Inevitably, the first thing that strikes you about this benefit album for pediatric AIDS is the lineup: It contains selections by Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, and Barbra Streisand, among other top stars. When you realize that 17 of the 20 tracks were newly recorded, For Our Children quickly becomes a must-have for fans of a wide variety of artists. Beyond those immediate virtues, however, the album is a diverse, if inconsistent, collection of music, some of it definable as children's music in the sense that it is likely to appeal to children, some songs about children from the perspective of parents. The sequencing of the album moves from upbeat material to quieter efforts; this is the kind of album you want to put on in the last hour of a child's day, as he or she makes the sometimes abrupt transition from energetic activity to sleep. Early on, the standouts are Little Richard's rock & roll and rap version of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and Bruce Springsteen's hilarious "Chicken Lips and Lizard Hips." After the halfway point in the album, Elton John's slight instrumental "The Pacifier" (not everybody made that much of an effort), the songs turn calmer, led by James Taylor's characteristically friendly reading of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Getting to Know You." Actress Meryl Streep turns out to have creditable pipes on "Gartan Mother's Lullaby," and Jackson Browne and Jennifer Warnes give a folk-rock reading to "Golden Slumbers." By the time of Barbra Streisand's austere "A Child Is Born" (from her 1975 album Lazy Afternoon), your young one should be asleep already. For Our Children is never less than pleasant, but, as with any random group of grownups, some of its participants have more affinity for children than others.
For Our Children Review
by William Ruhlmann