If there is another recording artist who is mining the dark recesses of the child’s imagination — that nether nether land betwixt reason and madness — as well as Randy Kaplan, I have certainly not had the pleasure of his acquaintance.
Darker than Zanes, more powerful than Father Goose, able to leap tall buildings yet see each and every cockroach, Kaplan is a national treasure who brings a sly wink to the art of kid’s music.
I was reminded of that during Kaplan’s packed concert in Carroll Park on Wednesday afternoon.
At the show, he played track after track from his master work “Five Cent Piece,” the 2006 album that established him as the black sheep of that irritatingly large flock of Raffi wannabes.
At the album’s dark soul is “Grape Juice Hesitation Blues,” which puts a crowd of small, juice-loving children in the same role that the Rev. Gary Davis once found himself: yearning for that elusive elixir (though if I am not mistaken, Davis was after nourishment of a different kind).
Kaplan’s most challenging hit — the one the kids actually screamed for at his concert on Wednesday — is “Shampoo Me,” in which the narrator, a shark fed up with the unclean condition of our planet’s waterways, begs for the comfort of a rinse and a set.
And there is simply no better kids song today than Kaplan's “Roaches,” a ditty that serves as the existential mirror that Kafka only hinted at (are we the roaches or are the roaches us?).
“There’s a roach on the ceiling/He’s too high to reach,” the song begins. “There’s a roach in my garbage/Resting on the pit of a peach.”
“There are roaches in my wall! I can’t see ’em, but I know they're there. If I had X-ray vision, I'm thinking it would be more than I can bear.”
But bear it, I beg you, dear parents: This album is as vital a part of your child’s proper development as milk, sunshine and challenging established orthodoxies.
Trey Dooley, a Boerum Hill resident, has been reviewing kids music, puppetry and mime for decades. He is the editor emeritus of “Let’s Mime!” magazine and a member of the Puppetry Critics Circle. He is also in the Marionette Hall of Fame (critics wing).