CD reviews: Elton and George, gayer than ever … plus Rufus and more!

It’s the old and the new in music this week.

EJ_Std-Sleeve-PS_300dpi_rgb-(3)-smFirst the old: Sir Elton John wasn’t officially out (neither was he a “sir” yet) when he released his two-LP milestone recording Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in 1973. Newly reissued by Mercury/UMe/Rocket in an expanded 40th anniversary deluxe edition, GYBR was the most glam album of his career to that point, a style he would continue to explore on a few more albums. “Glam” didn’t necessarily mean “gay,” but Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was also his gayest album until then. The titular reference aside (we know Elton was a Friend of Dorothy now), EJ heaped on the hints in songs such as the Marilyn Monroe memorial “Candle In The Wind,” as well as “All The Young Girls Love Alice” and the sexual ambiguity of “Bennie and the Jets.”

A source for several hit singles in addition to songs that would become instant classics, GYBR kicked off Elton’s musical reign, which would last throughout the 1970s and ’80s. The deluxe edition includes one remastered disc with all 17 songs from the original. The second disc features nine songs, “highlights” from the December 1973 Hammersmith Odeon concert. The remaining nine songs on the second disc fall under the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Revisited heading. An odd assortment of artists including Fall Out Boy, Emeli Sande, Miguel and The Band Perry, all try their hands at interpreting Sir Elton. Thankfully, someone thought to include John Grant, an openly gay artist, among the performers. As it turns out, his rendition of “Sweet Painted Lady” is the best of the cover versions.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Another view: 2012′s best music

In last week’s Year in Review edition, we ran a list of our writer Rich Lopez’s top 10 discs of 2012. Well, he’s not the only contributor who likes to write about music: Chris Azzopardi has his own ideas. And while there is some cross-over (Frank Ocean, natch), it’s interesting to see how they differ. Here, then, are Azzo’s favorite CDs of last year:

10. Cat Power, Sun. Clocking in at just under 11 minutes, “Nothin’ But Time” starts simple enough, with just piano and fuzzy static — then there’s some man chants, and Iggy Pop. On paper it’s a hot mess, but the heartfelt coming-of-age mantra (during which all things seem infinite and possible) beautifully builds into a euphoric mind-release that breezes on by. For the musical oxymoron “Ruin,” Chan Marshall’s a world traveler singing over a bouncy drum beat, chiding fussy Americans. The hallucinatory “Manhattan” drops you in the bustle of a big city, where you’re just a speck of broken dreams and memories. On “3, 6, 9” she’s so drunk that her looseness translates to the song’s rhythmic punch. And to your ears. Forever and ever.

9. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange. Can men who love men make it in the supposed anti-gay realm of hip-hop? Frank Ocean answered that question when he came out via Tumblr and topped the charts with his solo debut, rightfully earning him kudos, a rabid fan base and Grammy nominations. And it’s not just hype. Channel Orange renders his poeticism — about sex, drugs, love and longing — into progressive hip-art beats. The music, though, is only the half of it: Frank’s voice rolls over your sound holes like the “buttercream silk shirt” he sings about on “Lost,” an acid trip that will have you trying to find your way out. This is the gem, though, that’ll go down in the books: “Bad Religion,” so painfully pointed it hurts.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

For gay music lovers — or lovers of gay musicians — there couldn’t be a better weekend for you. On Saturday, Melissa Etheridge arrives at the Majestic, performing songs off her new highly-acclaimed album 4th Street Feeling. The same night two miles away, Diamond Rings opens for Stars at the Granada. A Sophie’s choice, perhaps, but two very different styles. (If it helps make up your mind, you can enter to win free tickets to see Diamond Rings.) A third style requires less decisionmaking: Rufus Wainwright will perform Live at the Meyerson on Sunday night with his inimitable sound.

This is also a busy weekend for movies, with already-heralded horror movie Sinister likely to be the weekend’s big hit. It will be competing again The Paperboy (with a great gay twist and strong performances) and the studio prestige picture Argo, both of which could be Oscar contenders come January. Atlas Shrugged (not screened for critics — that says a lot) and the action-comedy from Oscar winner Martin McDonaugh, Seven Psychopaths, are also out there.

For theater lovers, there are no major openings this weekend, but Uptown Players continues its run of Hello Again, a dark but unexpectedly funny idyll on sex. Also unexpectedly funny: The Addams Family, featuring a charismatic performance by Douglas Sills as Gomez. Best of all: Freud’s Last Session, a whip-smart and fascinating, quick (75 minute) imagined meeting between atheist Freud and Christian novelist C.S. Lewis, with great performances by Jac Alder and Cameron Cobb.

Finally, in the lead-up to the World Gay Rodeo championship next weekend, Friday and Sunday mark the public events for the titles of Mr., Mrs. Ms. and MsTer TGRA 2013, with the competition Friday at the Rose Room and the sashes passing from last year’s royalty to this year’s winners on Sunday at the Round-Up.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Rufus Wainwright: The gay/Gaga interview

In this week’s edition of the Voice, we review Rufus Wainwright’s new CD of pop music, which comes out Tuesday. But you can read even more about the gay singer right now with this interview by Chris Azzopardi.

BACK IN THE GAME

There are bad romances, and then there’s the kind that Rufus Wainwright had during the making of his latest album, Out of the Game. The troubadour got smitten with super-producer Mark Ronson, who added a pop bend to Wainwright’s classical leanings. Love at first sight? Just about.

“One day, we finally hung out at this party — at the U.N., of all places — and we were just completely enamored of each other,” Wainwright says. “Needless to say, we went into the studio and struck up not only a great musical relationship but a great friendship … and, at least from my end, a huge crush.”

And the singer doesn’t just give his love away: He recently slammed Lady Gaga for being “predictable and boring,” setting off a media (and gay mafia) frenzy.

In our interview, after the jump, Wainwright talked about those comments, the eyes that comforted him during his mother’s death and the evolution of his gayness.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Rufus Wainwright’s “Out of the Game”

While the public awaits the release of Rufus Wainwright’s newest album Out of the Game this spring, he has released the title track as the first single and video. He ventures back into the pop music side of things on this seventh studio album of original work.

The video stars Helena Bonham Carter as a frustrated, maybe even repressed librarian “singing” Wainwright’s words. Wainwright gets in on the action in a multitude of characters include one in some Dressed to Kill drag. He even makes love to himself. Ironically, I think Carter anchors the video more and Wainwright is somewhat distracting in his own little movie. But you decide for yourself after the jump.

Out of the Game is scheduled for a May 1 release.

—  Rich Lopez

Rufus Wainwright to (finally) release a pop CD

Rufus Wainwright is one of those recording artists about whom his fans always assume he is more popular than he probably is. His lushly overproduced albums — portmanteau CDs of lush, wrenching ballads and retro-glam set-pieces — are beloved by his supporters, but probably lead to head-scratching among the rest of the music-buying public. I can’t recall the last time I heard one of his songs on the radio.

But apparently Rufus is aware of that — and wants to fix it. His new album, produced by Mark Ronson, will be his “most pop album … ever,” he says. Out of the Game will be released May 1.

Not familiar with Rufus? You should be. Watch this performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Rufus Wainwright and Sean Lennon cover Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ at OWS

Queer singer Rufus Wainwright has been hanging out apparently with the Occupy Wall Street crowd as evidenced in the below video posted Sunday. He and Sean Lennon teamed up with surrounding protestors for an acoustic version of Madonna’s hit “Material Girl,” as a sort of ironic anthem for OWS.

Hopefully Madonna won’t sue for a cut. That would be so “1 percent” of her.

As for the best YouTube comment award, that would go to SuperIdelfonso for asking, “Are they occupying wall street or repealing ‘don’t ask don’t tell’?”

Watch it below.

—  Rich Lopez

REVIEW: Twist Dallas on Thursday night at LBG

While Thursday night’s Twist Dallas music event had to compete with the Dallas Mavericks for attention, organizer SuZanne Kimbrell was nonetheless impressed with the show. A small turnout at Lakewood Bar & Grill didn’t take away from the fact that the talent was top notch.

Starting with Natalie Velasquez, a 19 year-old guitarist out of Denton, the night was destined for dive bar greatness. Her jazzy sound and smoky, deep voice exuded nice poise for such a young performer. At times, she recalled Meshell Ndegeocello. Her voice has a beautifully aged soul tone that belies her tiny build. Her backing band, which apparently was partly cobbled that day, was also a strong, solid package. Please, Velasquez, keep this lineup together.

Check out part of performance here.

I worried that follow-up Danny Siuba might underwhelm with just him and an electric piano. Even he told me later that he worried a tad about following up Velasquez’s performance, but he met the challenge. His work on the keys was so sharp and pristine that they tickled every nerve ending in my ear. He’s classically trained according to Kimbrell so this shouldn’t surprise, but he also played with great assertion that proved his confidence with his instrument. I heard traces of Rufus Wainwright and Owen Pallett in him, but his voice was a bit gravelly. Singer Sonya Jevette was there filming for SoundByte and tried to convince me he was a young Neil Diamond. I wasn’t hearing that so much. In certain registers, he sang well, and in louder ones, he just needed some polish. But he’s only 21 and his pop-piano tunes were well constructed. Plus, the guy, 21, drove here from Santa Fe to perform and handmade his own CD covers with handwritten lyrics. So it’s hard to fault the guy for much.

—  Rich Lopez

Joan as Police Woman at Dada tonight

With queer cred to spare, Joan as Police Woman is no musical cop out

Joan as Police Woman plays Friday at c­lub Dada, bringing her indie sensibilities to town, but not without some major queer cred behind her. Having worked with Antony Hegarty in 1999 and then with Rufus Wainwright on his 2003 tour, she came out of her shell as a solo artist. Shattered by her boyfriend Jeff Buckley’s death in 1997, she and a new band tried to release an album, but it was a scary time for her and the songs were kept to themselves.

Then she joined Antony and the Johnsons. With some budding confidence, she eventually dipped her foot in the waters of going solo. Then Rufus happened.

“He had asked me to join his band to tour with and also open as a solo artist,” she says. “I had to take the chance at some point and opening in front of his crowd — a crowd of music lovers would be amazing.”

Four albums later, her latest release The Deep Field finds Wasser at her most confident. The package of experimental indie pop is challenging yet accessible. She’s mellow without being boring and she can rock without trying to prove something. But mostly Field reflects a newfound fortitude and poise.

For the entire article, click here.

—  Rich Lopez

GIVEAWAY: Win tix to see MEN with Romy on Friday night at The Loft

We had a comment on our Facebook page about what a waste SXSW was because “you’re spending all this money to see a bunch of bands no one has ever heard of” and “why not promote gay friendly artists like Rufus Wainwright?” The thing is, that’s where most of the legitimately LGBT bands are — in the folds of the indie and the obscure, and those festivals are ideal for actually discovering new sounds and not relying on being spoon-fed by the radio.

MEN didn’t play SXSW this year, but the indie avant-popsters, headed by Le Tigre’s J.D. Samson, are doing it for themselves with their own tour and stop in Dallas on Friday night at The Loft. We first mentioned the show way back in December. So if you want to discover a band you’ve never heard of, but are a little reluctant to shell out the 12 bucks, well, we got tix. How about five pairs? Just email me with “Gimme some MEN‘ in the subject line and we’ll get your name on the list.

And thanks for your bravery.

—  Rich Lopez