Disc men

Matt Zarley tackles relationships while Adam Tyler delivers smart pop on new releases

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

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2.5 out of 5 stars
CHANGE BEGINS WITH ME
Matt Zarley
Independent

Matt Zarley may be all scruff and muscle, but he has a sweet delicacy to his voice that’s properly displayed on his newest album, Change Begins With Me. He’s the product of Broadway, but it would seem his sights are on the music charts.

Back in May, Zarley previewed his album with “WTF,” a whimsical dance track that pitted an earnestly lovestruck singer against the man who done him wrong. The song is borderline silly, if fun, though the accompanying video was painful to watch.

For the most part, the tone of Change is adult contemporary but by a refreshingly new, gay (and far hunkier) version of, say, Michael Bolton or Phil Collins. Well-polished songs beautifully showcase Zarley’s vocal talents, on songs like “Perfect“ and “Forgive Me (For Not Forgiving You)” which evidence a tenderness that makes it almost hard not to swoon along.

Dance tracks, though, don’t do him justice nor add much to the album. His sexy talk in “Trust Me” is unconvincing. As the fifth song, Change, marks a small decline in making a bigger impression. The previous ballads, and even the album opener “WTF,” are engaging enough, but from “Trust” on, the songs almost disappear.

‘CHANGE’ IS GONNA COME | Matt Zarley is a whole lotta hunk, but surprises with an insightful album about his past relationships.

“Apology” and “I’ll Always Remember” display sweet emotion, but with ordinary skill. This is a shame; the album is well paced before it downshifts at this point. The fault though, is in the music. Lyrics resonate strongly and are probably my new go-to when I can’t find the words to appease an angry or hurt boyfriend.

The title track suffers from cheese factor, but it is less a self-help tune than an admission of bad love-life decisions. Zarley holds himself accountable for mistakes he made as a gay man — I’m not sure I’ve heard that message recorded before.  Sure, “Change” swells into a clichéd climactic chorus, but it’s a fascinating juxtaposition from the lead song.

I’m not a big fan of remixes, but the two bonus tracks of “WTF” surpass the original. The beats are a helluva lot of fun to groove to. Instead of reworking the song into an unrecognizable version, the remixes amp up the rhythm and scale back on some of the gimmickry of the original.

With bumps along the way, Zarley provides a collection of songs that start him in a bad situation and result in a brighter tomorrow … so much so that it may beg for an immediate second listen with some songs making more sense.
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3.5 out of 5 stars
SHATTERED ICE

Adam Tyler
Tiger Bay Records

Adam Tyler describes himself as a pop music geek and it shows on his debut release Shattered Ice. This is a good thing. He sidesteps a lot of easy traps to deliver 11 tracks of wow.
On first impression, Ice opens as any other dance album in the “dime a dozen” category, but quickly, the opening track, “Like a Drug,” moves into a techno-rock hybrid, hitting many correct notes. Tyler gives an onslaught of an opener that is held up by subsequent tracks.

The album leans more into electronica elements, but Tyler treats them with care, layering bass-lines and blippy flourishes into solid sounds. “Music Freak” could have easily been a pedestrian effort, but he saves it by not adding extraneous effects. Tyler has a gift for letting the song build itself rather than throwing everything against the wall to see what will stick.

Adam Tyler studies pop music enough to make some of his own with his debut album ‘Shattered Ice.’ With strong confidence, Tyler makes a stellar impression.

Tyler doesn’t have the vocal strength of Zarley, but he belts within reason and recalls some of the quality of Paul Lekakis. He has enough depth to go slower on the opening of “I Won’t Let You Go,” while offering a healthy set of lungs on the title track. There isn’t a lot of surprise in his vocal spectrum. This provides a particular comfort and even consistency, as his music should keep listeners on their toes.

The blemishes on this album are minimal and perhaps expected from a debut. “Forgive Me” is weak with middle school lyrics. “Touch” is a misguided track that begins with a keyboard track that sounds like a child trying to play ABBA’s “Lay All Your Love On Me.” Here, he makes the mistake of adding a little too much flair, and to a slower beat, it misses the bullseye.

The album recovers immediately with strong tracks like “Taking Back My Love” and “Let Me Breathe.”

Shattered Ice finishes with minimal versions of previous tracks that calm the robust energy down. “I Won’t Let You Go” on piano is a gorgeous ballad and “Forgive Me” fares far better as an acoustic tune than it did before in its electro incarnation. These add to Tyler’s versatility.

For a debut, Tyler seems to have set a goal and met it, which would explain the amount  of confidence in Ice. His songs don’t play as mere musical byproducts in search of superstardom. He has a true genuine sound that pulls you in and when it lets go, you almost wish it didn’t.
Thank goodness for the repeat button.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Your son’ll come out, tomorrow

SLEAZY STREET | Redneck Tenor Matthew Lord takes more potshots at the Bush Administration than gay people in his parody of ‘Annie.’

What’s a straight guy doing mocking a classic with the word ‘Trannie’? Making people laugh, that’s what

MARK LOWRY |  Contributing Writer
marklowry@theaterjones.com

It’s a beloved tale of musical theater: girl escapes orphanage, goes on quest for her parents, sings about tomorrow and ends up with a life of luxury and love — not to mention a spiffy red ’fro — with her new Daddy.

Make that two daddies. Trannie, a full-out parody of the aw-shucks family musical Annie, makes its world premiere this weekend in a tiny shed in the shadow of Grapevine’s squeaky-clean Main Street district.

The show follows the adventures of a transvestite (not transsexual) who leaves behind her prostitute pals and searches for the men who gave her up when gay couples were denied adoption rights. She sings in a nightclub called the Manhole, eventually discovering her dads, thanks to a cherished pearl necklace they once gave her.

Songs in the show include “I’m Gonna Come Out Tomorrow,” “It’s a Knocked-Up Life,” “S.T.D.” and “Sleazy Street,” which any musical queen will recognize as trash parodies of Annie hits. But despite being created by a heterosexual man, this is not a case of straight folks making fun of the T in LGBT. Nor of the G, L or B.

“I’ve been on the phone with my gay friends about this for a year, asking them ‘Can I write this?’” says Matthew Lord, the straight guy who created it. “I didn’t write this lightly. But I decided that if everybody wrote to whom they are, then nothing would ever get written.”

Lord grew up in San Francisco in the ’70s and ’80s, using his vocal talents to make a career of musical theater and opera. He has performed at the Met, originated a role in Andre Previn’s opera A Streetcar Named Desire and, as Nero, made out with three countertenors nightly in a production of Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea. But he’s best known as a founding member of the locally based 3 Redneck Tenors. That group, which made it to the semi-finals of America’s Got Talent in 2007, performs opera, Broadway and popular as trailer-dwelling mullet-heads, so satire is in Lord’s veins.

As for credibility with the gay community, he knows he has nothing to worry about.

“I was one of two straight men in the San Francisco Opera chorus in the ’80s, I would go to their birthday parties at The Stud,” he says. “I grew to have this incredible understanding of not understanding why the rest of the world [didn’t accept] homosexuality. Except for the sex part, I’m as gay as they come.”

Trannie was born from a casual conversation after Ohlook, Lord’s theater company, had performed Annie. The theater is a school that performs more traditional musicals, but also does a late-night series with shows like Evil Dead the Musical, Reefer Madness and The Rocky Horror Show (Ohlook’s two-time Rocky was Jeff Walters, now Clay Aiken’s boyfriend).

For anyone upset about the use of the un-P.C. title, it’s all in good fun.

“Trannie is the most sane character in the show,” Lord says, adding that it addresses issues like prostitution, homelessness and closed-minded politicians. “It makes fun of everything and it makes fun of nothing, you know what I mean? There’s nothing hurtful in it.”

Well, there are slams at the Bush administration, with a parody of the Annie song “We’d Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover,” substituting the lyrics for the policies of George W. Bush.

Will it be irreverent, filthy and touching? Yes, yes and that’s the plan. Will it be funny? Bet your bottom dollar.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25, 2011.

—  John Wright