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Album Review

The folk singer who popularized "On Top of Spaghetti," Tom Glazer had no lack of irreverent wit, which paid him well in his frequent recordings and performances for children. The reissue compilation Sings Honk-Hiss-Tweet-GGGGGG and Other Children's Favorites finds Smithsonian Folkways reissuing two of his live recordings — Activity and Game Songs, Vol. 1 and Activity and Game Songs, Vol. 2, both from the early '70s — in front of a young audience. Although the acoustics aren't great on the earliest performances (no one could have mistaken this auditorium for Carnegie Hall), Glazer's humor and storytelling are infectious. "On Top of Spaghetti" appears, of course, as do loads of age-old children's' favorites like "The Bus Song," "This Old Man," "Haul Away Joe," and "Skip to My Lou." What's more, these are no mere run-throughs — Glazer teaches children the Scottish burr for "Three Crows," encourages them to scream out "Joe" whenever he approaches it on "Haul Away Joe," and in similar fashion to "On Top of Spaghetti," transforms the lyrics of "Big Rock Candy Mountain" from a hobo's version of heaven to a child's ("There you go to school in a swimming pool; And your fav'rite cowboys teach you/And you ride a horse, it's your own, of course; You're so tall that your Daddy can't reach you"). Although the audio quality is less than stellar for the digital age, the version of "On Top of Old Spaghetti" comes from a different source, and is practically pristine.


Born: 03 September 1914 in Philadelphia, PA

Genre: Children's Music

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Best-known for authoring the children's classic "On Top of Spaghetti," folksinger and songwriter Tom Glazer was born in Philadelphia on September 2, 1914. After the death of his carpenter father four years later, he and his siblings were raised by their mother and assorted relatives, sometimes living in an orphanage. At school, Glazer studied a variety of musical traditions and instruments (among them guitar, bass, and tuba) before relocating at 17 to New York City, where he worked at Macy's department...
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