Laurie Berkner: Victor Vito 25th Anniversary Edition, Where Every Song is Happiness

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Victor Vito

Wow, it's been 25 years since this album was first released and 19 years since I first heard its songs on Jack’s Big Music Show on Nickelodeon's channel “Noggin” with my daughter. We fell in love with these songs back then and still love them to this day.

When I was a wee lad many, many years ago, I did not have the luxury of kids' music being so widely available. What little there was, I treasured. Very little was played on the radio back then, and music geared toward kids was not overly common on records that I remember. My mother always made sure she bought me a music album whenever she went shopping and could find something. I still have the very first album she ever bought me, and yes, I still play it to this day. Why, you might ask? Because of the wonderful memories that are forever tied to it.

Zoom ahead now to 1999, when Laurie Berkner’s third album was released. Kids' music was becoming more widely available in recorded and video formats thanks to TV and channels like “Noggin.” It would be a couple of years later when my daughter and I would actually hear the music from this album.

From the get-go, I wanted to instill the love of music that my mother shared with me in my daughter, and I am happy and none too proud to say that almost 24 years later, she has that love of music in her heart. A big part of this is because of the music from this very album that she was exposed to.

How much so? Well, let me tell you this. As you would expect, a 24-year-old modern-day professional woman who has an immense and varied repertoire of music likes that she listens to on a daily basis—when I told her this album was coming out on vinyl, she screamed into the phone! Happy expletives rained down out of her in a torrent. To this day, she holds a special place in her heart for the music of Laurie Berkner (as I am sure many, many others do as well). And as she has recently adopted the love for vinyl that her dear old dad possesses and has quite an impressive collection of her own already (well, of course, I did help her out a bit with that), she was extra excited.

And to my surprise, not only is this album on vinyl and remastered now, but it is also recorded at 45 rpm speed. Oh, be still my fluttering audiophile heart!

For those who don’t know the difference between the two speeds other than one spins faster than the other, music recorded at the faster 45 rpm speed allows for the information to be more spaced out, to “breathe,” instead of being compressed together tighter to fit on one record. This allows for a more true-to-life sound and an audible difference that is easy to discern.

There is a slight trade-off with this type of recording in that, for obvious reasons, since the album is moving faster, you cannot fit as many songs on a side as you can with a traditional 33 1/3 rpm album. This usually requires, as is the case here, the album being put on two discs. As I said, this is a small trade-off, and it allows the albums to come in this beautiful gatefold cover.

Also included in this two-record set is a nice album cover-sized lyric booklet containing all the words to the songs. Though it is not really needed, as the album is recorded so well and Laurie and the group enunciate so crystal clearly that you have no trouble understanding all the lyrics when you hear them. Besides, longtime fans know all the songs by heart. These lyric sheets, while a neat addition, are more for the newbies to the music on this album.

The title song on this album set happens to be one of my personal favorites (actually, they are all my favorites), and never have I heard it sound so wonderful. Laurie’s voice is so palpably real now that it seems she and the band are right there in front of me. Now, I can hear subtleties and inflections in her voice that I couldn’t before, raising the enjoyment factor of the songs to another level for me. Her guitar has that natural acoustic feel to it as she strums the chords, all of which to kids listening probably won’t matter to a hill of beans, but to an old audiophile, it’s a smile-inducing extra. Even the bell at the end of the song has a true metallic-sounding feel to it that makes it sound tangible.

“BOOTS” is another song that, when played on a system that costs much more than the system that most people will be playing this album on (I don’t say that in a condescending manner; it’s just that most people, I feel, will have more common sense than the average audiophile like myself to spend large amounts of money chasing the elusive dream of trying to put together a system to recreate live music in the home—we can get close, but alas, we need help) sounds so incredibly good that I find myself incapable of putting down in words all the happiness I feel when I listen to it. So much so, I guiltily wish, after having said what I just said above, that everybody would go out and put together a top-flight system just so they could experience listening to this album as well as it can be listened to.

“Crab” is a wonderful song that is split between left, right, and center stage, with the male vocal on the left, guitar in the center, and Laurie on the right. It’s a very enjoyable listening experience that adds to the song.

“Sneaks,” another fun song, is remastered so well that you can hear the individual tiny cymbals that make up a tambourine clinking together, as well as tell that Laurie has her mouth close to the mic as she whispers into it. Wonderful! “Shakin’ Down the Sugar” has drums and violin recorded so well that if you close your eyes, you can almost reach out and touch them. The piano and sax are crystal clear as well. I never realized how well they were all recorded. Masterful and fun to listen to!

What is also so wonderful about this album and Laurie’s music in general is that, as in a song like “White Coral Bells,” no instruments are needed. When a beautiful song is sung beautifully well and recorded as such, instruments simply are not needed. There is so much going on between the speakers with just vocals that it brings to my mind that no instrument could possibly sound as good as the human voice.

I said earlier that it’s hard to pick a favorite off this album—not just because they are all so good, which they are, but because each one makes me recall a different memory I had with my daughter when I first heard the song played.

Isn’t that what music should do? Make you think of good and happy things? I think so.

So here it is, 25 years since its first release, and I feel it’s as relevant and important to children now as it was back then. Just as enjoyable, and if you love this music as much as I do, then it’s a no-brainer to rush out and get it, even if you don’t have kids. And if by chance you’ve not heard this album before and want to build lifelong musical memories with your kiddos the way I, and no doubt many others did, then for you too, this album is a no-brainer and a great place to start down that road.

I wanted to try and sum up this album and Laurie’s music in general into one word and found myself having a difficult time. There are lots of words that I can string together that would describe this music and her, but I wanted one word. Then it came to me.

I remembered the lyrics to Clark Gesner’s song “Happiness” from “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.” It’s a wonderful song filled with so many simple, easy-to-love things that make children (and adults) happy. And that’s when it struck me. The one word: “Happiness.” The album "Victor Vito" is happiness. Laurie Berkner’s music is happiness. Laurie Berkner IS happiness!

Yes, I’m a Googa-Googa-Googlehead too!


Rocord 1 Side A

1. Victor Vito

2. Bottle Caps

3. Moon Moon Moon

4. Froggie Went-A-Courtin’

5. I’m Not Perfect

Record 1 Side B

1. The Toy Museum


3. Oleanna

4. The Crabs

5. Sneaks

Record 2 Side C

1. Goldfish

2. Zodiac

3. Trucks

4. Fruit Salad Salsa

5. The Story Of My Feelings

6. I Feel Crazy So I Jump In The Soup

Record 2 Side D

1. Shakin’ Down The Sugar

2. Googleheads

3. Tingolayo

4. White Coral Bells

5. Goodnight