Instrumental Alphabet

Album Review – Vivien Cooper & Brother Paul Brown – The Instrumental Alphabet – For Kids, Yes, But Boomers Will Love it Too


On August 1, 2021, Vivien Cooper and Brother Paul Brown – organist (and the only American) in The Water Boys – released their first collaboration: a quarter-hour children’s album The Instrumental Alphabet.   

Cooper wrote the poem that playfully, but challengingly for a child just learning, meanders through the alphabet with words beginning with surrounding groups of letters bouncing to and fro until all 26 have their moment in the sun. She does the narration with the charm of true story-teller.

Grammy-winner (and multiple nominee) Brother Paul Brown is a renowned producer, song-writer, and instrumentalist, who’s added some fiery southern soul to the fabulous run of recent Waterboys’ albums. On this project, he’s written all the music and introduced a bunch of well-placed sound effects that make it all come alive.

First Waterboy, Mike Scott, chips in with a spoken-word introduction.

To call The Instrumental Alphabet a children’s album is true, but in the sense that Bob Dorough’s “Three is a Magic Number” is a children’s song or that Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” is a children’s story. If you missed these gems as a kid, go back and check them out now. You’ll be glad you did. And then listen to The Instrumental Alphabet, which can hold its own with both.

The narration, in addition to being a letter exploration on the order of Silverstein’s “Sick,” takes the listener on a parallel journey down mid-20th Century jazz and blues alleys, name checking Bo Didley, Ella, Dizzy and a half dozen more.  Boomers and Xer’s will surely find a reason to smile.  And younger generations – one can hope – will be sparked with a curiosity leading them to explore perhaps the greatest era in American music history.

The biggest treat for me – and probably other Bommer/Xer’s of a certain age – is the closing number “The ABC’s Ride Away.” It’s a thick slice – at least to my ears – of the early 70’s R&B that I loved so when I was first discovering radio and that I adore to this day. I’m sure there’s other influences in there that will hit other listeners differently. But it will take you back, I guarantee.

You can learn more about Cooper and Brown on a webpage dedicated to the album. Buy a download of The Instrumental Alphabet on Amazon.


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