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Crib Notes

Putting kids to bed can be hard work, but the numerous lullaby CDs on the market today suggest we don’t have to wage the battle alone. Baby Rock Records offers what’s probably the hippest of bedtime music options with its Rockabye Baby! series. Tunes by the likes of U2, Pink Floyd and Coldplay—and even more typically thundering groups like Nirvana and Metallica—take the form of surprisingly non-cheesy instrumentals meant to usher your mini-rocker into slumberville.

Of course, in the case of Radiohead, Coldplay and especially Floyd, the interpretations don’t always sound terribly different from the originals. (“Wish You Were Here,” a late-night soother? Who would have thought?) But the neat part about these collections is you don’t have to worry about some of the less-than-wholesome lyrics in the originals, or about buying music you’re unfamiliar with.

Baby Rock has taken the post-baby boomer generation’s weakness for pop culture very seriously. Each CD comes with artwork that makes sly references to its subjects’ album art: Led Zeppelin’s angel-winged goddess, for instance, has become a bat-winged stick figure. And several of the albums feature a teddy bear depicted in the style of the original album’s cover.

Those who don’t mind taking scissors to the slick inserts can follow enclosed instructions and cut along the lines to make a band-themed mobile.

For all this effort, how well do the discs really work as lullabies? We decided to see for ourselves by playing them for our 10½-month-old critic Makenna. Parents Claude and Aimee, both 26, of Canastota, popped in one disc a night over the course of a week as they put her to bed. Then they peeked in periodically afterward to see what she was up to.

Some nights—as happened with Lullaby Renditions of Metallica—”she just went into a fit of crying,” Claude recalled. Aching gums from incoming baby teeth might have been the main culprits, but still, the music didn’t feel quite right, noted Aimee: “It seemed a lot more aggressive than one might expect for lullabies.”

But the invocations of James Hetfield and company seemed to be the exception among the CDs we test-drove: Makenna had no trouble falling asleep to the lullaby versions of Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Radiohead or Pink Floyd. With the last two, in fact, she zonked out before the second song was over. That might not exactly be a great endorsement for those bands’ rock credentials, but the discs did their job, which reflects well on Michael Armstrong. He’s the guy who plays and arranges all the music for the Rockabye Baby series. His combination of glockenspiel, vibraphone, mellotron and other keyboard-related stuff sounds at times like Danny Elfman music for a film about, say, magic forests or abandoned carnivals: wispy, mysterious, circular.

With certain combinations of rhythms and chord changes, the music sometimes isn’t bedtime-friendly, which explains the Metallica experience. But as a general rule these discs are amazingly relaxing. Said Claude, “I could fall asleep to some of this stuff myself.”

Buy these CDs or learn about the many other Rockabye Baby discs by the likes of the Pixies, the Smashing Pumpkins and the Ramones, at www.babyrock records.com.        

© Family Times: The Parenting Guide of Central New York