“Just roll it from the top.”– KLF
Here, watch the critic walk bravely down the middle of the road. This two-CD set is in benefit of the Human Rights Campaign, “the largest national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country.” This is, naturally, noble.
But to my tastes, in the hopes of throwing out a wide net to potential buyers, it sacrifices flow. Not that there’s anything wrong with an eclectic selection of artists and types of music from a fundraising perspective, it’s just as a listener it’s a little bit frustrating. Like at least 99% of all the two-record albums ever made, this could have been a great single disc rather than a nice double one. But, the tracks you would chose for the great single disc would not be the same as I would, and the cause is just. So paying your money and making your choices is recommended. Here are mine.
Inasmuch as the music “rocks,” as per the title, it’s a gentle kind of rocking, with a handful of exceptions. For all that she’s important symbolically and historically, Melissa Etheridge’s music, represented by “Giant,” has never done much for me. But then, I feel the same way about Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” (although it’s an interesting song), also included here. And I know women for whom that’s very meaningful.
It’s also worth mentioning that while Etheridge’s participation in this CD didn’t take a genius to predict, Aguilera is, arguably, taking more of a risk here in “defense of marriage” America. Same goes for Mandy Moore. Indeed, the ever-sickening “Focus on the Family” is already going after Moore and the other contributing artists.
By the way, though I wouldn’t have thought so on paper, Moore’s cover of “I Feel The Earth Move,” adding DJ breaks and other dance music effects, is surprisingly fun. Albums like this should always have a few surprises. Another particularly pleasant discovery was “She” by Jen Foster, an artist whose name is new to me. It’s what you call your basic delightful pop ditty that just happens to be by a woman singing about another woman.
On the other hand, I also liked “8th World Wonder” by Kimberley Locke, who turns out to have been an American Idol finalist (I had no idea — I don’t watch the show). That’s the kind of thing for which they can fire me from an alternative music mag like Ink 19.
Dolly Parton’s “Sugar Hill” is nicely evocative but feels out of place between Dave Koz’s so-smooth-it-slips-away “Just To Be Next To You” and Emmylou Harris’s chicken-funky “Jupiter Rising.” Speaking of which, Yoko Ono, sad to say, always sounds out of place, even on her own records. Remaking her 1980 song “Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him” as “Every Man Has A Man…” is a nice idea, and the remix and production does what it can with her voice, but still…it’s Yoko Ono, dude.
Jason & deMarco are seemingly counter-intuitively both gay and Christian, but I must say their melodic “All I Long For” has grown on me. Randi Driscoll uses a version of “Amazing Grace” to introduce her own poignant “What Matters.” It’s a tribute to Matthew Shepard, but knowing that should not lessen the songs universality.
Dido’s “Thank You” returns from its sampling by Eminem. Whether any message is intended by its inclusion here I leave up to the reader. I can’t forget The Dixie Chicks, with their nearly-perfect “I Believe In Love.”
And, of course, for a ’80s guy like me, you can’t go wrong with “Time After Time” or the B-52’s “Summer Of Love” (even if I prefer the album version).
Orange popsicles and lemonade…