Not many people know about Dimension 5 Records today, but in the ’60s and ’70s, the small label was putting out some of the most innovative and imaginative children’s records ever committed to tape. It’s odd to think of a children’s label as “innovative,” but founder Bruce Haack was more than just a psychedelic version of Raffi. He was one of the founders of modern electronic music, and what he was doing with kids’ songs was far more interesting than Kidz Bop. Though the label is no longer active, 18 of today’s most spaced-out artists have come together to pay tribute to Haack’s visionary music, with a noble motive behind it — to benefit charities for children with Autism.
As we’ve said before, here, at Treble, we’ll always be on the side of a compilation with a good cause in mind. But in this case, it’s more than just a good cause and more than just a few good songs. It’s a surprisingly imaginative and fun collection to boot.
There’s some star power here — namely Beck and Stereolab — doing very interesting interpretations of Haack’s music. Beck’s take on “Funky Li’l Song” is actually far better than most of the songs on his most recent album, Guero, while Stereolab’s cover of “Mudra” is more dense and soupy than their usual bachelor pad pop. The Apples in Stereo, a band who always had a bit of a childlike quality to their music, do a catchy, trippy version of “Liza Jane.” Money Mark’s “Spiders” sounds almost like a mash-up of Schoolhouse Rocks and Kraftwerk, which is, more or less, in line with Haack’s vision. Tipsy’s lounged-out take on “Popcorn” is silly and fun. And The Eels’ “Jelly Dancers” combines middle-eastern melodies with an almost rap-chant.
There are plenty of other notable selections by lesser-known artists as well, including Oranger’s fuzz-pop version of “Catfish,” Irving’s sun-shiny take on “Army Ants in Your Pants,” DJ Me DJ You’s reverb-heavy freakout of “Soul Transportation” and From Bubblegum to Sky’s groovin’ “Abracadabra.”
Honestly, just about everything on here is a blast to listen to, and with a great cause that benefits, everybody wins. Bruce Haack may not still be alive today to hear the inventive ways that people are interpreting his music, but should he be viewing it from some astral plane, I’m sure he’d be proud.
Various Artists – Schoolhouse Rock Rocks
Perrey – Kingsley – The In Sound From Way Out
Bruce Haack – The Way Out Album for Children
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.