Jack Johnson's mellow monkeyshines
Jack Johnson's mellow monkeyshines

Jack Johnson and Friends

That Jack Johnson's newest album would be a collection of kids' songs for the Curious George soundtrack isn't so surprising. This is a guy who makes hits singing about "Bubble Toes" and "Banana Pancakes." Johnson always did have a Raffi vibe. The laid-back, beach-bum guitar licks make singing about recycling just as much fun as anything else he's done maybe even more fun. Johnson's fans are no doubt the kind who can really get behind a movie about an inquisitive primate, and this single-artist soundtrack works as well as anything before it. If you buy this album for your kids, chances are you're going to be requesting it as often as they do.

While the music is kid- and sing-along friendly, it's not all intended for second-graders. On "People Watching," Johnson gets as contemplative as ever, kicking out an "Eleanor Rigby" for the PlaySkool set while he sings about people-watching. Most of these tracks wouldn't have been out of place on Johnson's recent In Between Dreams album. Even when he switches to more kidsy stuff, everything stays signature Jack. G. Love drops in for "Jungle Gym," an upbeat, sunny-day-in-the-city song. "These streets have got a rhythm, it's a funky beat," Johnson sings while G. throws in some whines on his harmonica. Other "friends" include Ben Harper and Matt Costa, both of whom add tremendous depth to a pair of tracks.

One highlight comes in the form of what's got to be the bluesiest version of "The Sharing Song" ever. Johnson turns it into a sing-along as he instructs kids on sharing sandwiches, balls and secrets, and playing with the new kid. There's no mention of the titular monkey, but that's no matter. Your kids'll dig it anyway. Maybe just a bit less than you will.


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