Sunshine Collective – Wanna Play?

Reviewed by Gregory Keer

What’s in a name? If your moniker is Sunshine Collective, then the expectation is that you’ll be full of warmth, brightness, and togetherness. Yep, that accurately describes this summer-appropriate band and its album bursting with happy sounds.

A classical introduction segues into “I Just Wanna Play,” a tune that could be the musical daughter of “I’ve Got a Brand New Pair of Roller Skates” in its ‘70s feel-good vibe. Vocalist and co-songwriter Stephanie Richards has a sophisticated foundation in her skills while letting loose with her playful side on this and other tracks.

The Sunshine Collective, led by the Los Angeles-based husband-and-wife team of Richards and Brian Arbuckle, liberally borrows from bygone eras to season its songs, including the jazzy “Love Makes Life So Sweet” (check out that Stephane Grappelli-style violin) and “Mad About You,” a charming, Dixieland brassy piece about how one good person can make the pitfalls of a day easier.

The positive themes and lyrics of this recording are more open-ended than child-specific (though Richards and Arbuckle have two young daughters), which makes it a true treat for an adult who might want to sit alone with the iPod, especially for a song such as “Fun, Fun, Fun,” with its simple message of being with someone who makes you happy.

One of the other delights of the CD is that you can actually hear the instruments on each track. Produced by group co-leader and multi-instrumentalist Brian Arbuckle, the sound is pure and clear, allowing young listeners the chance to focus on how a piano or violin should come through, without heavy engineering. “A Thousand Notable Things” isolates various instruments, including Richards’s voice, in an uplifting and luxurious way.

For its fine musicianship and genial disposition, this is a recording you should play for your kids, for yourselves, for anyone who could use a bit more sunshine. – $11.99 (CD) – Ages 3-100

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