Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Queer at year's end


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With the year coming to an end, time to get caught up on more discs released by LGBT artists in recent months. From folk to rock to pop to choral to movie soundtracks and beyond, the variety is substantial.

Leading the pack is community icon and hero Melissa Etheridge. Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled (Island) brackets a dozen of her best-known songs with five new essential recordings. Among the tunes is a pair of superb covers of Tom Petty's "Refugee" and the Janis Joplin classic "Piece of My Heart." But the three originals make this compilation a must-have. "Christmas in America" is a powerful addition to the growing canon of holiday music by and for queer people. The deeply personal "This Is Not Goodbye" is a first rate tearjerker addressing Etheridge's cancer battle, and the anthemic "I Run for Life" serves as an inspiration in the race to find a cure for breast cancer.

On La Guitara: Gender Bending Strings (Vanguard), an instrumental compilation co-assembled by out singer/songwriter Patty Larkin, a number of outstanding queer female guitarists can be found strumming their stuff. In addition to Larkin ("Bound Brook"), the disc also contains contributions by Sharon Isbin ("La Catedral: Allegro solemne"), Mimi Fox ("Lady Byrd") and Kaki King ("Kewpie Station"). The disc also includes selection by non-queer artists including Rory Block, Badi Assad, Memphis Minnie and Muriel Anderson.

More men are making their voices heard in the LGBT singer/songwriter scene. Stark (Emote) is Gregory Douglass's fifth album. Douglass, who plays guitar and piano, cites Patty Griffin, Tori Amos, Jeff Buckley, Ani Difranco and Joni Mitchell as influences, and you can hear them all coming through in various places on Stark . Douglass has a gift for crafting catchy and mature pop songs. Spencer Day's five-song EP Movie of Your Life (Yonasty) is sure to appeal to fans of Jamie Cullum and Michael Buble. It has a smoky piano-bar quality, with cabaret and jazz vocal influences. But more than that, it displays Day's exceptional vocal abilities and talents as a songwriter.

Among lesbian singer/songwriters, there is a vast assortment of styles and themes. Take activist and folk singer Sandy Rapp. Her new CD Still Marchin' ( is a collection of protest and pride songs with powerful political messages. Adrianne, winner of the 2005 Outmusic Award for Outstanding New Recording-Female, has wasted no time in following up her acclaimed 10,000 Stones disc with Down to This: A Collection of Acoustic Recordings (Kufala).

On his second full-length studio album, Brian Lane Green veers away from the contemporary standards of his 1996 debut, and performs 10 of his own songs. Personal and revelatory, Green's musical biography Waiting for the Glaciers To Melt (LML) introduces listeners to another aspect of this respected artist. Grounded in the music of his Tennessee homeland, his songs have an undeniable authenticity that makes them unique and universal at the same time. Atlanta-based Lucas Mire is another welcome voice on the queer male singer/songwriter circuit. Incorporating electronic and acoustic instrumentation, Forever's Not as Long as it Used To Be (Zakz) is a pleasure from start to finish.

Bedroom sounds

A few years ago, I was introduced to the instrumental compositions of Butt Boy, whose recordings were intended to be a soundtrack for the bedroom. The "erotic soundscapes to set the scene" on Barre Parts by Tony Barre ( function in a similar way. Song titles such as "Enjoy the Ride" and "Stiff Proposition" go a long way in setting the tone. If you prefer to dance vertically, this disc may meet your needs.

By the time I started to go out dancing at gay clubs, Carl Bean's "I Was Born This Way" had come and gone. Still it remains an essential track not only in the history of disco, but also in the canon of queer-themed music. Newly reissued as a CD single with six mixes, I Was Born This Way (West End) deserves to be heard by all generations of the LGBT community.

If you were unable to catch either of the gay-oriented films Mysterious Skin or Heights when they played in movie theaters earlier this year, they are both newly out on DVD. After seeing the films you may find yourself compelled to pick up the soundtracks. Mysterious Skin: Music from the Film (Commotion), composed and performed by Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd (of Cocteau Twins fame), captures both the haunting and ethereal qualities of the film. Most of the music on Heights: Soundtrack (Silver Label/Tommy Boy) was composed and performed by Martin Erskine and Ben Butler, and fits the dramatic nature of the piece. Additionally, there are selections by performers including Wax Poetic featuring Norah Jones, Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos, Underworld and the late Jeff Buckley.

One of the gayest musicals to ever grace the Broadway stage, Rent featured gay characters and cast members alike. Following in the tradition of Chicago and The Phantom of the Opera, a film version of Rent is hitting the big screen. Rent: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Warner Brothers), featuring openly gay actor Anthony Rapp as Mark, contains new renditions of all the songs you know from the show.

Stephen Sondheim has had his share of musicals turned into films. But he probably remains best-known for his stage musicals. Sondheim Sings: Volume II/1946-60 (PS Classics) has arrived swiftly on the heels of the first volume released earlier this year. Covering a broader period of time and going farther back in time, this illuminating collection of digitally remastered demos provides another fascinating perspective on the master of the contemporary American stage musical. A Star Is Born from 1954 is particularly notable for the line "everyone in Hollywood's gay."

With a book by gay writer and filmmaker Craig Lucas, The Light in the Piazza: The Original Broadway Cast Recording (Nonesuch) features Victoria Clark, winner of the 2005 Tony Award for Best Actress for her role as overprotective mother Margaret. Longtime friend of the community, honorary queer Whoopi Goldberg returned to the Broadway stage in 2004 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the show that catapulted her to stardom. Whoopi: The 20th Anniversary Show (DRG) revives Goldberg's characters Fontaine and Luraleen, and provides the actress a chance to comment on the political climate, including the tragic rise of homophobia.

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