By Gregg Shapiro


Betty Who’s gay fans love her and she loves them right back. With a voice as big as Australia (that’s where she was born Jessica Anne Newham), Betty Who is someone who knows the value of an anthem. After all, she packed both her 2014 debut Take Me When You Go and 2017 follow-up The Valley with memorable ones. One such tune, “Somebody Loves You”, figured prominently into a viral YouTube video, featuring a dancing flash mob, in which a gay man proposed to his boyfriend in a Home Depot in Utah. Known for including LGBTQ Pride festivals as part of her multi-city concert tours, you can be sure she’ll be singing “Somebody Loves You”, as well as her other hits, wherever she’s performing. I had the pleasure of speaking with Betty Who about her music and much more.


Gregg Shapiro: What is the genesis of the name Betty Who?

Betty Who: It actually came from a song I wrote forever ago. I had named the song “Betty Who” because it sort of just felt right. Then a year or so later when I was deciding on a stage name, that name popped back up and I tried not to overthink it! If it feels good, just go with it.


GS: What can you tell me about your ink?

BW: I have ten tattoos now, I think [laughs]! I don’t even know anymore. I’m fairly precious with my body and what I want to put on it so I have tried to not go too crazy. But you know what they say, once you start you can’t stop [laughs]. My favorite one actually makes a cameo on my album cover for The Valley. It’s coordinates of places I’ve called home over my lifetime.


GS: Your cover of Donna Lewis’ “I Love You Always Forever” on your recent album The Valley is a good example of the `90s influence on your music. Who are some of the other artists you admire from that decade?

BW: Britney Spears is one of my favorite artists ever. I could teach a course in the study of pop just based on her first three albums. Her and Usher, particularly his 8701 album, were very important in my early years of music.


GS: In September 2013, your song “Somebody Loves You” was incorporated into a YouTube flash mob video, which went viral, in which Spencer Stout proposed to his boyfriend Dustin at a Home Depot in Salt Lake City. What did that mean to you?

BW: It still, to this day, means the world to me. Every time I watch it I don’t just well up with tears, I actively sob! It’s such an honor to be included in somebody’s life story like that. To have written the song that is the soundtrack to this massive moment in someone’s history is all I could ever hope for as an artist.


GS: Were you invited to the wedding and did you attend?

BW: I was and I did! I actually sang “Somebody Loves You” as they walked down the aisle, although I feel like I didn’t see a lot of the wedding because I was so emotional I had to sort of shield my eyes so I could still sing!


GS: How many other same-sex weddings have you attended?

BW: I’ve only attended a handful of weddings in my life, but I have been invited to more same sex weddings than I can count [laughs]!


GS: Prior to this happening, had you been aware of LGBTQ folks being interested in your work?

BW: It was fairly clear to me that I had this very passionate, underground LGBTQ+ following from my first show. Truly it was a shock when it started happening, I couldn’t believe anybody at all wanted to come to my show, let alone an entire room full of gay men. I was so happy to have anybody at all show up [laughs]!


GS: Your songs are often cited for their messages of inclusivity, self-love and body positivity, with the song “Beautiful”, fromThe Valley, being one of the best examples. Please say something about those kinds of messages in your music.

BW: I struggle just as much with confidence and body dysmorphia as the next girl. Particularly in my line of work; it gets really hard to find your way out of darker moments when everybody looks to you to be a certain way. So, songs like “Beautiful” are as much for me as they are for my fans. Sometimes I think I still need to be reminded to be kind to myself.


GS: Speaking of “Beautiful”, you embarked on The Beautiful Summer Pride Tour in 2017 in which you performed at Pride Festivals in Kansas City, Buffalo, Milwaukee, Des Moines, Albany, Columbus, Knoxville, San Francisco, Provincetown and Reno. How did this concept come about?

BW: I have played at least a hundred Pride Festivals over the last five years. Every summer I embark upon this never-ending circuit of fabulous shows and humans celebrating the most wonderful parts about themselves. We named the tour The Beautiful Tour because it felt the most appropriate for the energy I wanted to bring. I know there is a lot of hate and judgment being thrown around and I wanted to create an environment of safety, a place anybody can come and say, “This is who I want to be today, and I’m okay with that, so you should be okay with it, too”.



Roll the windows down and turn the volume up


La Selva – Angelo Ferreri & Cassara









I’ll Get You – Classixx








Stop Me From Falling – Kylie Minogue





My Life – ZHU & Tame Impala





No Excuses – Meghan Trainor








IDGAF – Dua Lipa





Show You Love – KATO & Sigrala








Top of the World – Kimbra





Dang! – Mac Miller





The Middle – Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey

Photo: Jamie Trumper

[Photo Credit: Garson at the Celebrating David Bowie]


More than just a salute, the Celebrating David Bowie tour keeps Bowie’s music alive with musicians who worked closely with him throughout his career and other top musicians greatly influenced by him.


The rotating ensemble, with world-class multi-instrumentalists changing song to song, will perform a show highlighting elements like pop culture experimentation, art, fashion, science and futurism that all influenced Bowie – and which Bowie, in turn, influenced back.


The Celebrating David Bowie full band features key members of David Bowie’s bands including Mike Garson (keys/CdB band leader), Earl Slick (guitar), Gerry Leonard (guitar) and Carmine Rojas (bass), along with vocalist Bernard Fowler, who is known for his work with The Rolling Stones. Garson was Bowie’s longest and most frequent band member, having performed together for both David’s first and last concerts in the United States as well as at 1,000 concerts around the globe.


For more info on additional guests, surprise appearances, and ticket sales, please visit



What: The Celebrating David Bowie Tour

When: Sunday, March 18

Where: Buckhead Theatre, 3110 Roswell Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30305

Tickets: Starting at $36.50 at



By Gregg Shapiro


Let’s face it queer folks; dance music was never our exclusive domain. Attend an electronic dance music festival or concert, and you’re likely to see as many straight people as you’d see at the Vans Warped Tour. Our straight brothers and sisters are not only dancing to it in growing numbers; they’re making it, as well.


You probably never imagined you’d be dancing to a Flaming Lips song, but you’d be wrong. Moving in a decidedly and daring electro direction on Oczy Mlody (Warner Brothers), The Flaming Lips blow a sizzling kiss towards the dance-floor. Partially the outcome of collaborating with Miley Cyrus (yes, her), who can be heard here on “We A Family,” these 12 songs move the band’s brand of psychedelic music into the 21st century and beyond. Even without a remixer’s pawprints on them, “Do Glowy” and “One Night While Hunting For Fairies and Witches and Wizards to Kill” are inviting dance tracks. Mostly glitchy and hazy, Oczy Mlody redefines the chill-out vibe and redefines everything you thought you knew about this always compelling band.





Electronic music trio Future Islands ramps up the dance grooves heard on 2014’s brilliant Singles on the equally exhilarating The Far Fields(4AD). The dance beats are tantalizing, and the melodies are alluring, but Future Islands’ secret weapon is front-man Samuel T. Herring. No one else sounds quite like him or moves like him. His soulful and emotive vocals take every song to an entirely different level. Opener “Aladdin” is sure to rub dancers the right way. There is also a conscious variety to the throbbing dance beats and funky bass lines, exemplified by “Time On Her Side”, “Ran”, “North Star” and “Black Rose”. The radiant duet with Debbie Harry on “Shadows” is the proverbial cherry on top.





Neko Case, of The New Pornographers, should be a dance diva, worshipped and adored by gay men around the globe. On Whiteout Conditions (Collected Works/Concord), she gets her chance. A Canadian band better known for its wonderful melding of classic and modern pop styles, The New Pornographers take a delightful detour with the 21st-century new wave update heard on this album. Most of the 11 thought-provoking songs, written by A.C. Newman, are driven by a combination of propulsive beats and synthetic keys. Songs including the title cut, “Play Money”, “High Ticket Attractions”, “Avalanche Alley”, “Juke” and “Clockwise”, featuring Case, who solos and shares vocal duties, will come through as well at a dance club as they do on listeners’ home sound systems.


It doesn’t have to be salsa night at your favorite hangout for you to find a reason to dance to the songs on Tastes Like L.A. ( by Las Cafeteras. This mixed gender East L.A. band whose “party with a purpose” mission gives you something to think about in songs such as “If I Was President”, “Vamos to the Beach”, “Two More Days”, “Señor Presidente” and its rendition of “This Land Is Your Land”, while you dance.


However, if your taste in dance music leans (or slams) more towards surf or garage rock, consider youthful punk band The Regrettes. Fueled by raw and riveting female energy – the band is made up of three women and one guy – The Regrettes’ debut album Feel Your Feelings Fool! (Warner Brothers) doesn’t mince words. Covering subjects to which people of all ages can relate, The Regrettes sing about social, sexual and personal issues on songs such as “A Living Human Girl”, “I Don’t Like You”, “Hey Now”, “Juicebox Baby”, “Hot” and “Ladylike/Whatta Bitch”.


On their respective previous albums, Grouplove and Coin gave us the impression that they had an affinity for dance music. However, on their new releases, it seems as if both bands are attempting to distance themselves from the dance floor. “Welcome To Your Life”, the opening cut on Grouplove’s Big Mess (Canvasback/Atlantic) is more arena than club. You can dance to “Do You Love Someone” but it rocks enough to appeal to the fist-thrusters in the crowd. “Good Morning” is the one song sure to go directly to people’s hips, while the suggestive “Don’t Stop Making It Happen” has its funky charms.


Here’s the biggest problem with Coin’s How Will You Know If You Never Try (Star Time/Columbia) – aside from the dreadful cover art and title – it sounds too generic. There’s nothing especially distinctive about any of the songs, most of which were written by committee (the four band members and sundry others). In the interest of finding something nice to say, “Are We Alone?” and “Miranda Beach” aren’t bad.

The Flaming Lips perform on March 5 in Athens at the Georgia Theatre.


By Gregg Shapiro


Programmed to sound as if you are listening to one of Dr. Demento’s long-running radio shows, complete with the host’s commentary, the double-disc set Dr. Demento Covered in Punk (Demented Punk) contains 64 tracks featuring performances by acts across the musical spectrum, including “Weird Al” Yankovic, The Kipper Kids (featuring Bette Midler’s husband Martin von Haselberg), Rasputina, The Misfits, Quintron & Miss Pussycat, The Dead Milkmen, Shonen Knife, Los Straitjackets, Colleen Green and William Shatner. The distinguishing part of the compilations is that the artists perform renditions of the “demented” songs made famous on Dr. Demento’s program. Not surprisingly, two of the best are by queer musicians; Joan Jett and the Blackhearts doing “Science Fiction/Double Feature” from Rocky Horror Picture Show and the B52’s Fred Schneider doing a cover of Gloria Balsam’s “Fluffy.”


The single disc CD companion to Barbra Streisand’s Netflix concert special, The Music…The Mem’ries…The Magic! (Columbia) includes 19 songs from her show recorded in Miami in December of 2016. In addition to a pair of duets, including one performed live with Jamie Foxx (“Climb Ev’ry Mountain”), the live recording features Streisand’s live renditions of classics and fan favorites ranging from “People”, “Happy Days Are Here Again” and “Don’t Rain On My Parade” to “The Way We Were”, “Evergreen” and “Papa, Can You Hear Me?”





Petula Clark had been making records for a few years before she hit it big stateside in 1964. After that, she was one of Streisand’s biggest competitors throughout the 1960s, even starring in a movie musical (Finian’s Rainbow) in 1968. Also like Streisand, Clark has continued to perform and record. Her new album Living For Today (BMG) is a blend of covers and originals. Clark’s renditions of Steve Winwood’s “While You See A Chance,” The Beatles’ “Blackbird” and “Fever” (made famous by Peggy Lee) show that, at 85, Clark’s still got it.






The fittingly titled 30-track, triple-disc album Triplicate (Columbia) is the latest chapter in Bob Dylan’s ongoing infatuation with tunes from the Great American Songbook. Divided into three distinct sections – “’Til The Sun Goes Down”, “Devil Dolls” and “Comin’ Home Again” – Dylan sounds like he’s been listening to Marianne Faithfull’s collaborations with Hal Wilner or Willie Nelson’s Stardust. Chances are, after you hear Dylan’s reading of these songs, you will never listen to these classics in the same way again. While hearing Dylan tackle standards has a novel appeal, do we have to worry that one of the most important songwriters in American history has run out of his own things to say?





Since the beginning of Joni Mitchell’s career, her songs have lent themselves to interpretation by others, often with wonderful results. Originally released in 2007, and a recipient of Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Jazz Album honors at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards, River: The Joni Letters (Verve) by Herbie Hancock has been reissued in an expanded that now includes a second disc of additional material. Mitchell’s own jazz explorations make it less surprising that a legend of the genre such as Hancock would want to return the favor, so to speak. Although it is far from perfect, River features a stellar list of guest vocalists including Joni herself, as well as Tina Turner turning in a breathtaking reading of “Edith and the Kingpin”. Bonus tracks include Hancock’s takes on “A Case of You” and “Harlem in Havana”, as well as Sonya Kitchell performing “All I Want”.





On An American Troubadour: The Songs of Steve Forbert (Blue Rose Music) more than 20 artists pay tribute to the singer/songwriter whose “Romeo’s Tune” was an unlikely hit single in 1980. There are plenty of familiar names among the performers, including John Oates and Bekka Bramlett (“I Blinked Once”), Jim Lauderdale (“What Kinda Guy?”), Robert Earl Keen (“It Isn’t Gonna Be That Way”), John Popper (“You Cannot Win”) and Todd Snider (“It Sure Was Better Back Then”). Nicki Bluhm & The Grambler’s version of “Romeo’s Tune” puts a nice opposite-gender spin on the song.


Recorded live at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, New York, on Long Island, Don’t Monkey With Broadway (Broadway Records) by legendary Broadway performer Patti LuPone is proof that you can go home again. A Northport native, and “a product of the Northport Public School System”, LuPone is joined onstage for some of the concert by Northport High School Tour Choir. As you might expect, LuPone works her way through Broadway show tunes including “Easy To Be Hard”, “Meadowlark”, “Millworker”, “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”, “The Ladies Who Lunch” and “Somewhere” to mention a few.






LuPone cites Rodgers and Hart as one of her first major musical influences. Kyle Riabko, who performed on Broadway in Spring Awakening and the revival of Hair, has also made a name for himself by paying tribute to songwriters, including Burt Bacharach. On Richard Rodgers Reimagined(Ghostlight), he appears to share LuPone’s affinity for Rodgers and Hart, singing songs such as “Where Or When”, “The Lady Is A Tramp”, “Bewitched”, “My Funny Valentine” and “Blue Moon”, as well as a few Rodgers and Hammerstein selections.






Syleena Johnson, daughter of singer/songwriter Syl Johnson, has been perfecting her original approach to classic R&B over the course of several album since the beginning of the 21st century. On the suitably named Rebirth of Soul (Shanachie), Johnson puts down her pen and turns her attention to essential soul numbers such as “Chain of Fools”, “Lonely Teardrops”, “These Arms of Mine” and “I’d Rather Go Blind”. Her version of her father’s “Is It Because I’m Black?” is a showstopper.


By Gregg Shapiro


1977 was the year that one-hit wonder Debby Boone spent ten weeks in the number one spot on the Billboard charts with her syrupy sweet hit single “You Light Up My Life”. It was also the last time that rock, disco and punk could be described as peacefully co-existing Three albums from that transitional year have been reissued in fancy and fantastic expanded box sets to commemorate the 40th anniversary of each.


In some ways, with their involvement in the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever, the Bee Gees simultaneously celebrated disco while forever changing their own creative history. Prior to SNF, the Bee Gees (Gibb brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice) were an Australian pop trio who owed a considerable debt to the Beatles. This is especially true of the first chapter of their career during the mid-to-late 1960s. For a variety of personal and professional reasons, the Bee Gees were more or less absent from stateside radio until 1975 and the release of Main Course, successfully launching their second, R&B-influenced, chapter with a trio of hits – “Jive Talking”, “Nights on Broadway” and “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)”. The follow-up album, 1976’s Children of the World, was particularly momentous because of the straightforward disco tune “You Should Be Dancing”, which would soon resurface in Saturday Night Fever.


If you can’t decide which is more essential, the movie or the soundtrack, the Saturday Night Fever: Super Deluxe (Capitol/UMe) solves that problem for you. Included in the attractively-packaged box set you will find two versions of the soundtrack. The first is the double LP set, restoring the music to its original vinyl setting. The double CD compresses the entire soundtrack onto one disc and includes a second disc of Serban Ghenea mixes of “Stayin’ Alive”, “Night Fever”, “How Deep Is Your Love” and “You Should Be Dancing”.

There is also a Blu-ray disc containing the director’s cut of the film. Directed by John Badham, it was the movie that earned John Travolta his first Oscar nomination, and showed off his dancing skills (as well as his assets in black briefs and tight polyester pants). Considering that disco was born in gay clubs, and continued to thrive there long after various backlashes, including Chicago’s humiliating 1979 “Disco Demolition”, Saturday Night Fever was shockingly homophobic. Producer Robert Stigwood was a gay man, but that didn’t prevent anti-gay remarks, including one aimed at David Bowie, from making its way into the film.

Additional goodies include a movie poster, stills, a “story behind the movie” booklet and a turntable mat with the Saturday Night Fever logo. Mirror balls are sold separately.


Like the Bee Gees, Queen was a band that had distinctive periods in its career; from progenitors of British prog and metal to rock operetta and glam and eventually to pure pop, even incorporating elements of dance music. Queen already had substantial hits under its low-slung, jewel-encrusted belt, including “Killer Queen”, “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Somebody To Love”, when it released News of the World in 1977.






The robotic monster on the album cover is a perfect illustration of the force Queen would unleash with the album. News of the World: 40thAnniversary Edition (Hollywood Records), features a “new pure analogue cut” of the vinyl LP, three CDs including the 2011 Bob Ludwig Master, an 11-track disc of “Raw Sessions” as well as a 19-track disc of “Bonus Tracks” and the DVD documentary The American Dream. The album opens with the semi-linked tracks “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”. Queen probably didn’t realize the way these songs would become ingrained in contemporary culture. “Sheer Heart Attack” (also the name of the band’s 1974 album) came close to capturing the punk spirit of the time. “All Dead, All Dead”, “Spread Your Wings” and “My Melancholy Blues” fit well into Queen’s trademark blend of rock and theater, whereas “Get Down, Make Love” hinted at an experimental side.


The handsomely assembled Queen package also includes marvelous ephemera, such as a reproduction of the original Elektra Records press kit (including 8X10 pics), three posters, stickers, an “all-access” laminate and 60-page book. Sadly, the gay Mercury’s untimely passing in 1991 silenced one of the greatest voices and most magnetic personalities that rock music has ever seen or hear.


Back in the mid-to-late `70s period in the burgeoning world of punk rock, it was not uncommon for bands to put out albums in close succession. Talking Heads, Blondie, The Clash and Elvis Costello are a few good examples. So are the Ramones, whose debut album was released in 1976, followed soon after by two albums in 1977. Leave Home: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Sire/Rhino), the first of the Ramones’ two 1977 albums, has been reissued in a deluxe limited-edition package. The set includes Ed Stasium’s remastered stereo version and a 40th anniversary mix of the original album on 180-gram vinyl as well as on CD. It includes Ramones standards such as “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment”, “Oh, Oh I Love Her So”, “Glad To See You Go”, “Pinhead”, “I Remember You”, “Swallow My Pride” and “Suzy Is A Headbanger”.  A second disc features the Sundragon Rough Mixes and 14 tracks under the heading of “40th Anniversary Extras”. The third disc boasts a 1977 concert recorded live at CBGB.

Rayvon Owen


Photo: Shannon Bray


Growing up African-American and gay in a super conservative and religious Southern region, Rayvon Owen struggled with his own identity and liberal views. Ultimately, it was also the driving force that shaped him into an incredible artist and activist who campaigns for LGBTQ rights, Black Lives Matter, and for people to accept and love themselves and others around them.


After moving to LA, the death of a close friend struggling to come to terms with their own identity shattered Rayvon and had him contemplating his own true self. Around the same time, he fell in love, and those two events seemed to Rayvon like the universe was trying to tell him something.


So, when Rayvon released his first track “Can’t Fight It,” he also chose the occasion to come out as gay in the video. Despite losing some people from his life, he’s said that the outpouring of support he received was overwhelming: “Coming out and accepting myself for who I am was one of the most liberating and life-changing experiences for me.”


Today, he’s living his dream making music in LA and hanging out with Demi Lovato, DMC, and mentor Lionel Richie (check out his star-studded Insta!).


Rayvon’s new track, “Volume” is another insight into his journey of discovery. It’s a self-empowerment anthem that urges you to embrace who you are, reminding you not to change for anyone. As Rayvon explains, “When I co-wrote “Volume,” I had been going through some difficult times with being accepted by friends, family, the music industry, and yes—even myself. Working with co-writers and producers The Gifted on this song was inspiring, and the writing process was very therapeutic for me. The lyrics morphed into an anthem about self-encouragement and reminded me to stay true to who I was and never be afraid to speak up for what I believe in. I hope this song does the same for you.”

Check out Rayvon Owen’s “Volume” on, and follow him @rayvonowen.

By Gregg Shapiro


Depending on your generational perspective, the late soul goddess Minnie Riperton is either the mother of actress/singer/SNL alum Maya Rudolph or the singer with the five-octave vocal range best known for the timeless 1975 hit single “Lovin’ You”, co-written by Riperton and her husband Richard Rudolph. You can hear Riperton, who died of cancer in 1979 at 31, paying a “lovin’” homage to her daughter Maya at the end of “Lovin’ You”. The double-disc deluxe edition expanded reissue of Perfect Angel (Capitol/UMe), Riperton’s second album and the one on which “Lovin’ You” can be found, is a long overdue celebration of an artist we lost too soon. Riperton and Rudolph co-wrote seven of the songs on the original album, including the standouts “Reasons”, “The Edge of a Dream”, “It’s So Nice (To See Old Friends) and “Our Lives”. The presence of Stevie Wonder, playing electric piano and harmonica, as well as contributing the title track and “Take A Little Trip”, only served to increase Riperton’s artistic and hip factors. The abundant bonus material includes 11 additional tracks that go a long way in further cementing the album’s legendary status.




No, you’re not hearing things. That’s the Ramones’ cover of “Little Bit O’ Soul” playing in the Fidelity Investments commercial. Yes, we’ve gotten to that point in our culture. Nevertheless, that should not diminish our appreciation of the American punk progenitors, who, in 1977 released two (!) phenomenal albums. Rocket to Russia (Sire/Rhino), the second of the two, has been reissued in a limited edition 40th anniversary deluxe edition, and contains Ramones classics such as “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker”, “Rockaway Beach”, “Teenage Lobotomy”, “Cretin Hop”, the queer “We’re A Happy Family” and the band’s distinctive covers of “Do You Wanna Dance?” and “Surfin’ Bird”. The reissue consists of engineer/mixer Ed Stasium’s remastered original and tracking mix on disc one, two dozen bonus cuts on disc two and a previously unreleased 1977 live recording from a concert in Glasgow, Scotland, and the original LP on 180-gram vinyl.





Would the Ramones have existed without The Who? After all, The Who’s teen/counterculture anthem “My Generation” has been cited by some as one of the first punk rock songs. “My Generation” is one of 86-tracks to be found on the five-disc The Who box set Maximum As & Bs: The Complete Singles (Polydor/UMC). Each of the singles, including “I Can’t Explain”, “Substitute”, “I Can See For Miles”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Join Together”, “Squeeze Box”, “Who Are You”, “You Better You Bet” and “Eminence Front”, is immediately followed by the B-side, many of which are not heard very often. The box set also includes a booklet featuring photos, memorabilia and track-by-track annotation.





In the late `60s and early `70s, The Who’s Roger Daltrey probably got a lot of attention from gay fans due to his stunning physique – smooth, pumped up pecs and rippling abs. Years later, sneering bleached-blonde Billy Idol, who started out in the punk band Generation X, gained a reputation for putting his shirtless body on display. Why not? He was in good shape, especially for a punk rock/new wave guy. Idol’s first two albums – his eponymous 1982 debut and 1983’s Rebel Yell (both on Chrysalis/Capitol/UMe) – have been reissued on high-quality vinyl, along with the two-LP hits compilation Idolize Yourself: The Very Best of Billy Idol(Capitol/UMe). Listeners can expect to find songs such as “White Wedding”, “Hot In the City”, “Eyes Without a Face”, “Flesh For Fantasy”, “Dancing With Myself”, “Mony Mony” and “Cradle of Love”, among others, on Idolize Yourself.





The story of UK psychedelic/progressive rock band The Moody Blues, which continues to this day, has some fascinating chapters. Early on, The Moody Blues had a hit single with the song “Go Now”, which doesn’t really sound like anything that came after it. In fact, it was the follow-up album 1967’s Days of Future Past (Deram/UMC), newly reissued in a 50th anniversary double-CD set, that set the tone for The Moody Blues’ greatest successes. Of course, when it was first issued 50 years ago, it was something of a peculiarity, because it was recorded with The London Festival Orchestra, conducted by Peter Knight. The album did fairly well on the British charts, as did the single “Nights In White Satin,” but it took another five years for both the album and single to make the impact it did in 1972. The reissue includes the original 1967 stereo mix (available for the first time on CD), along with nine bonus tracks on the first disc. The second CD contains the 1972 stereo mix, four bonus tracks and six mono single mastsers.  Additionally, a DVD features a 5.1 Surround Sound Mix & 96 kHz/24-bit 1967 stereo mix, along with visual content.




If you didn’t get your fill of psychedelic sounds with The Moody Blues reissue, you owe it to yourself to check out The Mysticism of Sound & Cosmic Language (Smog Veil Records) by “Cleveland’s mythical prog rock improvisors” Hy Maya. Members of the short-lived band include Robert Bensick, Albert Dennis, Scott Krauss and Allen Ravenstine. The double CD set includes studio and live recordings dating back to 1972 and 1973.







The above-mentioned Smog Veil label has prided itself on its esoteric roster of artists for more than 25 years. Similarly, Blue Thumb Records, in its brief 10 years of existence, introduced listeners to its own impressive line-up of artists, including Sylvester and the Hot Band (featuring the fabulous gay music icon Sylvester in his pre-disco phase), The Pointer Sisters, The Crusaders, Leon Russell, word-jazz innovator Ken Nordine and many others. Originally released in 1995, the 2017 reissue of All Day Thumbsucker Revisited: The History of Blue Thumb Records (Verve/UMe) is as enjoyable for the stunning array talent, such as T. Rex, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, Ike & Tina Turner and Love, as it is for being a music history lesson.






Eighties music legends Tears For Fears is one of those bands that has almost as many hits compilations as it does studio album. To be fair, TFF’s hits, including “Mad World”, “Change”, “Pale Shelter”, “Shout”, Everybody Wants To Rule The World”, “Head Over Heels” and “Sowing The Seeds of Love”, to mention a few, are sensational and deserve to be heard by ears new and old. Rule The World (Mercury/U M e) is a 16-track compilation that includes the aforementioned songs, as well as two brand new songs.

By Gregg Shapiro


Leave it to a nice Jewish (bisexual) girl such as Rachael Sage to come up with one of the most delightful holiday recordings of the year. Her five-song EP Joy!  (MPress) opens with a reading of “Joy to the World” that is pure Sage, right down to her distinctive phrasing and vocals. A radio mix of the songs also closes the EP. In between, it’s a festival of lights and light pop. The originals, including the lighthearted “Tchatchkes & Latkes” and the beautiful “Hanukkah In The Village”, are among Sage’s most appealing compositions. The disc’s centerpiece, in which  Sage sings in Yiddish, is the song “Umru Meine”, featuring lyrics by the modernist poet Moyshe-Leyb Halpern.






The 10th anniversary edition expanded reissue of Josh Groban’s Noel (Reprise), described as “one of the biggest-selling Christmas album of all time”, now boasts six additional songs, including four newly recorded selections. The original 2007 album by the classical crossover superstar played it relatively safe with a few exceptions. A duet with Brian McKnight on “Angels We Have Heard on High” soars. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is made more poignant because of the inclusion of holiday greetings from soldiers and their families. “Thankful”, co-written by Carole Bayer Sager, is the newest of the original disc’s compositions. Of the newly recorded songs, the duet with Tony Bennett on Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here” and John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”, on which Groban is joined by a children’s choir, are especially pleasing.





A cappella outfit Pentatonix are the new reigning kings and queens of holiday music, topping the Christmas (records) list for the last three years. The quartet’s platinum-selling 2016 album has been reissued with five new songs and retitled A Pentatonix Christmas Deluxe (RCA). In addition to interesting renditions of “Up On the Housetop”, as well as covers of Kanye West’s “Coldest Winter” and *Nsync’s “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” from the previous version, the expanded edition includes “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and a duet with Jennifer Hudson on “How Great Thou Art”.



As career transformations go, Gwen Stefani’s is one for the record books, so to speak. Over the course of about 25 years, Stefani successfully morphed from the belly-baring lead singer of OC ska act No Doubt to full-fledged diva and fashion icon. Continuing the “feels like” theme of her previous studio album, Stefani’s first Christmas album,You Make It Feel Like Christmas (Interscope) combines her interpretation of holiday standards (from “Silent Night” to “Santa Baby”) along with half a dozen new tunes. Thanks to Stefani’s gay co-songwriter Justin Tranter, it’s the new tunes, including “My Gift Is You”, “When I Was A Little Girl”, “Under The Christmas Lights” and “Christmas Eve”, that are the real gift here.





The 2017 double-disc edition of Broadway’s Carols for a Cure: Volume 19 ( serves a dual purpose. First and foremost, it’s a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS ( Secondly, the 20 selections give listeners a chance to hear artists from some of Broadway’s hottest tickets – includingHamiltonDear Evan HansenKinky Boots, War PaintGroundhog DayAnastasiaWaitress, to mention a few, perform traditional and new Christmas songs.







This Christmas, the Latter Days Saints have a leg up, as well as a piano, a cello and a violin, on the competition. Mormon musical acts The Piano Guys and Lindsey Stirling have newly released holiday albums. On “Angels From the Realms of Glory”, the opening number on The Piano Guys’ Christmas Together (Portrait) album, they are joined by fellow LDS members David Archuleta and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra, as well as Peter Hollens. Other guest artists on the album include Placido Domingo (“Silent Night, Holy Night”), The King’s Singers (“O Little One Sweet”) and Lexi Walker (“O Holy Night/Ave Maria”).


Fiddler and Dancing With the Stars competitor Stirling bows with her first holiday album Warmer In the Winter(Concord). More than half of the songs are instrumentals in which the plucky Stirling shows off her accomplished string skill on Christmas standards including “Carol of the Bells”, “I Saw Three Ships”, “What Child Is This”, and even Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas”. What separates this disc from the others are the Stirling originals including “Christmas C’Mon” (with vocals by Becky G), the title track (featuring Trombone Shorty) and “Time To Fall In Love” (sung by Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low).






Elvis Christmas (RCA/Legacy) is the latest in a series of Elvis Presley releases in which “The King”’s songs and recordings are reimagined with his vocals backed up by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Elvis Christmas has everything from “Blue Christmas”, “Merry Christmas Baby” and “Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me” to “The First Noel”, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful”.

By Gregg Shapiro

By almost anyone’s standard, I Wish You Love: More from The Bodyguard (Arista/Legacy) is an unusual way to commemorate the 25thanniversary of the movie The Bodyguard, as well as its accompanying multi-platinum soundtrack. As film debuts go, Whitney Houston’s paled in comparison with, say, Jennifer Hudson’s. But that didn’t stop the soundtrack from becoming one of the best-selling albums of all time. It didn’t hurt that Houston’s breathtaking cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love” helped lead the way for the soundtrack’s success. The 14 selections on I Wish You Love, all previously unreleased on CD, are meant to supplement the existing The Bodyguard soundtrack. Featured on the album is an alternate mix of “I Will Always Love You,” the “film versions” of “I Have Nothing,” “Run To You,” “Queen of the Night” and more. What makes I Wish You Love especially appealing are the six previously unavailable live recordings from the 1993-95 Bodyguard Tour.




If you’ve ever had the pleasure of attending a live performance by Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, you will understand why it’s silly for them to release a live album. A live DVD would make more sense considering how much of the SBPJ’s show is also visual (see: Sarah Reich, tap-dancer). Nevertheless, that didn’t stop the group, known for its wonderful re-imaginings of contemporary pop, rock, and hip-hop tunes from releasing the disappointing The New Classics: Recorded Live! (Concord/ Postmodern Jukebox).


Madonna is another artist whose live shows have increasingly become more of a spectacle over the years. So, it makes sense that she would release the concert recording Rebel Heart Tour (Eagle Vision/Universal/Maverick) as a DVD/CD set. The CD includes 13 songs, ranging from “Burning Up” and “Holiday” to “Bitch I’m Madonna” and “Unapologetic Bitch” (sense a theme?), whereas the visually captivating concert footage DVD includes all the songs on the CD and almost ten additional selections.







You might not think that, other than being singer/songwriters, Carole King and Bob Dylan have much in common, but you’d be wrong. Aside from being about a year apart in age, both were nice Jewish kids when they began their careers in the late `50s (King) and early `60s (Dylan). In addition to writing hits for other artists, King and Dylan were also at the forefront of the singer/songwriter movement which reached its peak in the 1970s. As if all of that wasn’t enough, both King and Dylan have recently released live recordings.







King’s Tapestry: Live in Hyde Park (Rockingale/Legacy) is a CD & DVD set that lives up to its title. King performs her classic 1971 album Tapestry in its entirety before a live audience of 65,000. She is joined by her daughter singer/songwriter Louise Goffin on “Where You Lead” and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” The remaining songs include early compositions co-written with her late ex-husband Gerry Goffin such as “One Fine Day”, “Go Away Little Girl”, “Locomotion”, “Up On The Roof” and “It Might As Well Rain Until September”, as well as “Jazzman” and a rendition of “I Feel The Earth Move” on which she is joined by the cast of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

The latest (and 13th) installment in the ongoing Bootleg Series, Trouble No More: 1979-1981 (Columbia/Legacy) follows Dylan’s musical exploits during his brief flirtation with Christianity. The deluxe edition boasts eight CDs containing previously unavailable material dating from `79 to `81. The first two discs present an assortment of live recordings. There are more than 30 rare and unreleased tracks on discs three and four. Discs five through eight are dedicated to concert recordings from Toronto and London, respectively. A DVD simply titled “A Musical Film” features exclusive bonus material. In addition to the extensive liner notes, a 120-page book, “Pressing On,” consists of photographs and more from the period.