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Music Review: Ziggy Marley – Family Time

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Let’s face it;not all children’s music albums can be enjoyed by parents. Yet Ziggy Marley’s latest foray in the genre, Family Time, proves that intelligent music can be made for education as well as enjoyment for the entire family. Joined by guests Rita Marley, Jack Johnson, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson, and Jamie Lee Curtis, the CD provides a joyful soundtrack that serves as a pleasant introduction to reggae.

The songs cover a wide range of subjects, from the title track’s portrayal of family life to “I Love You, Too,” a touching number where Ziggy sings of love for his children. “ABCs,” a charming lesson on the alphabet, will have kids singing along (of course, “Z” stands for “Ziggy” in this version). “Cry Cry Cry,” featuring Johnson and Paula Fuga, recalls Maurice Sendak and Carole King’s Really Rosie in that it gives voice to a frustrated child wanting more freedom from parental rules. “Ziggy Says” puts the lead singer in Pied Piper mode as he leads children in a “Simon Says”-like game. The lyrics of all these songs are simple yet direct, encouraging kids to sing along.

Ziggy MarleyA standout on Family Time, “Walk Tall” has Ziggy and Simon lending advice to children: if you make a mistake, try again. “Even if you fall, get up,” the pair croon. While the message is nothing new, the duet (with a particularly ebullient Simon providing encouragement) reaches the heart, and the lyrics will have parents singing along as well as the kids. While ostensibly about superheroes, “Future Man, Future Woman” can also be addressing self-confidence and empowerment of both genders.

Some of the tunes are classics, such as the Jamaican standard “Hold ‘Em Joe,” which tells the amusing tale of a thirsty, lovelorn donkey. “Wings of An Eagle,” based on “Wings of A Dove,” lends a thoughtful touch to the album’s otherwise cheerful tone. Woody Guthrie’s “This Train” receives a reggae-country makeover courtesy of Marley and Willie Nelson, a musical mixture that works seamlessly.

Marley educates his young audience about his homeland on “Take Me to Jamaica,” which provides a vivid portrait through music and lyrics. Children will want to learn more about the Caribbean after hearing this song, and adults will want to board the next plane to Jamaica!

Family Time ends with actress Curtis reading two stories: “Helping Hands,” written by Ziggy, and one of her own children’s stories, “Is There Really A Human Race?” “Helping Hands” fits well with the album’s overall tone, particularly since it emphasizes cooperation and working with the family. The latter story, while pleasant, seems an unnecessary add-on to the album. “Helping Hands” resembles the other songs in theme and language, while “Human Race” should be placed on a separate album.

Ziggy Marley has a gift for writing and performing engaging children’s songs (see his delightful version of “Give A Little Love” from 1991’s For Our Children Disney compilation), and Family Time provides further evidence of that talent. At once charming and thoughtful, the album will entertain and educate children, demonstrating music’s universal language. Parents may find themselves singing and dancing along, too.

For more information, visit Ziggy Marley's official site.

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About Kit O'Toole