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Rocking the cradle

Soothing sounds for babies and parents

By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / April 13, 2008

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Getting your baby to sleep can sometimes be a Sisyphean task. Just as you think they've drifted off, the tell-tale sounds of fussiness erupt on the monitor. Recorded lullabies are fine, but if you're generally more mesmerized by Metallica than Mozart, options that satisfy baby and parent have been pretty slim.

The folks at Baby Rock Records aimed to fill that gap when they started their "Rockabye Baby!" series in 2006. Featuring cutesy cover art that incorporates teddy bears into signature band logos - or, in the case of the Rolling Stones, inserts a pacifier into those famous lips - the CD series gives the glockenspiel-mellotron-vibraphone treatment to everyone from AC/DC to U2. Also mixed in among the 23 titles are acts as eclectic as Bjork, Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, and the Ramones.

We recently had some parents test-drive a few titles over several nights and nap times to see how successful they were at allowing the sandman to enter.

ZANE WOODS Age: 5 months

Rocking to: Tool and Nine Inch Nails

Dave Woods, 35, is certain that when his 5-month-old son Zane reaches adolescence, he will summarily reject his dad's favorite music.

"Of course he's going to hate it," says Woods of his beloved hard-rock and metal bands. "I grew up with Kenny Rogers, and I know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em, but I'm not going to pop it into the CD player."

But while the Worcester father has control of the stereo he's going to try and stave off the inevitable. His wife, Kimlynn, 30, got "Lullaby Renditions of Tool" last Christmas for Dave as much as Zane. "She buys me all the Tool stuff because I'm a really big fan," he says. Indeed, Zane's middle name, Keenan, is in honor of the band's lead singer, Maynard James Keenan.

Although the purchase was something of a lark and Kimlynn describes the music as "a little creepier than expected," both she and her husband say the baby took to the disc right away and warmed even more quickly to the Nine Inch Nails installment.

"We've played it for the last few nights as part of the whole [bedtime] routine," says Woods. "When we're giving him the bottle, we start with song one and by the time 'Piggy' comes on, he's out."

Since they keep the disc on repeat throughout the night, Woods says the "Rockabye" discs are a nice change of pace from their previous choices: recorded vacuum sounds and the Alicia Keys song "No One." Of the latter, he says with a shudder, "Oh God, he was all over that for awhile and Kim claims that he liked it, but I hated it and I tried to shield him from that as much as possible."

Woods, a computer engineer, is prepared for the day when Zane outgrows Tool lullabies. That's when he'll start playing the string tributes to the band.

"So when Hanson 3.0 rolls around and he's singing 'MMMBop,' I can say, well, that's not from me because I raised him on this stuff."

MIA D'ALMEIDA

Age: 18 months

Rocking to: Bob Marley, AC/DC, and U2

At 18 months old, Mia d'Almeida was already well-versed in rock before the "Rockabye" series invaded her nights. Dad Jaime, 37, is a musician (and manager at Ernst & Young) and had been making bedtime compilations for the iPod featuring classical music mixed in with the likes of Iron & Wine and Bonnie "Prince" Billy. But in an Internet search for lullabies, he came across the series and was intrigued.

Armed last week with lullaby renditions of Bob Marley, AC/DC, and U2, d'Almeida and his wife, Lisa, called the series "relaxing" but reported a more mixed review.

"One of the things I like to do is sing along with them, and the problem is that they were very slow in some cases, which makes it very difficult to do that," says Jaime. This also drove Lisa to distraction; she says with a laugh, "I would be sitting there thinking, 'I know the song, but what is it?' "

Even though these downtempo takes helped put Mia to sleep, Jaime says that on the U2 and AC/DC discs, inconsistencies in rhythm and a surprising bit of dissonance in some of the tracks would jar his daughter awake. "And then," added Lisa, "she'd have a harder time going back to sleep."

That said, the d'Almeidas would recommend the series, especially the Marley disc, which was most successful in rocking the cradle. Like Zane, Mia seemed to respond best during the "wind-down" time before bed. "Especially for the last hour before she went to bed, I thought it was really nice," says Lisa.

Like all parents, though, the prospect of endlessly listening even to music they like isn't the most appealing.

"I don't want to sit in there and hear the same songs over and over again," says Jaime. But finishing that thought, Lisa says, "Yeah, but if she's going to sleep, we'll deal."

Sarah Rodman can be reached at srodman@globe.com.

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