The cast of the gay-fave TV series gets the snowball rolling with “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” a version that is different enough to make it a delight. Also includes faithful readings of Joni Mitchell’s “River” and The Waitresses’ modern Christmas masterpiece “Christmas Wrapping,” “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “Let It Snow” (given a gay peppermint twist by Chris Colfer and Darren Criss), and the unexpected inclusion of “Do They Know It’s Christmas.”
Dave Koz: “Ultimate Christmas” (Capitol, 2011)
Out sax-man Dave Koz’s second holiday compilation draws on songs from both of his previous seasonal sets, including the jazzy twang of “Sleigh Ride” and the retro soul of “Please Come Home For Christmas” (featuring Kimberly Locke). It also expands his contributions to songbooks of the season with the “Welcoming the Season (Prelude)” and “Welcoming the New Year (Coda).” Koz also includes the original “Eight Candles (A Song For Hanukkah),”a nod to his own heritage.
Marsha Ambrosius: “Late Nights & Early Mornings” (J Records, 2011)
If you missed Marsha Ambrosius at Atlanta’s Black Gay Pride, catch up with her solo disc. “Far Away,” and its accompanying must-see video, which addresses the issue of bullying and suicide in the LGBT community, is a high point. Ambrosius’ respectful cover of Portishead’s “Sour Times” is an unexpected delight and the retro soul number “Tears” will have listeners crying out for more like it. “Chasing Clouds” is a high-flying pop tune, while she reveals her inner drama queen on “The Break Up Song.”
Kate Bush: “50 Words For Snow” (Anti-Records, 2011)
Kate Bush’s frosty new disc feels like the musical equivalent of a snowstorm, right down to the mini-epic length of the seven songs (the shortest track clocks in at just under seven minutes. Already a favorite among the gays, Bush cements her status with cameos by her royal highness Elton John on “Snowed in at Wheeler Street” and out actor/writer Stephen Fry, supplying the voice of the character Prof. Joseph Yupik, on the dazzling title cut.
Foster The People: “Torches” (Star Time/Columbia, 2011)
Foster The People is the real dance music delight of 2011 (and beyond). Causing a stir at Lollapalooza and on “Saturday Night Live,” FTP is a trio of straight white dudes with a knack for delirious dance numbers on their aptly titled hot debut disc. “Pumped Up Kicks” lives up to its name, “Waste” is anything but, “Houdini” is inescapable, “Warrant” is arresting and “Life on the Nickel” is sure to have folks shaking their moneymakers.
Doria Roberts: “Blackeyed Susan” (Hurricane Doria Records, 2011)
Longtime Atlanta artist and activist Doria Roberts honors Odetta, a foremother of the Civil Rights folk music movement, with her latest CD of finely crafted tunes. The magic extends to the CD packaging, a recycled and re-usable wooden box also filled with charming extras including black-eyed susan seeds, tea, recycled glass jewelry and more.
Demizes: “Damaged Ink” (CDBY, 2010) $7
Visit cdbaby.com to get the debut CD from Demizes, who heated up the Atlanta Pride stage in 2010 and 2011, drawing rave reviews from Atlanta Pride Executive Director James Sheffield, who said he wondered if Madonna had taken the stage. Compared to Justin Timberlake, Ne-Yo and Lady Gaga, he blends pop with hip hop and R&B.
Indigo Girls: “Beauty Queen Sister” (IG Recordings / Vanguard, 2011) “Happy Holly Days” (Vanguard, 2010)
“Beauty Queen Sister,” the new album from Atlanta’s beloved lesbian duo, offers plenty of the thoughtful lyrics, acoustic music and beautiful harmonies that have earned legions of devoted fans. Sttand out tracks include the simple longing of “Share the Moon” and the inspirational “We Get to Feel it All.” If you didn’t pick it up for yourself and friends last year, “Happy Holly Days” is a must for this season, offering a grassroots, acoustic take on holiday favorites and new original tunes.
“Lady Gaga presents The Monster Ball Tour” (Streamline / Interscope, 2011)
The concert DVD, filmed in early 2011, opens with black and white pre-concert footage a la “Truth or Dare,” shot in a Lower East Side bodega and backstage at Madison Square Garden. Gaga gets emotional in front of the make-up mirror, saying that she still feels like “a fuckin’ loser kid high school.” But like Dorothy leaving Kansas, Gaga’s concert stage Oz is in living color. Lady Gaga’s devotion to her LGBT fans seems genuine and boundless. DVD bonus content includes “Backstage at The Monster Ball,” a photo gallery and more.
“Cho Dependent” (Clownery, 2011)
Filmed in December 2010 at The Tabernacle in Atlanta, Margaret Cho’s latest concert documentary “Cho Dependent” (Clownery) combines her celebrated stand-up comedy/monologist style with music. Cho takes the audience on another of her characteristically side-splitting (and occasionally gross) journeys, beginning with the time she spent as a competitor on “Dancing with the Stars.” The “Cho Dependent” tour was one of her gayest shows ever. Identifying as a member of the LGBT community as well as being a fag hag, Cho cements her standing as a champion of queer community causes.
“The L Word: The Complete Series” (Showtime, 2011)
The reality series just can’t compare. Lesbian fans are still mourning the end of the Showtime series “The L Word,” despite the cliffhanger series ending that left us wondering who killed love/hate character Jenny. Just released last month, the 25-disc complete series lets you relive every moment of the first mainstream cable series dedicated entirely to women who love women.
“Sex in an Epidemic” (Outcast Films, 2010)
Jean Carlomusto’s AIDS documentary is as enlightening as it is emotionally powerful. With an emphasis on “honest, comprehensive sex education,” the doc begins by tracing important 20th century events that got us to where we were when AIDS first arrived on the shores of New York. Consisting of period footage from the early 1980s to the present (including President Obama’s contributions to the fight against AIDS) and interviews with important figures in the scene, “Sex In An Epidemic” succeeds in its mission.
“The Showgirl Must Go On” (Image Entertainment, 2010)
Bette Midler performs more than an hour’s worth of “hits, glitz and tits” in front of 4,500 of her closest friends and you, too. The still divine Miss M alternates between telling stories and regaling the audience with her Soph jokes, and performing uplifting renditions of some of her best loved songs, including “The Rose,” “From A Distance,” “Wind Beneath My Wings,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Do You Wanna Dance,” “Friends” and others. Midler is still one of the greatest living entertainers.
“The Secret of Dorian Gray/Il Dio Chiamato Dorian” (Raro Video, 1970)
Originally released theatrically 40 years ago, Italian filmmaker Massimo Dallamano’s modern retelling of the Oscar Wilde classic novel makes it onto a domestically released DVD. Starring the stunning, and often half-undressed, Helmut Berger as the ageless Dorian, it’s a campy, sexy, queer period piece. DVD special features include an interview with assistant director Maurizio Tanfani and more.
We asked Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse owner Philip Rafshoon and Charis Books & More owner Sara Look to suggest reader favorites, new selections and gift ideas. Here’s what they chose: ‘The Spirit of We’Moon’ Anthology | ‘36 Hours: 150 Weekends in the USA & Canada’ from the New York Times | ‘Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World’ by John Shelby Spong | ‘The Stranger’s Child’ by Alan Hollinghurst | ‘Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul’ by Clarissa Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD | ‘Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality’ edited by Kevin Simmonds | ‘Seriously… I’m Kidding’ by Ellen DeGeneres | ‘Dreaming in Color’ by Fiona Lewis | ‘Trans/Love: Radical Sex, Love & Relationships Beyond the Gender Binary’ Anthology | ‘Enjoy Every Sandwich: Living Each Day as If it Were Your Last’ by Lee Rosenthal, M.D.
Photo/art books: ‘The Mammoth Book of Gorgeous Guys’ edited by Barbara Cardy | ‘Still Side by Side: A Diary of Making It Big in the City’ by Mioki (Illustrator) | ‘Gaga’ by Johnny Morgan | ‘Naked’ by Dylan Rosser | ‘TURNON: Sports’ photo anthology | ‘Gay in America’ Portraits by Scott Pasfield | ‘Do it Yourself’ by Uwe Ommer
— Laura Douglas-Brown contributed