Retro-activity

The losses to the entertainment world in 2020, COVID-related and otherwise, have been substantial. Rock and roll pioneer Little Richard died at 87 in May and Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green died in July at the age of 73. Released 25 years after his breakout debut, Little Richard’s 1972 album The Second Coming (Omnivore), newly reissued with four bonus tracks, manages to honor his roots (“Rockin’ Rockin’ Boogie,” “Mockingbird Sally”) while also fitting into the sonic funk style (“Second Line,” “Nuki Suki”) of the early 1970s. Little Richard, who struggled with both his sexuality and religious upbringing, became a preacher […]

2020 LGBTQ History Month playlist

Andy Bell, of Erasure, is the grand dame of this playlist. The vocal half of the electronic dance-pop duo (alongside the quieter multi-instrumentalist Vince Clarke) now in its 35th year, the unabashedly gay Bell can still stir up all the feels with his powerful and emotive voice. The Neon (Mute), the twosome’s 18th album, arrives a few years after the politically-influenced World Be Gone (and its orchestrally reimagined follow-up World Beyond), feels more personal, especially on songs such as “Nerves of Steel,” “Tower of Love,” “No Point in Tripping,” “Careful What I Try to Do” and the ballad “New Horizons.” […]

The present is female (and queer)

As horrible as 2020 has been on so many fronts, at least we’ve had amazing music by queer female artists to help us get through it all. Where would we be without Becca Mancari’s The Greatest Part, Jamie Wyatt’s Neon Cross, Indigo Girls’ Look Long, Gordi’s Our Two Skins, Katie Pruitt’s Expectations, and the 35th anniversary deluxe reissue of Whitney Houston’s eponymous debut album (somebody had to say it!)? Singer/songwriter Caroline Rose’s 2018 album Loner was one of the best albums of that year, and any year, for that matter. The concept LP follow-up Superstar (New West) delivers on the […]

Queens of the Quarantine

Read every book on the bookshelf and your Kindle? Caught up on all the shows on your DVR? Looking for good music to pass the quarantine hours? Here are some suggestions. Forget Britney! Forget Christina! Mandy Moore is the ’90s teen pop diva with the most fascinating story, something she sings about in the song “Fifteen” on her excellent new album Silver Landings (Verve). Moore not only has the pipes, but she can write songwriting circles around Brit and Xtina. Additionally, Moore can act! Fans of This is Us know that’s true. And did you see her in Saved? Plus, […]

Pandemic pals

Looking for musical friends with whom you can pass the time while the country shuts down (again!) as the pandemic continues to rage? The following albums are worth hearing while being in lockdown. I’ve always thought of Steve Earle as the Bruce Springsteen of modern country. With his similar vocal style and his songs about the common man, Earle makes music that could be described as Springstwang. This has never been truer than on Ghosts of West Virginia (New West) by Steve Earle and the Dukes. The songs are intended to be a musical companion piece for playwrights Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen’s […]

House music

Let’s face it, things are getting ugly and scary out there. As this is being written, confirmed COVID-19 cases have reached more than 10 million worldwide, with more than half a million deaths and counting. Self-quarantining is the hottest (and healthiest) trend in years. For those unable to get to their workouts at the gym or favorite dance club because they’ve been shut down again after reopening too soon, here are some new releases sure to get your heart rate up and your body moving. Play them loud and if the neighbors complain, dance harder.   Suddenly (Merge) by Caribou (aka musician and […]

(Beautiful) music men

When Orange Crate Art (Omnivore), newly reissued in an expanded double CD or LP set, was originally released in 1995, it was the first time that music legends Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, both known for their distinctive SoCal musical styles, had worked together since Parks collaborated with The Beach Boys on the notorious SMiLE album in the 1960s. Orange Crate Art turns out to be a collaboration that makes perfect sense on paper, if not in actual execution. Unlike say Nilsson Sings Newman, on which Harry Nilsson sang the songs of Randy Newman, having Brian Wilson (whose voice […]

(Beautiful) Music Men

When Orange Crate Art (Omnivore), newly reissued in an expanded double CD or LP set, was originally released in 1995, it was the first time that music legends Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, both known for their distinctive SoCal musical styles, had worked together since Parks collaborated with The Beach Boys on the notorious SMiLE album in the 1960s. Orange Crate Art turns out to be a collaboration that makes perfect sense on paper, if not in actual execution. Unlike say Nilsson Sings Newman, on which Harry Nilsson sang the songs of Randy Newman, having Brian Wilson (whose voice […]

Vinyl destination

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” […]

Family affairs

 Extraordinary singer/songwriter Eliza Gilkyson knows a thing or two about good genes. Her father, Terry Gilkyson, was also a singer and songwriter with a fascinating career. In addition to writing hit songs for others, he sang on The Weavers’ hit “On Top of Old Smokey” and was nominated for an Oscar for writing the song “The Bare Necessities” from Disney’s 1967 animated feature The Jungle Book. Eliza’s brother Tony is also a musician and was a member of the important L.A. bands X and Lone Justice. Eliza herself has been a recording artist (under her own name) for more than […]