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Toni Childs

Country of origin:


Type of music generally:



Most recent release, It's All a Beautiful Noise (2015, available via artist)

See also:

Toni Childs' site


Perhaps a little like Laurie Freelove at least vocally. Perhaps also Ashley Maher.

Covers/own material:

Own, frequently cowrites songs, occasional cover

General comments:

Toni Childs has an incredible booming voice—she sings like no one else I know. Her songs tend to use a lot of African rhythms and back-up singers. (

Toni is difficult to categorize. She has a rough-edged voice, very powerful, and her music, often on socially conscious themes, is generally in the rock/pop vein but with varied world influences, more so on Union. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Toni Childs really exploded on the scene in the '80s with her cd Union, which got into Q magazine's top 50 of the year. I think it's her best by far, with House of Hope coming third and Woman's Boat second. I think she's been doing a lot of backing vocals here and there, but it's a shame we don't hear more of her. (

As far as I'm concerned, she's a must do. Kind of like Mary Margaret O'Hara: tiny body of work, but something you shouldn't be without. (

Recommended first album:

Union for folk lovers. The Woman's Boat for rock lovers. (JoAnn Whetsell)


  • Union (1988)
  • House of Hope (1991)
  • The Woman's Boat (1994)
  • The Very Best of Toni Childs (compilation, 1998)
  • The Ultimate Collection (compilation, 2000)
  • "Because You're Beautiful" (single, available via iTunes, 2003)
  • Keep The Faith (2007, available via artist)
  • It's All a Beautiful Noise (2015, available via artist)


Release info:

1988—A&M (U.S.)—SP 6-5175



Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Toni Childs—vocals, guitar, bass

Guest artists:

David Ricketts—bass, guitar, keyboards, drum programs
Rick Marotta—drums
Jeff Martin—keyboards
Alex Weird—guitar
Alex Acuna—percussion
Hans Christian—cello
Dan Huff—guitar
Steve Hogarth—keyboards George Lee—sax, percussion
Paul Hanson—bassoon
David Rhodes—guitar
Gary Barlough—synthesizers, synclavier programs
Gary Barnacle, Peter Thoms, John Thirkell—The Phantom Horns
Crystal Wilson, Penni Wilson, Rene Geyer, Sibane Semaswati Singers (Bhunya, Swaziland: Salamba Dlamin, Titus Macusa, Sipho Hlatshwako, Leonard Khumalo, Richard Mabuza, Job Masilela, Samuel Mbuyisa, Elliot Nhcabatsi, France Mntshali, Jabulane Ngwenya), New Generation (Zambia: Frank Chitembwe, Justin Ndhlovu, Andrew Zulu, Eddie Yumba)—backing vocals

Produced by:

David Tickle


This first album has the incredible song "Don't Walk Away", as well as "Walk and Talk Like Angels". (

Union still blows my socks off. (

Union has this very eclectic feel. Rock/pop/folk mixed with African instruments and background vocalists. The music is original and fresh, and uncluttered even though there's a lot of stuff going on. I think it's brilliant. (JoAnn Whetsell)

By all means, track down Union, which has some stunning stuff on it, and is even more steeped in world music than the other two (this, from someone who doesn't care for world music!). (

House of Hope

Release info:

1991—A&M—75021 5358 2



Ecto priority:


Group members:

Toni Childs

Guest artists:

Reginald Burrell—background vocals
Vinnie Colaiuta—drums
Luis Conte—percussion
Scott Crago—drums
Teresa DeLucio—background vocals
Denny Fongheiser—drums
David Hidalgo—guitar, accordion
Barbara Imhoff—harp
Jim Keltner—percussion
Brent Lewis—percussion
Rick Marotta—drums
Jeff Martin—keyboards
Jill Mele—background vocals
Tim Pierce—guitar
David Rhodes—guitar
David Ricketts—bass, guitar, keyboards, drum programs
Chas Sandford—guitar
Andy Summers—guitar
John Philip Shenale—keyboard programming
Unity Horns (Will Donato, Tony Guerrero, Tim Moynahan)—horns
Jerry Watts—bass
Crystal Wilson—background vocals
Penni Wilson—background vocals

Produced by:

David Ricketts, Toni Childs, Gavin MacKillop


House of Hope was rather overlooked, but still excellent. It lacks some of the more ethnic influences, and almost all the songs discuss love and abuse—family, spousal, what have you. (

Toni definitely would enter my honourable mentions list of favourite artists if I had more albums this good by her. Powerful stuff! (

This album never distinguished itself for me. Some good songs; no stand-outs. (JoAnn Whetsell)

The Woman's Boat

Release info:

1994—Geffen Records (U.S.)—DGCD 24618



Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Toni Childs—vocals, synth

Guest artists:

Ron Aslan—programming
Trey Gunn—stick
Robert Fripp—guitar, Frippertronics
Martin Tillman—cello
Sundar—clay pot, mridangam, tavil, moorsing
Lee Harris—percussion
Sabine Kabongo, Silvi Nawasadio, Sally Nyolo (Zap Mama)—voices
Jules Brooks—programming
Nitya Mohan—tamboura
Pape Dieng—drums, voice
Jimmy Smyth—guitar, bass, synth, piano
David Rhodes—guitar
Nemo Jones—guitar
Pandit Dinesh—tabla, voice
Carol Rowley, Jenny Newman—voices
Ron Reeves—didgeridoo
Ustad Sultan Khan—sarangi
Ayub Ogada—voice, nyatti
Mark Mondessir—drums
Kurt Wallinger—synth
Peter Gabriel—voice
Peter McKinney—drums
Annie Waterhouse, Kirsty Allen, Sylvia Franklin, Nusrat Fatah Ali Khan, Ben Findlay, David Bottrill—assorted voices
Kate St. John—cor anglais
Caroline Dale—cello

Produced by:

David Bottrill & Toni Childs


A great album but too nerve-wracking to listen to it as a whole. (Dirk.Kastens@rz.Uni-Osnabrueck.DE)

The album really fits together, and is much more complex than either of her previous two. Recorded partially in India, using some of the Zap Mama singers as background singers (as well as Peter Gabriel on one track), she incorporates all kinds of different ethnic influences that result in a style uniquely her own (unlike Union which tended to sound quite similar to some of Paul Simon's African-influenced work). The emotions range from subtle, quiet moments of tenderness and hope, to loud, abrasive moments of rage and fear. She also incorporates noises like alarm clocks ticking, sirens wailing, babies crying, heartbeats, children singing nursery rhymes, etc.
     The opening and ending tracks "Womb" and "Death", tie the album together, making it work thematically as a whole. I think my favorite track is "Welcome to the World"—about the birth of this "new daughter". It talks about the good and the bad in the world, offering hope, but recognizing the problems, and the acceptance that all the emotions together make the world the beautiful place it is.
     So check it out. It's a pretty powerful album. (

As far as I can tell, this has been universally panned in the press, but I still thought it was an amazing album, and very powerful. It's sort of a concept album of a woman's journey from birth to death. So beautiful. (neal)

Dash out *now* and pick up The Woman's Boat. It's a brilliant concept album that follows the course of a woman's life, from the womb to the grave. Sort of like Skylarking by XTC, only COMPLETELY different. And Peter Gabriel's influence is all over it.... (

This is a really powerful album, one that I don't listen to that often (probably because it requires an intensity, giving to it as well as receiving, and it's better to listen to the whole thing). It's most rewarding that way. I think it is really an achievement—unique, poignant. Highly recommended. (JoAnn Whetsell)

When I first heard a cut off of this album, I was completely blown away. I think it was on WXPN in Philly, and they actually played a couple of cuts. Maybe it was the Featured Album or they played it during the Woman's Music Hour?
     Anyhow, I was very much entranced. I had heard Toni before, but never this forceful, never this powerful. When I bought the album and played it, my heart cried out. I'm not a woman, so I can't say this for certain, but her music seemed to give me a glimpse at a woman's life: the highs and lows, the anguish and the soaring joys, all wrapped up into one album. I had never had such a sense of someone's life journey delivered to me that way, and I haven't since.
     Each one of us is entitled to their own opinion, of course, but I would have to disagree with Dirk's: listen to this album from start to finish, and experience it! (

Greatest Hits

Release info:





Really? She has one out? I mean, I adore the woman, Union still blows my socks off, but...I dunno. Doesn't seem "appropriate", if you know what I mean. (

Australia? It was released here, probably around a year ago or so, and at the time I posted that it was kind of weird because she'd only had 3 albums out and the "best of" only contained songs from the first 2 albums "Union" and "House of Hope", plus her cover of the old song "Many Rivers to Cross".
     But wait, there's more. A few months ago a bank used "Many Rivers to Cross" as part of their new campaign. Now get this: the album is now #1 on the charts here, based I think pretty much on the fact that "Many Rivers to Cross" wasn't available on any other album and it was used in the ad. I mean, not that it's not a great song—I've loved her version ever since it was first released as a single, years and years ago. But still, a little bizarre, no? (Sherlyn.Koo)

I was in the record store the other day and I saw they had a 2 disc Toni Childs greatest hits set. That has to conceptually be one of the strangest ideas I've heard of. Far as I know, she's only got 3 discs, and hasn't contributed to lots of soundtracks and samplers. Plus, the 3rd disc (The Woman's Boat) is thematic and shouldn't be cut up. Course, a quick glance looked like it might have been all of The Woman's Boat with half of Union and House of Hope. (neal)

Further info:

A live version of "I Met a Man" appears on the Putumayo compilation Women's Work. "House of Hope" appears on both the One World compilation and the Thelma and Louise soundtrack. She also appears on: Global Grooves (Lay Down Your Pain); Women of the World: International (Zimbabwe); Night Moves Vol. 4 (Walk and Talk Like Angels) and Rock-a-Bye Baby: Soft Hits for Little Dreamers.

Toni Childs has a non-profit organization, Dream a Dolphin.

Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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