Equals? James Bond (or at least, Daniel Craig) dons drag for International Women’s Day

Tomorrow — Tuesday, March 8 — marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. And while some things have gotten better for women in the last century, some things haven’t changed. At least, they haven’t changed enough.

In honor of the 100th International Women’s Day, singer/activist Annie Lennox has brought together a coalition of  charities, that champion women’s rights to “step up the call to demand a more equal world.” The Equals? Partnership, according to its website, is “a partnership of charities and organizations that believe men and women are equals and that we should have equal rights, equal opportunities and equal representation in politics, education, health, employment, family life and media and culture.”

Here are some of the statistics from Equals? Partnership’s website: 1 in 3 women will experience violence at some point in their lives; women hold only 19 percent of the world’s parliamentary seats; only about 24 percent of the people in mainstream broadcast and print news are female; women perform 66 percent of the world’s work and produce 50 percent of the world’s food, but earn 10 percent of world’s income and own 1 percent of the world’s property.

Equals? Partnership has a number of events planned around the United Kingdom. But you don’t have to travel to the U.K. to see the coalition’s work. The coalition also has created this 2-minute video, using one of the world’s most macho fictional characters, James Bond, played by one of the most manly actors, Daniel Craig, to try and drive home the point that women still are not treated equally here in the 21st century.

According to the IWD website, there are 234 events planned in the United States to recognize International Women’s Day 2011. The first was held Jan. 12, and the last will be held in May. The only event I saw listed here in Dallas — in fact, the only event I saw listed in Texas — is Echo Reads: A Staged Reading and Salon Series which includes a staged reading of the new play by Isabella Russell-Ides called The Early Education of Conrad Eppler, happening March 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bath House Cultural Center, presented by Echo Theatre.

But of course, I already knew that the 9th annual Words of Women celebration will be held next Sunday, March 13, beginning at 12:30 p.m. at the Women’s Museum in Fair Park. You can get all the details here.

But even if you don’t go to an official IWD event, take a minute to realize that no matter how civilized and advanced we consider ourselves to be, there still exists a vast chasm of inequities between the genders. It’s up to us — regardless what gender we are — to bridge that gap.

—  admin

Christmas jukebox

Indigo Girls, Fred Schneider queer up the holidays, but Annie Lennox transforms them with carolful CDs

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

3.5 stars
HAPPY HOLLY DAYS

Indigo Girls
Vanguard

It took decades in the music business before the famed lesbian duo Indigo Girls got around to releasing their first holiday album. Holly Happy Days puts Amy Ray and Emily Saliers in country mode with hoe-down ready songs and a star-studded roster. They could have very well created a lesbian music lover’s wet dream in disc format.

They giddy-up quick with “I Feel the Christmas Spirit,” a ramblin’ tune that leaves out any jingling bells. The fiddle and banjo are the stars in this happy song that doesn’t sound anything like holiday fare —unless you’re in A Very Special Deliverance Christmas.

That same approach makes the traditional carols interesting at least. Neither sings that kind of vocal stretch you’ve come to expect hearing on “O Holy Night” … and thank goodness. There’s no vanity here — “Night” may come off underwhelming, but its Celtic undertones add welcome texture.

Because they respect the carols’ original structures, there aren’t many surprises. That’s made forgivable with easy-to-sing-along numbers like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Who doesn’t want that? The organ backdrop, though, on “Angels We Have Heard On High” feels like you walked in on an old hillbilly church with a two-voice chorus. There’s a charming majesty in the tune along with the layered instrumentation.

Not to discriminate, the Girls cover Woody Guthrie’s “Happy Joyous Hanukah” which almost had me run out to buy a dreidel. The bluegrass influence here is adorable, and despite its minority status, it fits right into the rest of the album. Mary Gaultier and Janis Ian even provide gorgeous background vocals.

They go pop with “It Really Is (A Wonderful Life),” a bouncy song penned by Chely Wright. You almost expect to hear it as a commercial jingle or sitcom theme, but it charms in a way you don’t expect.

For die-hards, Happy Holly Days is Indigo Girls doing what they do best: Acoustic folk (although revved up) and lush harmonies. The non-fan might initially be put off by the woodsy flavor and lack of fuzzy feelings, but with time, their simple approach is refreshing and they prove that less can be more. Besides, the Indigo Girls offer three ornaments in the packaging. Score!
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1.5 stars
DESTINATION … CHRISTMAS!

The Superions
Fanatic

When Fred Schneider branches out from The B-52’s with his side project The Superions to take on Christmas, well, you might as well throw any possible idea you have about holiday music out the window. Schneider and company don’t hold back from turning Christmas on its ear and into a hilarious party on Destination…Christmas! Just try singing these door-to-door without being chased by angry villagers carrying pitchforks.

They get the party started with “Santa’s Disco,” an over-synthesized dance dittie about all the revelry at the North Pole. Christmas Carol cuts loose / Crazy as a goose / It’s so insane / What she does with a candy cane. This alone should paint all the picture you need to see the band’s approach to the season. The “Santa’s Disco” chant gets a little much, but seriously, this is fun stuff.

When the first line is “Whatchu makin? / Fruitcake” in, um, “Fruitcake,” you expect hilarity to ensue. Instead, it’s basically the recipe set to music and as the second track, missteps already   show on the album. The techno beat is engaging, but this song proves early on that this shtick could get old fast.

TROUBLESOME TRIO | Fred Schneider, center, and his side project The Superions should expect a lot of coal for their ‘Destination … Christmas!’ album

It does. The same mistakes happen on “Chillin’ at Christmas” and “Teddy and Betty Yeti.” Schneider opts to talk over great beats, but the stories are not even ridiculous, just, well, stupid. I’m not really sure what he’s trying to do here: Fun is one thing, funny is another, but either he’s trying too hard to be “out there” … or maybe he just doesn’t know what he’s doing. Maybe I just don’t get it, but maybe there’s nothing to get.

There is some redemption in the “Christmas Conga (Jungle Bells).” The ju-ju-ju-jungle bells lyrics and the conga beat are irresistible, with more of Schneider’s talk-singing. The goofiness here is what he should have been doing all over the album.

The production puts Schneider’s voice front and center, which isn’t a good thing. I don’t think I ever realized how bad a singer he is; perhaps neither does he. He’s much better doing the outlandish vocals as he perfected on “Rock Lobster” and “Love Shack.” Side projects can allow for artists to change up their sound, but Schneider is so bad here, you start feeling sorry for the rest of the band having to endure it.

And yet somehow, it ends on a high note with “Santa Je T’aime.” An orgasmic fan moans for Santa Claus as he bellows ho ho ho. Think the holiday version of Lil Louis’ “French Kiss” with that climaxing groan.

Even for fans of quirky and out of the box, Destination…Christmas! remains an unworthy purchase. You’re better off selecting the songs you like and buying individually online.

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4.5 stars
A CHRISTMAS CORNUCOPIA

Annie Lennox
Decca

On the opposite end of the spectrum from The Superions is Annie Lennox’s holiday release. Filled with sophistication and heart, A Christmas Cornucopia could be the holiday album this season. With carols most everyone has heard to those she sang as a child, the CD is crisp and festive.

Where we seem to have gotten a softer, kinder Lennox in her solo career, her intensity here actually reminds of how powerful the Eurythmics were in the beginning. “Angels We Have Heard On High” is a beautiful choral piece that bursts with glorious force. Where the Indigo Girls are intimate on this carol, Lennox pushes her voice with abundant strength. She continues that on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman;” both solidly open the album.

ELEGANT HOLIDAY | Annie Lennox makes Santa’s nice list with her gorgeous CD ‘A Christmas Cornucopia.’

Lennox mixes Middle Eastern, European and African influences with ease. She may not sound completely genuine with the French carol “Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant,” but her earnestness comes across sweetly. Her Middle Eastern touch on “Gentleman” only kicks the carol into a higher gear without stripping away its originality.

Lennox worked with the African Children’s Choir on “Lullay Lullay (Coventry Carol),” a song about the Nativity that is the album’s darkest moment. She compares the song’s message about King Herod’s slaughter of the first-born son to the plight of children in Africa. The tone turns into a borderline buzzkill but she refrains from going too heavy. Still, it’s a shift.

She includes one original song. “Universal Child” finishes the album off with a heartfelt ribbon that ties it up well, though is not especially Christmasy. The advocate work she’s done with children and women in Africa comes out in song here and it’s a gentle touch. (Proceeds from the song go to her foundation to help those communities.)

Lennox delivers wonderfully and producer Mike Stevens succeeds in showcasing both her voice and the different flavors of music and instrumentation. Like the present that’s well wrapped and heavy when you pick it up, A Christmas Cornucopia is a worthwhile one to open.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

We ALL have AIDS

I have always loved Annie Lennox’s music. But as she has done more and more in the battle against HIV/AIDS, I have grown to love her as a person. She has an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign called “Sing: A Voice for HIV/AIDS Women and Children.” And she often wears a t-shirt that says “HIV Positive,” even though she herself is not HIV positive. She wore the shirt during a recent duet with Aretha Franklin in a Rock-And-Roll Hall of Fame concert. She wears it to make the point that whether you are infected with HIV, you are all affected by HIV/AIDS. In that sense, we all have AIDS.

Visit Annie Lennox’s Web site here. Read about Sing here. And watch the clip below in which Ms. Lennox explains.

—  admin