Free to Be, vols. 1-5. – sound recording reviews
Various artists, (The Right Stuff)
It’s a new formula, but we can already recognize it: If a CD has a shirtless, buffed, boyish man featured prominently on the cover, we gays know that somebody in record-business land thinks the musical contents are right up our gay alley–which is our cue to get busy with our charge cards. Having invented the strategy, the music business has discovered that chain stores will actually stock this stuff. So you better get ready to have your pink dollars courted by even more tired beefcake selling even dustier catalog material.
The five-CD Free to Be series (with more CDs in store) comes courtesy of the Right Stuff, a reissue company connected to the EMI-Capitol label that has also released homo-friendly compilations from the Salsoul, Hi, and Solar R&B/disco stables. The photography on the packaging looks like it could have been lifted from any body-obsessed gay greeting card. And the same sketchy gay timeline inside the CD booklet appears in each of the first five volumes. Free to Be is designed to snag the average sissy who likes divas, dance beats, and pop-R&B tunes from the ’80s and ’90s with nothing too radical or rock-oriented to jar the senses.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most tracks on volumes 1 through 4 sound as if they were American radio or club hits, even if many weren’t. Unfortunately, most appear in skimpy four-minute edits, and it’s especially irritating when Industry’s recent club smash “Release Me” starts and ends with someone turning the volume up and back down. But there are plenty of worthy tracks that you probably haven’t heard in a while (Mantronix’s funky “Got to Have Your Love”) or haven’t heard at all (Angie Giles’s supersleazy “Submerge”). Volume 5 is devoted solely to big ballads wailed by Whitneyesque soul sisters and old-school cabaret icons.
The best choices are those that either explicitly address gay issues or scream out to be heard from our perspective. If every track was as fag-ulous as Boy George’s “Same Thing in Reverse,” Malcolm McLaren’s “Deep in Vogue,” Gang of Four’s “I Love a Man in Uniform,” Nina Hagen’s “New York, New York,” Lulu’s “Independence,” and Klymaxx’s “Meeting in the Ladies’ Room,” then Free to Be would truly be a celebration of our lives. As it is, the series feels more like a celebration of our arrival as a music marketing niche.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Liberation Publications, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group