From the beginning, the Walt Disney Records charity album For Our Children was a labor of love, and the performers recruited by executive producers Shepard Stern and Harold J. Kleiner worked hard to make their contributions sound just right.
Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson picked the fanciful ''Autumn to May,'' a number they had listened to as children. ''We thought all these years that it was a traditional Celtic song,'' Ann says with a laugh. They were surprised to learn it was actually written by Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary.
As the producers as well as singers of ''Autumn to May,'' the Wilson sisters tried to make the song sound as old and whimsical as possible. ''We used only Celtic musicians,'' Ann says. ''And we darkened the studio and put candles around and really tried to evoke this old-fashioned mood.'' They had two sessions: the first to get the music down ''in its pure form'' with instruments like the hurdy-gurdy and the hammer dulcimer; the second to jazz up the sounds and ''make them sound totally magical.''
Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson cowrote ''Country Feelin's,'' which makes its debut on Children. For the song's entertaining animal noises, Disney enlisted Jim Cummings (who's been the voice of Winnie-the-Pooh, among others) from its storied character-voices department. In the studio, Cummings started raucously clucking and hooting. ''If you had been there to see it, you would have laughed so hard,'' Wilson says.
Little Richard, who says he had never heard ''Itsy Bitsy Spider'' before he began working on the album, remembers thinking, ''I'm going to make this spider walk and dance and scream. And I'm going to take him up the water spout, and we're not going to let the sun dry him out.'' In addition to writing some new lyrics, the singer brought in rappers Casanova and Nate for some amusing give- and-take wordplay.
''I think everybody should get behind (the album) in a big way,'' Little Richard says with his usual high energy. ''It's an opportunity to do something for the young kids who are victims of circumstance, to let them know that we love them and that we're going to do all we can to help them.''