** Certainly, Sir @ Empty Bottle ( 773-276-3600 ) June 27
** The Gossip @ Empty Bottle ( 773-276-3600 ) July 3
** The Nancys @ Seattle's Best Coffee/Wells St. ( 773-551-0018 ) July 18
Maybe I'm still high on the fumes from the June first 2003 OutMusic Awards ceremony in New York, but I'd swear that the quality
of music being made and recorded by queer artists is simply sensational, often surpassing the work of their straight contemporaries.
I'm so proud to be queer, I could just scream.
What would LGBT Pride month be without dance music? Party Groove-Pride 03 ( Centaur ) is the latest in the dance label's
longstanding series of 'pride'-themed dance compilations mixed by legendary club DJ Julian Marsh. With a selection as colorful as
the cover art, Marsh has programmed a continuous mix of songs of pride and joy, many of which are dance remakes of classic pop
tunes. Opening with a cover of Gladys Knight & The Pips' 'You're The Best Thing' by Sleazesisters featuring Cie doing their best,
Marsh continues this new retro collection with The Bee Gees' 'Tragedy' stepped up by Steps, T-Zone's spin on The Four Tops'
'Reach Out,' openly gay Happy Charles's rendition of Jackie DeShannon's 'Put A Little Love In Your Heart,' Flip & Fill featuring Jo
James doing what they can to fill Whitney Houston's shoes on 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody,' Kelly Wilde's embrace of the
popular 'Loving Arms,' a new ring on the oft-covered 'I Think We're Alone Now' by Belle Lawrence and Kate Project's interpretation
of Cyndi Lauper's timeless 'Time After Time.'
Omnisexual, plus-sized, blues-belting diva Candye Kane's cover of Willie Dixon's 'Whole Lotta Love,' from her new album Whole
Lotta Love ( Ruf ) , is a perfect example of the magic that occurs when a performer leaves the original genders of the song in tact. Kane
bends the cock-rock of Robert Plant's Led Zepplin version into a multi-orgasmic treat. The fact that she follows that with a cover of
Squeeze's 'When The Hangover Strikes' says something about her ample sense of humor. Other kick-ass covers include Kane's
distinctive readings of the Etta James number 'Something's Got A Hold On Me' and Carole King's 'Wrap Around Joy.' Kane originals
such as 'I've Got A Secret,' 'I'm Just A Sucker Who Believes In Love,' and 'I'm Not Getting Older,' are crowd-pleasers one and all.
Music journalist and composer Will Grega won a 2003 OutMusic Award in the Outstanding New Recording-Instrumental category
for his album Stereotonic ( Pop Front Music ) . Subtitled A New Lounge Mix of Urban Exotica, the album was co-produced by Grega and
his life-partner ex-Village People Cowboy Randy Jones. 'Showdown' sounds like Ennio Morricone gone gay, while the drum'n'bass
tune 'Dr. Galaxy From 3000 A.D.' is rave-ready. 'Time For Passion' is a passionate dance track and Grega exhibits his flair for the
exotic on tracks such as 'Shambhala,' 'Nights in Instanbul,' and 'Sorceress.'
On their second full-length disc Movement ( Kill Rock Stars ) , The Gossip fulfills the extraordinary promise of their debut and follow-
up EP. The appropriately titled disc is all about moving and sounds like a dare to sit still. Starting slowly, with the sticky bump and
grind of the musical ghost story 'Nite,' lead vocalist Beth Ditto belts the line 'It seems like lonely is a friend of mine' with such
conviction that you'll simply want to comfort her. But fear not, she's up and running by the next track, the thick punk garage beat of
'Jasons Basement.' Ditto and band-mates Kathy and Nathan keep the coals under our feet hot on 'No, No, No,' 'Don't ( Make
Waves ) ,' 'Fire/Sign,' 'Confess,' and 'Lesson Learned,' all with a sexy same-sex style.
Chris Freeman, of Pansy Division, produced Never Forget ( Agitprop/Spitshine ) , the debut disc by Southern California-based
queer quartet IAMLOVED. Lead vocalist Jimmy Jasmine has a Bob Mould quality to his voice and the songs rock like vintage Husker
Du. 'He Has A Hole,' is a melodic metaphor for being 'out,' with the lines 'He has a hole in his pocket, tonight/everything he puts in/
falls out falls out out out/but this is OK/and all his friends and family knows that he's gay.' 'Breaking Up ( Is Easy To Do ) ' is one of the
most honest gay break-up songs I've ever heard, the improvised spoken word 'Foot Transportation' is about escape from unpleasant
scenes, and the title track addresses the shame, pain and innocence of a closeted childhood.
Gay male performer Deian McBryde's alter ego Mabel Dawn Davis makes her recording debut on Peel Me A Grape ( EvAn
Media ) , a torchy collection of standards, including 'My Funny Valentine,' 'Lush Life,' and 'Strange Fruit.' 'Girls & Ladies' is a medley
that includes the first down-tempo version of 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' that I have heard, and Davis's interpretation is surprisingly
effective. Davis also inhabits Vonda Shepard's 'Every Now and Then,' and puts swing and sway into McBryde's jazzy '246.'
Openly gay Tony Award-winning ( Hairspray ) composer Marc Shaiman composed the retro score for the Doris Day/Rock Hudson
homage Down With Love, starring Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture Down With
Love ( Reprise/WMG Soundtracks ) includes Shaiman's recreations of the vintage movie music of the period. Shaiman's skills come to
the fore on the duet 'Here's To Love,' performed by Zellweger and McGregor, which sounds as much of the time ( the early '60s ) as
the period material ( performed by Sinatra and Basie, Astrud Gilberto and Xavier Cugat ) .
After Sophie B. Hawkins released her third album, Timbre, on Columbia, she was so disappointed by the way the label promoted
it that she purchased it back from them and re-released it on her own label with Rykodisc. There was obviously no love lost as The
Best of Sophie B. Hawkins ( Columbia/Legacy ) is basically a baker's dozen tracks from her two previous Columbia albums Tongues
And Tails ( which contained her debut hit 'Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover' ) and Whaler ( with the chart-topping 'As I Lay Me Down' )
and one remix.
Sometimes anger can be a useful time. A pissed-off Laura Love channels that furious energy into her powerful new album
Welcome To Pagan Place ( Koch ) . Justifiably dissatisfied with the state of the world, the musician and new foster mother tackles
corporate greed and poorly performing public schools in 'Trickle Down,' bad presidents and war machinery in 'I Want You Gone,'
and the Steve Miller/Beatles medley 'Fly Like An Eagle/Come Together' takes on a whole new meaning in Love's version. Love also
demonstrates that she hasn't completely lost her sense of humor as we can hear in the play on words in 'Can I Get A Wet Nurse?'
Prospect Park ( Badman ) by queer 'British folk balladeer,' James William Hindle is a stunning acoustic effort, reminiscent of Badly
Drawn Boy, which renews one's belief in the power of pleasant pop. 'Come Down Slowly,' with the lines 'See how you can come
down slowly/See how you can come back round/See how you can come down slowly/That's if you get to come at all,' sounds like a
folksy take on circuit party boys. Equally dazzling are the songs 'Leaving Trains' ( which features a xylophone ) , the gentle bounce of
'Hoboken,' the warm and sunny 'The Great Woodland Summer,' the slight twang of 'Celebration,' and the city folk of 'Park Slope
Stompin' Ground ( Daemon/SBS ) is a Cajun-spiced set of originals, 'a deep southern pocket with a 50-watt socket,' by Moanin'
Michelle Malone and the Low-Down Georgia Revue. Malone moves away from the more pop-oriented tunes of her last few studio
discs and sings like she's been biting the heads off of crawfish for fun on 'Lafayette,' which sounds like a lost Little Feat tune. On the
fast-shuffling same-sex girl-reunion tune '2 Horn and 2 Wings' sings about a 'pretty little blue-eyed angel.' The powerful 'Flagpole' is
one of the most political tunes Malone has written and the B3 organ on 'Cypress Inn,' played by Carol Isaacs, nicely complements
Malone's vocals. Other standouts include 'Preacher's Daughter,' 'Samsonite,' 'Camera,' and 'True.'
In terms of 'spice,' The Nancys know it is the variety of life and their debut disc Drag Machine ( Starbelly Studios/Red Room ) ,
reflects that notion. The Nancys rock out on 'Lament' and then in synthetic beats that recall recent Bob Mould on 'Within.' They plug it
in for the Gary Numan meets electroclash of 'Instant Burning' and they do something different on the complex and fascinating 'This
Exit.' 'Mad' and 'Away From Me' are like before and after photographs of love. As an added bonus, see if you can find all of the 'drag
machines' in the CD booklet.
vOn 'Pretty Face,' the opening track to his second full-length album Gasping For Breath ( Gutter Folk ) , Utah-based, openly queer
singer/songwriter Kevin Allred's guitar playing reminds me of Melissa Ferrick. Allred doesn't mince words, as you can hear on 'Eyes
Of Zapata' ( in which he declares, 'my body is a revolution' ) , the synthetic beats of 'This Is Not My Home' ( which sounds like an open
letter to Utah ) , the gorgeous break-up song '500 Times,' the Matthew Shepard tribute 'Maybe An Angel,' the gay love song 'I'm Your
Man,' and the disc's centerpiece, the poem 'Any But Our Own Eyes.'
I'm always frustrated by EPs. I can understand an artist's desire to record something and get it into the hands of reviewers and
fans, but I always feel cheated. Four songs, especially the four on Black Box EP ( 3 Frames Music ) by Jann Klose, feels more like a
tease than a treat. I hope when Klose releases a full-length disc, the other songs are as good as 'Walk Through The River.'
Released in the U.K. in 2002, Mugic ( Spoilt/Pussy Foot ) by Certainly, Sir, a duo consisting of Michael Andor Brodeur and Klaus
Hubben, is one of the coolest queer discs I've heard in 2003. Described as 'a cross between bitstream and bloodstream,' Certainly,
Sir sounds like The Aluminum Group having tea with Aphex Twin. I instantly fell in love with 'Sweet Time,' with its 'Eminence Front'
echo, and female guest vocal by Vanessa Downing. The love affair continued on 'Hello,' a song about saying goodbye. 'My Bad'
makes a terrific song title and an equally good song about admitting when your heart isn't in it. Heartache, a predominant theme on
Mugic, surfaces again on the lightly funky 'How You Been,' 'The Script' ( with the terrific line, 'our love shouldn't come from someone
else's writer's block' ) , the beat-up beats of 'Wrong Song,' and the exquisite closer 'The Vacant Lot Of My Heart.'
Queers and klezmer ( Yiddish jazz ) music are an unlikely combination, but both the Klezmatics and Isle of Klezbos are proof such
a formula works. Greetings from … The Isle of Klezbos ( Rhythm Media Records ) by the six-member all-female Isle of Klezbos is a mix
of live and studio tracks that blends traditional selections with originals.