Popular music reviews

Saturday, June 27, 2015

QMusic: Stages and Screens in 2015

Lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s universally lauded graphic novel Fun Home might not seem like the most ideal candidate for a Broadway musical. The autobiographical story of Bechdel’s coming out in college, her childhood growing up in her family’s funeral home (hence the title Fun Home), and her complex relationships with her parents, particularly her bisexual father Bruce who committed suicide, is an emotional roller-coaster. But leave it to Jeanine Tesori, who co-wrote new songs for the Broadway musical Thoroughly Modern Millie and collaborated with Tony Kushner on Caroline, Or Change, to bring it to fruition, with lesbian book writer and lyricist Lisa Kron. Fun Home: A New Broadway Musical (PS Classics), the original cast recording of the multiple 2015 Tony Award-nominated show, features Tony-winning actor Michael Cerveris as Bruce, Tony-nominee Judy Kuhn as Alison’s mother Helen, and three actresses as the lead character, identified as Small Alison (Sydney Lucas), Medium Alison (Emily Skeggs), and Alison (Beth Malone). To the credit of all involved, Fun Home maintains the humor and tragedy of the book, honoring the original material and brilliantly expanding the audience for both the book and the show.

Friday, June 12, 2015

QMusic: Dusty’s Dynasty

There are many albums in the annals of recorded music that have been shelved, never to be released. Whatever the reasons, artistic or creative or financial, some of these recordings eventually make it to the marketplace, either as bonus material on expanded reissues of other releases or are ultimately issued on their own. Faithful (Real Gone Music / Atlantic) by lesbian pop music icon Dusty Springfield arrives as the latter. Originally intended to be Dusty’s third album for Atlantic, following the amazing Dusty in Memphis and Brand New Me. Produced by Jeff Barry, who also contributed a few songs, the long-awaited release of the complete Faithful consists of 13 tracks, including the bonus cut “Nothing is Forever,” as well as the singles “Haunted” and “I Believe in You.” The disc also New Wave Singersincludes Springfield’s takes on classics such as Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend” and Bread’s “Make It With You.”

The New Wave Singers of Baltimore, under the direction of Adam P. Koch, will present its spring concert “Our American Songbook” on Saturday and Sunday, June 6 and 7. The chorus will perform a variety of pieces reflective of U.S. history, music, and culture, ranging from the traditional songs “Shenandoah,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to more modern works including Ysaye M. Barnwell’s “Wanting Memories” and Joseph Martin’s “The Awakening.”

Friday, May 15, 2015

Female Fronted

Every few years a band releases an album that takes longer than expected to catch on with listeners. No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom, from 1995, is a good example. Talking Dreams (WB), the 80s-influenced debut disc by sibling act Echosmith, is another one. Powered by the inescapable hit single “Cool Kids,” Echosmith, and Talking Dreams were climbing the charts nearly a year after the record was released. As it turns out, this kind of delayed reaction can be a good thing as the band now has a big tour planned for 2015. Keeping it in the family, Echosmith (sibs Sydney, Graham, Noah, and Jamie Sierota) co-wrote all off the songs on the album with their father Jeffery David, a producer and songwriter. In addition to the hot “Cool Kids,” other standout tunes include “Let’s Love,” “March Into The Sun,” “Come With Me,” “Tell Her You Love Her,” and “Nothing’s Wrong.”

Friday, April 17, 2015

Madonna and On and On and On

Madonna’s Rebel Heart (Maverick / Live Nation / Interscope) is her best and most accomplished album since Ray of Light. The deluxe edition, which contains 19 (!) tracks, finds the almost immaterial girl (see MDNA and Hard Candy) on the road to redemption. For instance, there’s a lot of Catholic symbolism and references (oy, the Kabbalah community must be wiping the shvitz from their foreheads now that the meshuggeh shiksa has gone back to her roots) on the album, particularly in songs such as “Devil Pray,” “Illuminati,” “Inside Out,” “Messiah,” and the sexually explicit “Holy Water.” The best tracks, including the non-denominational gospel fervor of “Living for Love,” the simplistic but enjoyable “Hold Tight,” the sensitive and personal “Joan of Arc” and “HeartBreakCity,” the wordplay of “Body Shop,” the almost comically self-referential “Veni Vidi Vici,” and the acoustic/electro title cut, all qualify as an artistic comeback. However, Madonna’s overuse of “bitch” on “Unapologetic Bitch” and “Bitch I’m Madonna” (two song titles, really?) are detractors.

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