Novikoff? NORMAL? Let’s Hope Not!!

Posted: May 16, 2011 in Comedy, Culture, Entertainment, New York City, Nightlife, Performance, Uncategorized

From the early 1970s, one of the truest landmarks of the LGBT community in New York City was Craig Rodwell’s Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, at 15 Christopher Street. It was unique in that it was strictly a place for pursuing Gay literature; there was no backroom, no peep show, and the sole purpose was simply to learn about the work of such authors as Quentin Crisp, Armistead Maupin, Aaron Fricke, Robert Patrick and Doric Wilson. An additional hallmark of the space was that the recorded music of Gay artists was continuously piped through the sound system; besides such established stars of the women’s music movement as Meg Christian, Cris Williamson, Holly Near, Teresa Trull and the vocal group Sweet Honey in the Rock, one would become exposed to the likes of Lynn Lavner, Elliot Pilshaw, and the team of Ron Romanovsky and Paul Phillips. If such a haven still existed, the sounds of singer/songwriter Garry Novikoff would most certainly and rightfully join the ranks with his 2008 CD A Normal Life. This humble reviewer, while recently hosting an evening of LGBT entertainers at Nuyorican Poets Cafe, introduced Novikoff as “the Gay Jewish James Taylor.”  What he proves himself to be with this disc is in fact the Gay Jewish male Christine Lavin, apropos because of his already-vibrant association with the legendary lady of humorous folk music, appearing as a guest artist for her concerts and garnering a mention in her prodigious memoir Cold Pizza for Breakfast. But the brilliance of the recording and the compositions therein wholeheartedly prove that Novikoff’s time is now to stand alone as a singular sensation.

The assortment of studio tracks and live recordings kick off with “The Dumbest Song I Ever Wrote,” and from there the remaining sixteen selections become a most delectable thrill ride on a rollercoaster of emotions that evoke the listener into tears one minute and hysterical laughter the next. His more well-known compositions as the folksy “I Like Men” and the haunting ballad “Lenny” are here, and blissfully so. But the remainder are what truly showcase Novikoff’s oft-irreverent genius for communication; an easy standout is the tango-esque “Instant Passion” as well as “The Human Body” (written in tandem with Julie Minasian, who also provides outstanding backup vocals on several songs), “God Said No” (by Dan Bern), and “Spiteful.” And his love of animals comes through loud and clear with both “Dog on the Moon” and “Good Night, Rabbit.” What is regrettably missing is his marvelous “We Are the Meek,” which was nominated for a much-deserved 2011 MAC Award for Special Musical Material (losing by a very narrow margin to Mary Liz McNamara for her delicious “Christmas in Michigan”). But the remainder, which also include “Secrets,” “Stupid Man” (written with Geoff Sobel), “Valentine Bride” and the title track, combine to create a listening experience that won’t soon be forgotten. Aside from his own instrumental talents on both piano and guitar, additional musicianship is provided by Danny Mallon (not just on drums and percussion but glockenspiel). James Jacobs (on both cello and recorders), Dale Cinski (also on guitars both electric and acoustic), Richard Barone (on bass, digital Les Paul and Hammond organ besides occasional backing vocals), Eva Atsalis (on additional percussion and also violin), Tim Ribner (on additional piano), Joseph Bishoff (on additional cello) and Michael Moricz (on keyboards). And further background vocals are supplied by the lovely Brooke Ferris and Lorraine Ferro.

A Normal Life, and Garry Novikoff, may easily be considered one of the finds of this or any other season. To not acquire a copy as quickly as possible is not merely shameful but should be punishable.

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