Peter Himmelman

My Best Friend Is a Salamander

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It's hard to think of an artist from the contemporary music scene better suited to children's music than Peter Himmelman. With his distinctive combination of wacky exuberance, traditional religious values, and melodic pop sensibilities, Himmelman seems such a natural for the task of entertaining children that it's a wonder it took him 25 years to record his first kid's record. My Best Friend Is a Salamander percolates with the same zany, spontaneous spirit that Himmelman brings to the impromptu songs that pepper his live performances. "Language Lessons with Mr. Schnibelstein" features the singer/songwriter as a nutty professor teaching nonsense words to a class of giggling children. "Larry's a Sunflower Now" details a little boy's Kafka-esque transformation into a plant. The title track, about a community's response to a family of salamanders that moves into the neighborhood, is the only song with a moral: "You shouldn't judge a friend by how he looks or by what he eats." These fanciful tales are accompanied by catchy folk-rock melodies that recall Shel Silverstein and, well, Peter Himmelman. The music is of a style and, for the most part, a quality consistent with Himmelman's adult albums. On "Melvin McBrickle," he experiments with the '70s rock vibe that he was to expand on in his 1999 release Love Thinketh No Evil. "An Ant Named Jane" is a quiet folk number in the vein of Himmelman's "Raina." Musically, the only departures from the usual Himmelman fare are "You'll Always Be You to Me" and "Magic When You Come My Way," on which he does an uncanny Randy Newman impression. As if all this weren't already enough to attract the attention of baby boomer parents, the album features a landmark in the annals of folk-rock -- the professional recording debut of Bob Dylan's grandchildren, who make cameo appearances with Papa Pete on several tracks.

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