Benny Time – What a Beautiful Day (Music Review)
What A Beautiful Day
Benny Time’s long-awaited first album – the perfect combination of early childhood educator meets established musician – is not so different from what Benny does in the course of a day working with children, using music to build bridges between adults and kids, between kids and kids and to eliminate gaps in cognitive recognition for the under five set. The new album is packed with cheery folk songs that don’t just traverse multiple music genres but lay firm foundations for child independence. Include in this, children singing along to universal themes and lofty ideals such as equal distribution of wealth and animal rights and you have the perfect reach into a child’s thought trajectory. The album is built around the understanding that children are learning about the big themes from what they see and hear around them, so diversity and ideology are embedded in fantasy and play, rather than preached as ideals in a future when children have already made up their minds without realising it.
Inspired, in part by his three-year old daughter Frankie Rose, What A Beautiful Day sees Benny singing simply and without effect, his voice often gravelly, as though already played through the speakers hundreds of times. Diction is predictably clear so that sing-a-long is super easy, and production values are fairly low-fi bringing the album close, allowing for a proximity usually missing from a more polished affair. Benny’s talent for immediate relaxed connection is the first experience of each track, which often burst into frenzied activities either instructed by the singer or infected from the passion in the song. But the strength of What a Beautiful Day isn’t in Benny’s educated approach to reaching children, rather its the quality of the song writing itself. The songs aren’t cloying, or patronising, that terrible combination of preachy over-annunciation resulting in a cartoonish plastered show case designed to line the pockets of people who don’t understand how a child thinks. What A Beautiful Day is immersed in the child’s experience, using a combination of the child’s participation and the comfort of a firm adult hand to examine ideas often thought too lofty for children to understand. Combine this with a genuine talent for song writing, and you have an album that reaches artfully constructed depths the adults won’t mind listening to on repeat.
However, what truly sets What A Beautiful Day apart from other children’s albums is the reach into the child’s mind, free of those scatological gimmicks that adults assume children love. Songs like ‘Rocket Ship’ reach with sphericity into a child’s point of view and experience: Well its hard to believe / That I’ll soon be in space / In a rocket I’ve built / from glue and tape / Well it’s taken so long to get it just right / It’s painted and now its ready for its first flight. Also, ‘There’s a Tree in My Street,’ a duet with the evergreen Angie Hart: There’s a tree in my street that grows so very tall / I climb to the top and look down on the world / And everything that once was big is now so tiny and small / Here up above it all / And I can be the Queen / Stronger than the strongest thing / playing make-believe in my tree / In the branches of our tree. These beautiful tunes are bookended with the timelessness of ‘Those Cheeky Monkeys’ (one of my favourites to sing to my son, but never had the chutzpah exhibited here) and songs like ‘Baby Shark’ that remain true to the propaganda free spirit of nonsense songs children enjoy so much. Woven with care among these childhood treasures are some of the more educative songs such as ‘The Family Song’ that reminds us families come in all shapes and sizes and ‘Boss of it All’ that talks about taking down fences between yards and making sure everyone has enough money and enough food to eat.
Benny’s gathered some strong collaborators to What A Beautiful Day also, besides the aforementioned Angie Hart. The Congregational Chritian Church of Samoa Penrith Parish choir sing behind him on the islander inspired Swim Little Turtle, under condiuctor Michelle Saofia and other talent include friends, adult and under five’s, to help put the final product together. There are songs here that will bring a tear to your eye (as a thinking adult, try not to cry through ‘Rocket Ship’ and ‘Boss of it All’) and bring sunshine to the heart. This is the album you will want for all children, not just your own.