running for Valium? Sorry, World Playground is too darned nice for that. Parents, I’m afraid, will like this one a lot more than the kids will, though, for brief spells—before the magic wears thin—this one might perk up the Bo Peep Day Care.
The only really unsettling song on this CD is Trevor Adamson’s Aboriginal version of “Waltzing Matilda”: “Nyandi Matilda.” The familiar song is sung in Pitjantjatjara, which is a fact that I learned from the CD’s swell booklet. (The booklet makes me feel good, too.) That the package would better be displayed in a tastefully appointed suburban living room than in a kid’s socks’n'toys-strewn bedroom is a sign to you the consumer.