Do What You Can
reviewed by Gary Levinson
Dada Veda’s latest album is Do What You Can. A rarity among children’s albums, Do What You Can is a children’s album that children like listening to, while at the same time being worth a listen.
Most children’s songs have inane lyrics. Only between one and two percent of the population are farmers, so it is hard to understand why so many children’s songs are about farms (ie. The Farmer in the Dell, Old McDonald had a Farm, There was a Farmer, who had a Dog, etc.). Do What You Can, on the other hand, is an album with lyrics that mean something.
The eponymously named opening track, for instance, tells a parable from the epic Indian poem, The Ramayanana. The story: King Rama was building a bridge. Some monkeys were helping him by carrying boulders. A squirrel wanted to help too, and so carried a pebble. The monkeys laughed at this. The squirrel was, naturally, upset. King Rama however, appreciated the squirrel’s effort and consoled it. Moral: every good effort, no matter how small, is valuable.
On this album Dada performs for us some of his own songs, some songs by other authors, and well as a few children’s classics. Children are the intended audience, which is in stark contrast with Dadas other albums, which are squarely targeted at adults. When asked how he got motivated to do a children’s album Dada explained he had noticed that a lot of toddlers were attracted to his outdoor performances at the Farmers Market in Illinois. After seeing this he wrote the song Do What You Can.
Although this song, and this album, have children in mind, Dada’s music also appeals to adults. That makes it good for both generations to enjoy. This would be a good album to keep in the car player: it can be played when the kids are there and when they are not.
The songs span a variety of themes, though the style is all folk.
Interesting is the Dylanesque harmonica playing on The Wise Ones Say and This Tiny Light of Mine.
My favorite song on the album is Dada’s version of Singh Kaur’s You Can Make the Sun Shine. This song is absolutely inspiring, Let me not mince words: this album is worth obtaining just for this song. Fantastic.
A note here is that when Steve Winwood wrote in Higher Love “I could make the sun shine from pure desire,” he must have had Kaur’s tune in mind.
On the album after You Can Make the Sun Shine comes an almost transcendental version of Clouds are Floating. This is just one of the tracks that are difficult to get out of one’s head.
This album is supposed to be a treat for children, so I decided to put it to the test. I played it for a one year old boy, who obviously had pleasure from listening to it, dancing in his own way along with the music. Baby tested, baby approved.
The album closes with a powerhouse trilogy of songs. First comes a very convincing version of P.R.Sakar’s Tiny Green Island, then Dada’s own Love is the Best, and then the closing track is a kirtan, sort-of for beginners. Dynamite.
With Do What You Can, Dada Veda has created a children’s album that is also a pleasure for adults. It’s a good listen for both.
Reviewed by Gary Levinson