SingaLongs and Lullabies for the film Curious George: – Jack Johnson and Friends
My first reaction when told that Jack Johnson was doing the soundtrack for a film: That doesn’t make much sense. I’ve never heard anything in his music that would hint at an ability to create a dramatic instrumental score. Then, it turns out that Johnson is working on Curious George, the animated screen version of the beloved non-speaking mischievous monkey. I may not be swayed, yet, but it’s starting to sound interesting. With an established commercial enterprise, the makers of the film must see something in his work that can add to the overall result.
Then, I listen to Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the film Curious George by Jack Johnson and Friends, which includes the members of his band plus Ben Harper handling vocals on his composition “With My Own Two Hands,” G. Love adding his special flavor to “Jungle Gym” and Matt Costa contributing on his song “Lullaby,” and I’ve got to give him credit for making an album that captures the sweet spirit of that inquisitive primate while keeping matters equally interesting for the adults in the room.
I’ve always envisioned Johnson as the type of musician who could be found lightly plucking the strings of his guitar and singing songs at small bonfire on the beach. The crackle of wood becomes his untamed percussion and his laidback approach slows time and leaves those settled in for the experience relaxed yet attentive.
The idea of him writing and recording a set of tunes geared towards a children’s feature coincides with those dream thoughts of Johnson playing on the beach. It’s his mellow disposition that fits well with the soothing tones for young ones. Kids music doesn’t always have to sound as if it’s geared towards those who just ate a breakfast high in sugar content. Johnson’s set of tunes is for those ready to slip into naptime.
As for the 13 tracks that make up Curious George, the majority of them benefit from being open enough lyrically that their content can be assigned to the film or stand on their own, especially the opening tracks “Upside Down” and “Broken.” Musically, it’s the familiar musical brew of reggae/light funk, soul and folk that has served him well over five albums.
Of course, this is meant to be a children’s record, so the middle portion of the album covers that area with a cover of The White Stripes “We’re Going to be Friends” and two “lesson” songs “The Sharing Song,” which offers a nod to "Sesame Street" and “The 3 R’s.” Parents should recognize that “The 3 R’s” uses School House Rock’s “Three Is a Magic Number” as its source while giving everyone the message that we should Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
And, while kids may catch the vibe that is Johnson’s musical aesthetic, it’s truly the children lurking within the elders who will find the most satisfaction from Curious George. That’s not a bad thing. As for me, I’m going to press play’ and let Jack and company serenade me at my imaginary beach party once again.