Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Diana Panton: “A Cheerful Little Earful” (2019) CD Review

I don’t have children, so I don’t listen to a lot of children’s albums. However, my girlfriend and I were both so delighted by the first track we heard from Diana Panton’s new album A Cheerful Little Earful that I just needed to hear the rest of it. Just because it may be appropriate for children doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed by adults. Good music is good music, right? And there is a whole lot of good music coming out of Canada these days. Vocalist Diana Panton is based in Hamilton, Ontario. She has received two Juno awards, first for her jazz album Red, and then for her first children’s album, I Believe In Little Things. On that album, she covered songs like “The Rainbow Connection” and “Sing.” Now she is following that with A Cheerful Little Earful, an album that is thoroughly enjoyable. Of course, part of the reason this album works so well for both adults and children is that most of the songs Diana Panton chooses are not strictly children’s songs. Joining the vocalist on this album are Reg Schwager on guitar, and Don Thompson on bass, piano and vibes.

The album opens with a wonderful rendition of “Happy Talk,” a song written by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers for South Pacific. You know this song. It’s the one with the lines, “You’ve got to have a dream/If you don’t have a dream/How you gonna have a dream come true?” Good advice for people of all ages, right? Diana’s voice is so cheerful, so friendly. And this track features some bright and excellent work on keys. That’s followed by “It’s A Most Unusual Day,” which was written for the 1948 film A Date With Judy.  Diana Panton delivers a sweet, joyful vocal performance, with some minor lyrical changes. For example, “There are people greeting people” becomes “I hear birdies greeting birdies.” I love the guitar work. “‘A’ You’re Adorable” is a goofy, wonderful tune, also from the late 1940s, delivered with a sense of fun. And yes, it’s an alphabet song, but it’s also a love song, and it features some totally enjoyable piano work, almost like children have taken over a speakeasy.

“Red Red Robin” is a perfect choice for a children’s album. It is the bass line that I mostly latch onto when listening to this track. That’s followed by “I Don’t Want To Live On The Moon,” a children’s song written by Jeff Moss for Sesame Street (in the show, it is sung by Ernie). I really like these lines: “I’d like to visit the jungle, hear the lions roar/Go back in time and meet a dinosaur/There are so many strange places I’d like to be/But none of them permanently.” That “permanently” line delights me every time I listen to this track.  We then get “Cheerful Little Earful,” the album’s title track, which was composed by Ira Gershwin, Billy Rose and Harry Warren for the musical Sweet And Low. Diana Panton’s vocal performance is just so adorable. Toward the end, when she sings “Make me happy, you can do it” she already sounds perfectly happy.

The title “If You Feel Like Singing, Sing” of course reminds me of Cat Stevens’ “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out.” Don’t let anyone silence your voice (unless you’re in a movie theater or something, in which case please shut up). There is a light quality to this track that is endearing. That’s followed by “Music And Me.” A Michael Jackson song on a children’s album? Might seem an odd choice these days, but he didn’t write “Music And Me.” It was composed by Michael Cannon, Don Fenceton, Mel Larson and Jerry Marcellino, and it is a good choice to follow “If You Feel Like Singing, Sing.” “Grab a song/And come along/You can sing your melody.”

The first part of “Look To The Rainbow” is delivered a cappella, showcasing Diana Panton’s beautiful voice.  Diana delivers an enjoyable rendition of Cole Porter’s “Experiment,” a song that offers some good advice for both children and adults: “Experiment/Be curious.” That’s followed by “Aren’t You Glad You’re You?” This is such a deliciously goofy and wonderful song, and Diana delivers it with a youthful vibe and innocence. The first lines always make me smile: “Every time you’re near a rose/Aren’t you glad you’ve got a nose?” I also really like the bass line. The album concludes with “Hush-A-Bye Island,” a song to help us drift off to a better land in our dreams.

CD Track List
  1. Happy Talk
  2. It’s A Most Unusual Day
  3. “A” You’re Adorable
  4. Red Red Robin
  5. I Don’t Want To Live On The Moon
  6. Cheerful Little Earful
  7. If You Feel Like Singing, Sing
  8. Music And Me
  9. Pocketful Of Miracles
  10. Look To The Rainbow
  11. All In The Golden Afternoon
  12. Experiment
  13. Aren’t You Glad You’re You?
  14. Sing A Rainbow
  15. Hush-A-Bye Island 
A Cheerful Little Earful is scheduled to be released on October 18, 2019.

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