All things considered, when you factor in her health, as well as her stated distaste for the music industry, 2007’s Shine (Craft Recordings), newly reissued and making its (180-gram) vinyl debut may be Joni Mitchell’s final studio recording. Mitchell, who became an increasingly outspoken critic of contemporary culture, especially in the 1980s and 1990s on albums such as Dog Eat Dog, Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm, Turbulent Indigo and Taming the Tiger, doesn’t relent in the least on Shine. Narrowing her focus to the destruction of the planet (“This Place”, “If I Had A Heart”, “Bad Dreams”, “Strong and Wrong” and a rerecording of her classic “Big Yellow Taxi”), Mitchell’s wisdom and perception shines through. In the 13 years since its release, political songs such as “If” and the title cut take on even greater meaning in the age of Trump. Of course, being the creative genius that she is, Mitchell also knows the importance of giving the listener a break from the trauma, and songs such as the lovely opening instrumental “One Week Last Summer” and the musically adventurous “Hana” and “Night of the Iguana” provide the needed respite.
It’s difficult to imagine a musical act more diametrically opposed to Joni Mitchell than the Spice Girls. An all-woman, pre-fab five, the “streetwise” British-pop quintet – Sexy Spice (Geri Halliwell), Scary Spice (Melanie B.), Posh Spice (Victoria Beckham nee Adams), Sporty Spice (Melanie C.) and Baby Spice (Emma Bunton) — took its “girl power” message to the masses, and that included gay men and lesbians, as well as pre-teen and teenage females. Bowing for the first time on 180-gram vinyl, with new cover art, The Greatest Hits (Virgin/UMe) boasts fifteen tracks, including four US top 10 hits (“Wannabe”, “2 Become 1”, “Say You’ll Be There” and “Too Much”). The inclusion of clubby dance numbers “Who Do You Think You Are” and “Spice Up Your Life” also indicate the Girls’ awareness of their queer fans.
Tony Award-nominated Broadway and cabaret chanteuse Melissa Errico worked closely with legendary composer Michel Legrand on his one and only Broadway musical Amour. That working relationship led to Errico’s 2011 Legrand album Legrand Affair: The Songs of Michel Legrand (Ghostlight), newly reissued in an expanded double LP set just a few months after Legrand’s passing at the age of 86.
To this writer’s ears, gay singer/songwriter Jim Andralis makes some of the best (and most underrated) pop music of the 21st century. Beginning with 2016’s Your Dying Wish Come True album and continuing shortly thereafter with the extraordinary Shut Up Shut Up LP (credited to Jim Andralis & The Syntonics – his backing singers). His new 10-song record My Beautiful Enemy (jimandralis.com), on beautiful sky-blue vinyl, takes listeners on an emotional journey, beginning with the gripping “Oh My God”. “Walk You Home” builds to an exhilarating climax and the country pop of “CPR” is a duet with Andralis’ husband Larry Krone. “Dreams About Houses” and “My Mother Was A Cigarette” are a couple more standout tracks worth mentioning, as is Andralis’ cover of Lori McKenna’s “Shake”, which is something to behold.
Christina Schneider aka Locate S,1 is linked personally and professionally with of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes. In fact, she’s all over of Montreal’s most recent album Ur Fun. It makes sense then that Barnes would return the favor, so to speak, by co-producing (and co-writing one song – “Even The Good Boys Are Bad”) Locate S,1’s album Personalia (Captured Tracks). Spinning out on hot pink vinyl, the 10 songs are deliriously irresistible modern pop, some with dance beats as delectable as your favorite confection, including “Whisper 2000”, “Classical Toys”, “Hot Wife” and the title track.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of Fifty Degrees (Seven Kitchens, 2016), selected by Ching-In Chen as co-winner of the Robin Becker Chapbook Prize. Other books by Shapiro include the short story collections How to Whistle (Lethe Press, 2016) and Lincoln Avenue (Squares and Rebels Press, 2014), the chapbook GREGG SHAPIRO: 77 (Souvenir Spoon Press, 2012), and the poetry collection Protection (Gival Press, 2008).
He has work forthcoming in the anthology Reading Queer: Poetry in a Time of Chaos (Anhinga Press, 2018). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBT and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.