Lee Alexander remains one of Houston's most celebrated musicians. He is currently the best male vocalist in the city, but the list of accolades he has acquired over the years goes far beyond mere singing talent. After years composing and performing adult-oriented music, Alexander has decided to pursue the production of a children's album.
The idea came to him as he was driving with daughters Ryan and Emma in the back seat. On the car's sound system was something very few children have heard; Frank Zappa's ' (Apostrophe).
"I noticed in the rearview mirror that my girls were cracking up," said Alexander. "You know, the whole "doggy-doo snow cone...don't eat that yellow snow where the huskies go." They thought it was hilarious."
Intrigued by his children's reaction, Alexander started testing They Might Be Giants on them, as well as humorous material by the Coasters. When they responded with delight, it quickly became apparent to Alexander that music that appeals to children doesn't necessarily have to revile adults.
Alexander gets a good chance to observe the youth of today in his job as a teacher in Katy ISD. He's noticed over the years that kids tend to outgrow the Disney/Nick Jr. music specifically designed for them fairly quickly, and instead make room in their musical hearts for acts like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.
"Aside from being too suggestive and inappropriate for that age, it's just not something a lot of parents like me want to listen to either," says Alexander.
A difficult school year forced Alexander to push the project onto the back burner, but an encouraging chance encounter with Leah White at Katie Stuckey's CD release party invigorated him to pick it up again. Alexander sent us the first rough cut from the album, "Christmas Around the World," earlier this week.
"I performed for my class last week," says Alexander. "Yeah, the kids in my class all laughed about the Dad Penguin regurgitating the Christmas dinner, and the Llamas greeting you with "Feliz Navidad" before they spit at you, but it actually teaches geographical concepts, the polar hemispheres, the equator, and on a more subtle note, inferencing.
"You'll notice the animals, their habitats, and their mannerisms are described prior to it being revealed in the chorus. That kind of reading skill, inferencing, foreshadowing if you like, was also part of the design of that song."
Further subject matter for the album includes the tale of a dung beetle in love and the journey of sound waves to your eardrums.
Composing the album has given Alexander a chance to relax, to not take himself so seriously. He mentioned axing a track from his last album, Mayhem Vaudville, that was an avant garde rendition of turn-of-the-20th-century French poetry.
"It was just too over the top," he says. "Too weird. I couldn't think of anyone else who would want to listen to it but me. I find it liberating that in putting this abum together I don't have to take myself seriously at all."
The album is due out next summer, with Alexander's daughters performing backing vocals.
Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.
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