Music reviews

Friday, June 23, 2017

Open to Interpretation

Croatian string duo Two Cellos first came to our attention with its rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” Since making its major-label debut in 2011, the pair has applied the classical crossover shtick to songs by Nine Inch Nails, U2, Sting, Nirvana, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Kings of Leon, AC/DC, Coldplay, Radiohead, Muse, and even the Magnetic Fields, to name a few. On Score (Portrait), Two Cellos turns its attention to the music of the silver screen, and the work of legendary film composers such as Henry Mancini (“Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s), Ennio Morricone (“Cinema Paradiso”), Francis Lai (“Love Story”), Nino Rota (“Love Theme” from The Godfather), James Horner (“My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic), John Williams (“Main Theme” from Schindler’s List), and Vangelis (“Titles” from Chariots of Fire), among others, with a pleasing albeit safe outcome.

Here’s why Hello, Dolly!: The New Broadway Cast Recording (Masterworks Broadway) is one of the gayest things you’re likely to hear this year. Hello, Dolly! is a musical based on the play The Matchmaker, written by Thornton Wilder, a gay man. The musical comedy Hello, Dolly! features music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, a gay man, and a book by Michael Stewart, also a gay man. The 2017 revival stars the Tony-nominated Bette Midler in the lead role. Midler is a singer and actress who first achieved great acclaim for her performances at gay NYC bathhouse, the Continental Baths, and has long acknowledged and vocally supported her LGBTQ fan-base. Cast members David Hyde Pierce and Gavin Creel are also openly gay. Even the subject matter, about a slightly audacious meddler with ulterior motives who “arranges things,” has a gay glow to it. Midler shines as Dolly Levi. As you can hear, she sings in character (with a nod here and there to the original Dolly, Carol Channing) and fully embodies the role in songs such as “Before The Parade Passes By,” “So Long Dearie” and “Dancing.” Pierce even gets a solo, “Penny In My Pocket,” which was restored for the production.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Cover to Cover

There is a lot to love about What in the Natural World (Paradise of Bachelors) by Jake Xerxes Fussell. To begin with, the artwork on the cover and inside the gatefold CD is by the late artist Roger Brown. The two pieces – “Hunters Hunting an Autumnal Tapestry” and “A Seasonal Change” – are not only lovely to behold, but also complementary to the music within. Fussel drenches the eight songs, ranging from traditionals to obscure covers of tunes by Duke Ellington and others, and even one original, with his Southern syrup voice. An intimate and stripped down, yet rich and colorful album, Fussell gets things started with Ellington’s joyful “Jump for Joy,” in which he asks if we’ve seen “pastures groovy.” More questions follow on the traditional “Have You Ever Seen Peaches Growing on a Sweet Potato Vine?” Fussell sets Welsh poet Idris Davies’ “Bells of Rhymney” to music and brings us to tears on “Furniture Man.” “Billy Button” and “Love Bonnie” are also not to be missed.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Dance Like You’re Straight

Let’s face it queer folks, dance music was never our exclusive domain. Attend an electronic dance music festival or concert and you’re likely to see as many straight people as you’d see at the Vans Warped Tour. Our straight brothers and sisters are not only dancing to it in growing numbers, they’re making it, as well.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Early 21st-Century Men

Kudos to Swedish singer/songwriter Jens Lekman. His new album, Life Will See You Now (Secretly Canadian), has some of the most irresistible (if zany) dance tracks you are likely to hear this season. “Evening Prayer,” about Babak, his tumor, and a 3D printer, may be the most bizarre tea-dance sensation you’ve ever heard. The island rhythms of “What’s that Perfume You Wear?” is sure to activate more than a few of the listener’s senses. The joyful “Wedding on Finistére” goes for an 80s-style Council beat and energy, while the persuasive funk and “Cambrian explosion” of “How We Met, The Long Version” divides its time between your hips and your feet. Lekman also deserves praise for including the masterful juxtaposition of a song about one male friend’s love for another (“How Can I Tell Him”) and a song about a Mormon missionary (“To Know Your Mission”). The Tracy Thorne duet on “Hotwire the Ferris Wheel” is the icing on the delicious cake.


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