This children's music engages the brain

Some music created for children puts my brain right to sleep. But What kind of cat are you?! by Billy Jonas, is one of the many good ones. The title song asks questions and answers them with challenging words. Later on, the disc offers songs such as "Alien in my lungs" and "Bear to the left." If you're running low on stimulating music for your car or home CD player, this one is lively and fun.

Woof! Woof! It’s Westminster Time

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Who will be crowned the 2006 Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show? Sgt. Pepper, the Border Terrier? Jezebell the Shih Tzu? On the Sauce, a St. Bernard, is an early crowd favorite.

All those doggies on parade will get you in the mood for some good old-fashioned man’s best friend stories and no one tells a better animal story than James Herriot. Two favorites are All Things Bright and Beautiful and All Things Wise and Wonderful.

Local Composer Wins Grammy

Last week Ann Arbor-based composer William Bolcom won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Recording for his Songs of Innocence and Experience. He also won a Grammy for Best Choral Performance. The eclectic nature of the work, which is based on the poems of 18th-century poet William Blake, means everyone will find a section to match their musical taste. This performance was recorded at Hill Auditorium as part of the re-opening festivities in 2004.

2006 Grammy Winners

U2 won big last night at the 48th Grammy Awards, taking home an award in every category for which they were shortlisted, including best album (How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb) and best song ("Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own"). Mariah Carey's The Emancipation of Mimi won best contemporary R&B album. Kanye West protege John Legend won best new artist, and American Idol Kelly Clarkson won best female pop vocal and pop vocal album. So who gets your vote for favorite performance of the evening? McCartney, with his ripping rendition of "Helter Skelter"? Or Sly Stone, just for showing up in that blond mohawk...?

The Origins of Life

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There are many ways to participate in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads 2006: Revolutions In Science project. One approach is to explore in-depth a topic covered in the programs.

The renowned science professor and author Robert M. Hazen offers an accessible and current discussion of the Origins of Life in a 24-lecture expedition on book on cd. Dr. Hazen introduces you to the scientists in the forefront of ongoing research on the evolution of the universe, the theories that have driven that research and the controversies that surround the theories.

Music in the Future

You may have heard about Best Buy's new partnership with independent online music source CDBaby. What else will shape the future of music and the music industry? David Kusek's new book The Future of Music explores the cluster of issues around music and the recording industry as we move into the 21st century, as does the PBS Frontline documentary The Way the Music Died. I certainly don't know where music is heading, but I bet the future will sound something like this...

Six More Weeks of Winter

Famous groundhog weather expert, Punxsutawney Phil, has predicted six more weeks of winter in response to seeing his shadow this morning at Gobbler’s Knob in Pennsylvania. Groundhogs, or whistle pigs as they are sometimes called, are traditionally associated with Candlemas, a Christian holiday that has long been paired with prognosticating.

Though Groundhog’s day has nearly passed, why not repeat the day’s festivities tomorrow and rent Groundhog Day (1997) starring Bill Murray? Or stock up on woodchuck fact and fiction to pass the long winter nights to come.

New from Belle and Sebastian next week

Next week, on February 7, Belle and Sebastian will be releasing their sixth album - The Life Pursuit. “Written almost entirely by frontman Stuart Murdoch, [it] is a magnificently assured and diverse pop record. With nods to such influences as Cornelius, Manfred Mann, and David Bowie, "The Life Pursuit" mingles the folky, be-sweatered pathos of the group's earliest work with joyfully satirical late 60's sunshine pop, and the sophisticated 80's-influenced work reminiscent of their prior album, 2003's "Dear Catastrophe Waitress". –Amazon.com

If Horses Could Talk

Grace Archer would be in even more trouble. Eight years ago the CIA put Grace and her young daughter under protective custody on a small horse farm in Alabama, a place where she can use her uncanny talent for handling horses to good purpose. Needless to say, evildoers and Iris Johansen have other ideas.

On the Run is a runaway good story from one of the best suspense writers around and the audio version is sure to be in the running for an Audie Award this year. A sequel is all but guaranteed.

Wilson Pickett and the Beatles' Hey Jude

Wilson Pickett (In The Midnight Hour, Land of 1,000 Dances, Mustang Sally) died of a heart attack on January 20 at the age of 64. He was totally sweet. It's really sad that he died, but it's a good excuse to rave about one of my favorite songs of all time, his cover of Hey Jude.
He recorded Hey Jude at Muscle Shoals Studio, in Alabama, after playing for most of his career on Stax Records, with Booker T and the MGs. The first time I heard it I really wasn't so sure about it because he really, really souls up the vocals in that way that can tire you out (you know, like when people really over-soul the Star-Spangled Banner). But upon several listens, I got pretty addicted.
It starts out pretty tame, just going through the motions of Hey Jude. Then this AMAZING bass line comes in and makes it all funky. And when they hit the bridge, the horns come in and swing it a little, and the bass is really solid and does this great staggered rhythm. And we go through this a few times, and then Pickett just wails, and the outro hits really hard. And Pickett's just screaming, and Duane Allman kicks out these totally awesome guitar lines, and the bass and drums are driving really hard, but the horns keep swinging! And Pickett just keeps screaming, and if you're wearing headphones, you can faintly hear in the background a chorus of female singers really low in the mix doing the whole "na na na na" thing, and the fact that it's hard to hear just makes it that much more awesome. And it just fades out like that and you can hear Wilson saying "It's gonna be all right" but at this point you just don't care because you're just astounded at how much that song rocked you. And then if you're me, you hit repeat and turn it up some more.
Anyway, the world will miss you, Wilson Pickett, but thanks for totally wailing and recording it for us. Because that song is AWESOME. (this entry is from my son’s blog)
Pickett’s Hey Jude is on three CDs in the library collection: In the Midnight Hour: and Other Hits, A Man and a Half: the Best of Wilson Pickett, and The Very Best of Wilson Pickett.

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