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Q-music: pushing boundaries

by Gregg Shapiro

Q-music: pushing boundaries

The Red Hot Organization, "a not-for-profit dedicated to fighting AIDS through pop culture," has been releasing essential various artists music compilations for more than 30 years, beginning with /Red Hot + Blue. Over the years, Red Hot has focused on a multitude of genres including classical, indie rock, country, dance, rock en Español, alternative, Brazilian, jazz and more.

The double album Red Hot + Free, Red Hot's first full-length release in five years, returns listeners and supporters to the dance-floor with 18 roof-raising club-bangers. Known for its history of thought-provoking pairings, Red Hot doesn't disappoint with inspired collaborations by Sofi Tukker and Amadou & Mariam ("Mon Cheri") and Louis The Child and Foster The People ("Every Color"), among others.

More importantly, Red Hot + Free features an impressive array of queer artists including Billy Porter ("Caught In The Middle"), Cakes da Killa ("Don Dada"), Casey Spooner ("I Love My Problems"), Tituss Burgess ("Dance M.F."), Bright Light Bright Light ("These Dreams"), and Sam Sparro ("Pressure"). www.redhot.org|

Gay and hot Nashville by way of Chicago singer/songwriter Mike Maimone, whom some may remember from the band Mutts, continues on his solo recording career path with the exceptional Broke, Not Broken (8eat8). The follow-up to 2020's pandemic-produced isolation: 001 and the stunning covers record Borrowed Tunes, vol. 1, the album features new vocals and new mixes of some songs that appeared on Mainmone's The High Hat Club EP from 2019.

Sensational album opener "Work" deserves to be a hit, making Maimone a rich man. "F.M.L." (aka "Fuck My Life") and "Garbougie" have what Maimone describes as "NOLA-inspired instrumentation," and we couldn't have said it better ourselves. He's at his most Tom Waits-ian on the dazzling ache of "Through The Changes," while his piano mastery shines through on "Clear Black Night" and "Long Way Down." www.mikemaimone.com

You could say that the next two albums are stretching the queer playlist boundaries, but for good reasons. The first is Dreaming of You (1971-1976) by the late actress Karen Black. A longtime outspoken supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, Oscar-nominee Black originated the role of the trans character Joanne in Robert Altman's Broadway production of Come Back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, a part she also performed in Altman's 1982 film adaptation alongside Cher.

Black and Altman previously worked together on the director's 1975 masterpiece Nashville, in which the actor portrayed country singer Connie White. Black wrote the songs "Memphis" and "Rolling Stone," which she performed in the movie.

Compiled and co-produced by indie singer/songwriter Cass McCombs, Dreaming of You features Black performing 15 originals and two covers (including The Moody Blues' "Question"). Unreleased until now, the songs provide a fresh perspective on Black's talent as a musical artist and, while they have the feel of a time capsule, they deserve to be heard, especially the title cut, "It All Turned Out The Way I Planned It," "Babe Oh Babe," "Thank God You're Mine" and "I Wish I Knew The Man I Thought You Were." Anthology Recordings

Another boundary-stretching album is by Jason Narducy, another valued ally and LGBTQ+ supporter. Fans of gay modern rock legend Bob Mould may recognize Narducy as both a member of Mould's touring band (since 2005) and recording band (since 2012). He even sang a duet with lesbian jazz artist Patricia Barber on her 1999 Companion album.

Narducy's own band Split Single returns with its third full-length, Amplificado . You can hear the influence of Mould (who also worked with Narducy and Alison Chesley when they recorded as Verbow) immediately on songs such as "Blood Break Ground," "Stone Heart World," "Mangled Tusk," and "Worry," which is intended as a compliment. The gorgeous "Adrift" and the power pop of "Bitten By The Sound" are two knockout tracks. www.splitsinglemusic.com

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