Classical music for children has been an underserved genre, even though nothing could be more beneficial to the cause of bringing the music to future generations. Any such release is worthy of note, but one like this, charming and original, is cause for celebration. Pianist Jenny Lin organizes for children some favorite compositions and a few delightful rarities along a timeline "from breakfast to bedtime." There are 26 short pieces, enough to give a feel for the variety and importance of this tradition in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Along the way you get Chopsticks, which you may not have known was an actual composition with an actual composer (female, at that), former chestnuts like Grieg's Grandmother's Minuet, the utterly charming I Danced with a Mosquito by Anatoly Liadov, ragtime and jazz works, and, to end, starlight familiar (Mozart) and more rare (Selim Palmgren), plus the famed cradle songs of Brahms and Chopin. Lin and the engineers from the Steinway label create a magical atmosphere, amplified by excellent children's illustrations in the booklet by Mikela Prevost. An ideal holiday, or anytime, gift item.
On Jonathan Butler's N2K Encoded Music debut, Do You Love Me, he continues his jack-of-two-trades approach, balancing R&B-based vocal tunes with easy, acoustic guitar-based instrumentals. While it's a friendly enough listen, Butler here doesn't display a powerful enough mastery of either format. His guttural, heartfelt vocal style – reminiscent of Jon Secada – can make even the most Lionel Richie-esque lyric seem deeper than it is (even a new song with a title like "The Way You Look Tonight"), but few of the adult-oriented vocal tunes here are as memorable or hooky as his best-known hit, "Sarah Sarah." "Do You Love Me?," for instance, should be a deep, emotional moment, but comes off as a pleasant, easily dismissed conversation. Fortunately, "You Don't Belong to Me" has more lyrical bite, nicely underscored with a percussive guitar line underneath his angry tone. Butler should put more of that pointed energy into his play-it-safe instrumentals, which generally gallop along smoothly without building much steam. The best one can do with this sort of album is like Butler a lot.