Sunday, July 14, 2013

Cheyenne Jackson • I'm Blue, Skies

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I don't know what it is about early summer, but there is always a bunch of music released, making it hard to keep up. This includes the music of some outstanding LGBT artists, and I am still catching up on them! Just this two weeks, I posted reviews of new albums by Levi Kreis and Eric Himan, as well as singles from Eli Lieb, Tom Goss, Kazaky, Adam Joseph, SIRPAUL & Armand Deluxe, and Darren Ockert! We can also add Cheyenne Jackson's name to the list, for he released his first Pop album at the end of June. 'I'm Blue, Skies' hit the shelves on June 25, 2013, and while I had several of the songs already - with early singles and music videos, I was still quite excited to for it. I've been a fan of Jackson since first seeing clips of him performing off-Broadway in "All Shook Up", where he wowed the audience time and time again. He also garnered some attention for playing 911 hero Mark Bingham, the gay passenger on the flight who helped lead the fight against the hijackers in the movie 'United 93'. In 2008 I finally had the opportunity to see him live in the New York City Center Encores! production of 'Damn Yankees', and he was remarkable. I also enjoyed his work with Michael Feinstein on the 'Power of Two' CD, and would have killed to see the two performing the music live. Cheyenne has a gorgeous voice, and in person is about as charismatic as any one person could be. Oh, yeah, he is also very handsome and has a good-looking husband, too. With all this in mind, I couldn't wait for the album to be released.

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Needless to say, I couldn't wait to get to iTunes and purchase the 'I'm Blue, Skies', and I wasn't disappointed. It is true, I had already seen the music videos for "Before You", "Don't Wanna Know" and "Drive", that left plenty of new songs to get to know. The first track, however, is "Before You", the fluffy Pop confection released earlier in the year. The song marks the beginning of something very special - written by Cheyenne Jackson & Stevie Aiello, we finally see Jackson had a hand in co-writing every song on the album, making 'I'm Blue, Skies' a true labor of love. "Before You" has a sweet charm, a laid-back attitude personified by Cheyenne's easy vocals and the sound of the ukelele strumming. You can find my post featuring the music video here. Next up is the title cut, the second of four written with Stevie Aiello. "I'm Blue, Skies" has a big and bold feel, allowing Jackson's voice to soar high and wide in the chorus. As the music video was released this weekend, why don't you check it out for yourself.

Toward the end, I am still getting goosebumps when I listen. "Any Day Now" starts off with a quiet and simple feel, with Cheyenne's voice being laid in the bed of an acoustic guitar. Written by Jackson, Australian Sia Furler and Chris Braide, there is a wonderful introspective feel, giving me a bit of Joni Mitchell for a new age. The song has such great range, showing off the richness of Cheyenne's voice, from the top down. There is a real honesty in the song, and it reaches out and touches me. Next, we have another song by Jackson, Furler, and Chris Braide, with Stevie Aiello also adding in wisdom to "She's Pretty, She Lies". There is a wonderful feel to this one, but why not let the intriguing music video let you discover it for yourself.

This song puts me in mind of the wonderful indie band KEane, and their ability to have sweetly layered music that never becomes dense. Then comes the first song I remember hearing off this album, "Drive". The song, written by Jackson & Aiello, nicely balances between a quiet detachment and power. It was the first video I saw, with the sleek animated visuals. You can see my post featuring the music video here. "Mr. Lonely Boy" is up next, a big aching ballad written by Jackson with the New York-based production team, The ELEV3N. The song has a a strong emotional base, allowing Jackson freedom in his vocals. That is followed by the delicious "Don't Wanna Know", with words & music by Jackson & Aiello. The song has a great sound, and the video a flirty cheekiness I cannot resist. You can find my post featuring the music video for "Don't Wanna Know" here. "Back Pocket" begins with a soulful Cheyenne and a piano, and there is a quick switch to a some Pop sweetness. The song, written by Jackson, Igloo, and Tyler Lyles, slips and slides a bit, adopting different styles over the course of three-and-a-half minutes, floating from Pop to Reggae to Diva to Emo with ease. That is followed by "Not Ready To Let You Go", a song written by Jackson & Jay Levine, sounding like a young Lennon-McCartney song, with a timeless elegance with love at the heart. Next, Cheyenne offers a song so introspective and real, the isolation is almost palpable. See for yourself, with the music video for "Don't Look at Me", with music & lyrics by Jackson, Sia Furler and Chris Braide.

The song is so haunting, the video captures it well. Cheyenne's voice is so expansive, he is able to go huge at times, feeling like he is pushing you away while he lets you in to his heart and mind. I love this song. The next song was written by Jackson and Jay Levine, along with the singer/songwriter featured in the single. "You Get Me" has Charlotte Sometimes joining Cheyenne, adding a new dimension to the sound. There is a wonderful retro feel at times, as the song gives Bacharach/David realness. The final cut on the album is a remix of the first single. "Drive (Conaire Remix)" takes the song written by Jackson and Aiello and adds some additional juiciness by Kim Ålander to make it ready for any dance floor. You can find a video featuring the Remix here.

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The album is a gooey Pop candy, perfect for the summer. This has already been playing when I'm outside doing some work on the yard, and great to play as you drive. The diversity allows us all to experience the amazing depth and breadth of Cheyenne's voice, stepping off the Broadway stage to make some excellent Pop records. From fluffy Pop sweetness to introspective singer/songwriter fare, 'I'm Blue, Skies' allows Jackson to show he not only can do Pop, he SHOULD be making music like this for years to come. I love the way he sounds, and I feel what he has to say. His voice is a welcome one, and I can't wait to hear what he will has to say for a long time to come. This will be an album that will be on my playlists this summer, making me very happy. You can purchase 'I'm Blue, Skies' on iTunes and Amazon. To learn more about Cheyenne Jackson, to find out what he is up to at the moment, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook, and 'follow' him on Twitter.


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