Many years ago, my friend John Schnall, a professional animator and once a DJ on influential FM indie station WFMU-FM (then in East Orange, NJ), turned me onto a group called Pianosaurus. The band would be nothing particularly unusual beyond some fun songs if it wasn’t for the fact that they played their music on TOY instruments.
Time marches on…. shortly after their album came out on Rounder Records I moved to the West Coast and it faded into a distant memory.
Until a recent record shopping journey I went on with one of my music buddies here in San Francisco. For $5, I came across a pristine LP copy of Pianosaurus’ first studio album called Groovy Neighborhood. The thing I didn’t know back in the day was that the album was produced by Pete Holsapple of The dBs and R.E.M. fame.
Its a fun album with at least one song that could easily be a candidate for theme song to the non-existent sequel to the Mr. Rodgers show: “Sun Will Follow.” I want to cover this song in my next band.
But why am I writing about this TOY music album for Audiophilereview.com? Because it is really well recorded and the sound is pretty astounding.
I mean, think about it: an experienced pop music producer brings these guys — who are skilled at playing their music on children’s toy instruments — into a proper recording studio environment and creates a proper, well mic’d, mixed and mastered album with them. Water Music Recorders in Hoboken, N.J. is a world class studio where everyone from Dave Matthews to Beyonce have recorded including Holsapple and The dBs themselves.
So here on Pianosaurus’ album you audiophiles can revel in hearing the wonder and splendor of professionally recorded toy instruments in all their high resolution glory (made in 1987 for indie label Rounder Records, it was probably made on analog tape). From the tinkle of the kiddie piano to the thump of the kiddie drum kit’s kick drum, this album is a wonder to listen to. You can really hear the sound of the wobbly drum heads as the brushes on the snare head. The slam of drums on “Bubble Gum Music” is quite remarkable, pushing air out of my JBL studio monitors as if Dave Grohl was playing the kit.
Groovy Neighborhood isn’t super easy to find on vinyl but if you are so inspired you should check it out. There are some used copies selling up on Amazon for $30+ but you can find copies for under $20 on eBay.
Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. www.smotroff.com Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a musician / composer who’s songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he’s written: www.dialthemusical.com.