MAKE BELIEVERS is a massive record. As I mentioned a month or so ago when the album announcement was posted here on The Rock Father, the little one and I have been spinning the new album from SECRET AGENT 23 SKIDOO here at HQ for awhile now. It’s another one of those special albums that warranted holding back the review until release date was almost upon us, simply because you need to remember to buy this. Why? Because I’ll throw down some info in the first paragraph that you’d normally have to read on for: This is a 5-Star Record.
One thing few people know about The “Rock” Father is that I grew up in the South Suburbs of Chicago – a white kid “bussed” into a different neighborhood for elementary school in an effort to foster forced integration in the early-mid 1980s. It was there that I’d be introduced to and begin to love the now-old-school hip-hop stylings of RUN-DMC, the BEASTIE BOYS and LL COOL J alongside the R&B and Funk grooves of artists like ZAPP. From there it was BIG DADDY KANE, SLICK RICK, etc. I used to have an obnoxious boombox, but now – nearly 30 years later and Sirius XM’s BACKSPIN channel gets a lot of play in my car. Where I’m headed with this story is that until last month, I’d never heard an album for children that captures those vibes, spins ’em, and spits it all out as something fresh and legit. MAKE BELIEVERS is it.
Secret Agent 23 Skidoo has gone Danny Ocean, assembling a crew of 40+ co-conspirators (why stop at 11?) to craft an album that contains that old-school hip-hop in it’s DNA, while keeping an organic feeling throughout. There’s that live instrumentation akin to THE ROOTS, while a lot of the song structure reminds me of GALACTIC’s 2007 album, FROM THE CORNER TO THE BLOCK. Jazzy… funky… epic.
You’ve got quality storytelling that kicks off with “Magic Beans” and it’s reimagining of Jack and the Beanstalk against a bass-heavy, horn-filled backdrop. Then there’s “Space Cadet,” a daydreaming anthem that brings together the entire Skidoo family, with daughter ‘MC Fireworks’ dropping a few verses with Dad, while Mom ‘Bootysattva’ comes in on the choruses. There’s a smooth R&B collaboration with THE SECRET B SIDES on “Rocket Fuel” (great chorus), and before that a surf-tastic dose of psychedelic awesome with “Brainstorm,” which makes me wanna see Skidoo take on THE AQUABATS (get that guest shot lined up, Hub folks). There’s so much to like on MAKE BELIEVERS, that my wife caught us listening and said “Is that a kid’s record?”
One of the album’s strongest tracks is tucked in the 10-slot, and just had a video shot for it – “Gotta Be You.” A message applicable to humans of all ages (but especially impressionable tweens) – “Everybody wanna have a best friend/But your best friend gotta be you” – the song drives home that individuality trumps peer pressure, and that you have to do right by you. And, when that cowbell comes in around 2:55? That’s some PAUL’S BOUTIQUE action right there.
The Bottom Line: Five months into 2012 and you’d be hard-pressed to find another family-friendly album that gets so much right. In what’s already been a great year for kid’s music, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo rises to the top with an album guaranteed to remain unlike anything else you’ll find on the racks, in the bins, or in the Children’s section of your favorite digital music emporium.
Now, excuse me while I try finding a proper boombox for my daughter.
The Rock Father Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars – Flawless Victory!
FTC Disclosure: A copy of MAKE BELIEVERS was provided to The Rock Father on Compact Disc for the purpose of review consideration. The opinions presented here are that of James Zahn, and take into account the reaction of a toddler. Word!