Melodic tunes, subtle messages

May 2009

By Fred Koch


Once in a great while a children’s music artist comes along who just knocks me off my feet. Such is the case with Morgan Taylor and his Gustafer Yellowgold’s Mellow Fever. I will tell you right now, this DVD/CD set is a must-have.

You must also mark your calendars now because Morgan Taylor is bringing the Gustafer Yellowgold Mellow Fever show to the Chicago area.

Here’s the reason I like writing for Chicago Parent: When I hear fabulous songs recorded with creative and unique musical arrangements, I want to spread the word.

Taylor’s original songs are fanciful stories that revolve around "Gus," a little, yellow, cone-headed fellow from the sun who possesses an interesting magnetism for making friends with some of Earth’s odder creatures. The songs are not only melodic, singable and full of musical delight, but they often have important, subtle messages our children need to hear.

These songs are very capable of standing on their own, but they really come to life on the animated DVD where Taylor’s talent as an illustrator and storyteller come into focus.

Though all of the songs are outstanding and I get more out of each one of them every time I listen, here are a few of my favorites:

"Getting In A Treetop" is a bright, uplifting pop song that will have you singing along with the hooky chorus line, "You can see happy/You can feel change/You can hear them laughing/It’s strange."

"Quite Easily Lost" is a testament to the simple wonders of life. It starts out, "The saucer fits beneath the cup/And daffodils are pointing up/I know it may be simple but I’ve always been quite easily lost."

And to me, the message of "Green Heart" (probably the most rockin’ of all the songs) is not to get too full of your self.

I also really enjoy "An Erring Ant," a song about our purpose and our need to be part of something bigger than ourselves. For the ant, it is, of course, to be part of the army.

We can read a lot into Taylor’s songs or just sit back, relax and let them wash over us. Either way, you are bound to find enjoyment with his style of songwriting and storytelling with its wonderful metaphors and magnificent imagery.

Another important point about the songs of Gustafer Yellowgold is that they are slightly on the mellow side. That is not to say you won’t be tapping your foot because each song has a great groove. It’s just that these are not frenetic rock-oriented songs you might find somewhere else. And because the video is a vehicle for storytelling, you will not see a lot of quick edits and multiple images. Personally, I think this is much healthier for kids.

Chicago parents are fortunate because many great children’s music performers either live in the Chicago area or come through on tour. But don’t miss your chance to see Morgan Taylor in concert.

Finally, it is really no surprise to me that Taylor was named "Best Kids’ Performer" in New York Magazine’s 2008 "Best of New York" issue.