A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
What's the story?
Socially conscious and seriously entertaining (and often quite lovely), this array of stories and songs are masterfully performed by Alan Alda, Mel Brooks, Diana Ross, Dick Cavett, Kris Kristofferson, and Harry Belafonte -- all singing their bleeding hearts out. Even a young Michael Jackson (ironically) sings about self acceptance, and not changing a thing about himself. While some parents may assume that FREE TO BE YOU AND ME is a dated bit of 1970s-era feminism, anyone with young children knows they are still working out what is and isn't acceptable behavior for girls and boys -- right down to what color clothing they wear. Songs, poetry, sketch comedy, and storytelling teach by example, and show kids that people shouldn't be put into boxes.
Is it any good?
Most of the songs stand up to the test of time, using humor, rhyme, compelling narrative, and funky 70s grooves to gently teach tolerance and foster open-mindedness, kindness, and mutual respect. A few of the songs, like the macabre carnivalesque "Girl Land" are a little heavy-handed. Likewise, "Ladies First" is a Marlo Thomas-narrated cautionary tale about a goody two-shoes who meets a violent end -- all because of her expectation that ladies get special treatment. This sort of unyielding feminism flies in the face of the album's premise -- that we should be free to be ourselves -- whoever that might be.