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Sparky’s Magic Piano - Children’s Classics: 23 Original Hits
see end of review for track listing
ALTO ALN 1945 [76:44]

There are quite a lot of these Children’s Classic discs on the market and a number of them feature the title track, the story of Sparky’s Magic Piano, seventeen-minutes dedicated to the elevated art of getting children to practice the instrument. One thing that can distinguish these discs, at least for Anglophones, is the demarcation between British and American items. Splendid chap though he is, Bernard Cribbins’ Right Said Fred is not a natural transatlantic hit. Indeed it’s arguable whether Max Bygraves’ You’re A Pink Toothbrush should ever have left the studio cutting room. That said, both have long since entered into the nostalgia library of our collective mind and are difficult now to de-accession.
 
Puffin’ Billy is a more known quantity. The Laughing Policeman is a classic but comes from a long vogue for laughing songs that dates back, largely, to the acoustic studios of the American East Coast. British listeners may well be surprised by the breadth of such things and the inter-dependence of Music Hall and Vaudeville material. Champion the Wonder Horse and Bill Hayes’ The Ballad of Davy Crockett are certainly part of my childhood. You would never guess from Patti Page’s wretched Doggie how good she really was. We all know the Happy Wanderer but very few would name the Obenkirken Children’s Choir as the ensemble responsible.
 
The rather formally titled Children’s Marching Song is helpfully bracketed as ‘This Old Man’, which makes it all the clearer - Cyril Stapleton does the honours in 1942. Woody Guthrie is heard in folkloric material and doubtless Mr Salmond sings himself to sleep each night with the tales of the Scottish Soldier, sung, inevitably, by Andy Stewart. Nellie the Elephant was - interesting fact - produced by George Martin. Mairzy Doats gets some wartime swing with Andrews Sisters styled vocal. Great to have Spike Jones’s cornball Old McDonald Had A Farm to offset the kitsch. I didn’t know that Nina and Frederick, who sing Little Donkey, were a Danish-Dutch duo. I can confirm that the song is still a regular in children’s concerts. And so, without any sign or sight of Tubby the Tuba, we have Sparky - I’ve already reviewed a disc with both Sparky and Tubby so I’m grateful, to be frank, that it’s absent.
 
There are some pleasant notes - more than I was expecting, I have to admit - and the transfers are reasonable.
 
Jonathan Woolf  

Track listing
Puffin’ Billy - Melodi Light Orchestra [2:3]
You’re A Pink Toothbrush - Max Bygraves [3:24]
The Laughing Policeman - Charles Penrose [2:32]
Champion the Wonder Horse - Frankie Laine [2:16]
Right Said Fred - Bernard Cribbins [2:19]
The Ballad of Davy Crockett - Bill Hayes [1:41]
How Much is That Doggie in the Window - Patti Page [2:27]
I Taut I taw a Puddy Tat - Mel Blanc [2:56]
Happy Wanderer - Obenkirken Children’s Choir [3:07]
Teddy Bear’s Picnic - Henry Hall and Orchestra; vocal Val Rosing [2:51]
Children’s Marching Song (This Old Man) - Cyril Stapleton [2:20]
Buckingham Palace - Anne Stephens [2:23]
The Car Song - Woody Guthrie [1:50]
The Mole in the Hole - The Southlanders [2:04]
Scottish Soldier - Andy Stewart [3:28]
Nellie the Elephant - Mandy Miller [2:29]
Puff the Magic Dragon - Peter, Paul & Mary [3:28]
The Ugly Duckling - Danny Kaye [3:04]
Mairzy Doats - The Merry Macs [2:44]
Old McDonald Had A Farm - Spike Jones and his City Slickers [3:15]
I Known an Old Lady - Burl Ives [2:40]
Little Donkey - Nina and Frederick [3:14]
Sparky’s Magic Piano - Henry Blair [16:51]