Where the gay boys are
by Gregg Shapiro
As loathsome as it is, American Idol can be commended for introducing us to talented finalists Jennifer Hudson and Adam Lambert. Playlist: The Very Best of Adam Lambert (19/RCA/Legacy) compiles 14 significant tracks from the openly gay Lambert's career so far. The first three are previously unreleased American Idol performances, including Lambert's stellar reading of Tears for Fears' "Mad World." There are also a couple of soundtrack selections, from 2012 and Glee , as well as cuts from his studio albums For Your Entertainment and Trespassing . As these kinds of compilations go, this Playlist does a good job of providing a career overview, while also offering necessary material to completists.
Long before there was Adam Lambert, there was Patrick Cowley. Cowley, who died of AIDS complications in 1982 (the year Lambert was born), like Giorgio Moroder, was one of the true godfathers of disco (see Sylvester). His own recordings, pioneering works in electronic dance music, influence everything and everyone you dance to today. Cowley was a versatile musician, and School Daze (Dark Entries), 10 tracks of the music he composed for gay porn flicks, attests to that.
For Why Do the Heathen Rage? (Thrill Jockey), his latest album under the Soft Pink Truth moniker, Drew Daniel of Matmos moves in an unnerving direction. Still incorporating electronics but far removed from its house-music origins, the Soft Pink Truth goes down a hole of industrial death metal. Replacing the messages of doom with those of a more homoerotic nature on songs such as "Sadomasochistic Rites," "Ready To Fuck" and "Grim and Frostbitten Gay Bar," SPT effectively claims a queer perspective in much the same way that Rob Halford of Judas Priest did when he came out as gay.
Talk about a long gay history in music! Rick Berlin is now in his fifth decade as a recording artist, previously affiliated with Orchestra Luna, Berlin Airlift and others, as well as being a prolific solo artist. Berlin has teamed up with the Nickel & Dime Band before, and has done so again for When We Were Kids (Teenage Heart). It's a good combo for all involved, especially on songs "Irish Goodbye" (with guest vocals by Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes), "Daddy's Got a Girlfriend," "Something Breaks My Heart," "X-Wife from a Past Life," and the title track (with guest vocals by Gary Cherone of Extreme).
Wait (tomgossmusic.com) by Tom Goss doesn't contain "Bears," the gay singer/songwriter's popular 2013 dance anthem collaboration with Richard Morel of Blowoff fame. But it does have some of Goss' most irresistible tunes, including "It Only Takes One," "I Think I," the gorgeous "In Time," "Breath and Sound" (featuring Matt Alber) and "Illuminate the Dark."
Julian Fleisher, the son of legendary classical pianist Leon Fleisher, has released one of the coolest cabaret albums in recent memory. What makes Finally (Modern) special is the way Fleisher has combined original compositions, including standouts "Leaving the Leaving (to You)" and "All They Need To Know," with unexpected cover tunes. For example, Fleisher's reading of "When We Grow Up" (from Free To Be – You and Me ) is sure to produce smiles on the faces of all who hear it. Equally delightful is his rendition of Carly Simon's "The Girl You Think You See."
Gay jazz: those are two words you don't see together very often. But increasingly, there are more out jazz artists, including Terri Lyne Carrington, Andy Bey, Lea DeLaria, Gary Burton, and of course, Fred Hersch. We should be grateful to have a performer and composer as gifted as Hersch, known for his musical tributes to other gay folks (Billy Strayhorn and Walt Whitman). Floating (Palmetto), the latest album by the Fred Hersch Trio (John Hebert on bass, Eric McPherson on drums), features three covers, including a poignant version of Lerner and Lowe's "If Ever I Would Leave You," and originals such as "West Virginia Rose," "Far Away" and "Autumn Haze."
Also out there (emphasis on out) are Chasing Down the Bedlam (Aural Fix) by gay rocker Corey Tut, the experimental and challenging Just Your Typical Gay Teen Newlyweds (markyandricky.com) by real-life couple Marky & Ricky, Stepping Out (Naïve) by gay crooner Anthony Strong, the soulful four-song EP We Need To Be Loved (anthonystarble.com) by Anthony Starble, and Lonesome Leash's exceptional five-song EP One Foot in Front of the Other (lonesomeleash.com).