"Everyone has the experience of losing someone, and not just to AIDS. It can be a parent or a friend. I felt it was an important issue for me to face," says Stephen Dolginoff, the 28-year-old author and composer of the Off-Broadway sung-through musical Most Men Are (Original Cast Records). "I was interested in how men relate to each other in all aspects, so I used only men, without any sympathetic mother or sister to help them cope." In Dolginoff's musical, a New Age enthusiast loses his lover to AIDS and shares an impromptu memorial with his lover's father and estranged brother. The result -- a funny, touching and straightforward consideration of sexuality, love, parting and the ways of the male animal.
Original music -- combined with lyrics drawn from sources as varied as Emily Dickinson and performance artist Ethyl Eichelberger -- highlights Heartbeats: New Songs From Minnesota for the AIDS Quilt Songbook (Innova). John Musto and Melvin Dixon's "Heartbeats," sung by baritone William Parker, turns the daily business of life with HIV into a mordantly witty exercise litany: "No work. Eat right. CAT scan. Chin up." Composer-lyricist Chris DeBlasio's evocation of a great poet brings a comforting sense of life and continuity in "Walt Whitman in 1989": "Whitman has come down today to the hospital room...I will carry this young man to your bank...and we'll sail together all the way through the evening."
For Heartkeys: The AIDS Memorial Album (Rising Star), the performances are all by keyboard artists who are living with AIDS or have died, as well as others whose music has been inspired as a response to their own experiences. The opening piece, "Threads of Love," played by its composer, Lorie Line, is characteristic of the collection's musical eloquence which expresses volumes of deep sentiment wordlessly. The inclusion of "I'll Be Seeing You," played by Liberace, lends a resonant and historic note to the collection.
Included in a superb collection of songs and performances, Winter Moon: A Celebration of Gay and Lesbian Singers and Songwriters...and Friends (Streeter), is Alix Korey and David Friedman's "You're There," a new classic of loss and affirmation. Delivered with quiet intensity by Phillip Officer, the lyric "I know you're there, although there's nothing I can prove; although I said goodbye, and finally let you go...I know you're there" articulates a transcendent truth.
A bevy of established and new cabaret talents including Nancy LaMott and Kathie Lee Gifford shine it on for I'll Be Here With You: The Songs Of David Friedman (Midder Music), a benefit recording for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Among them, LaJuan Carter banishes doubts with "It's Safe to Fall in Love," and Annie Sutton sings the poignant plea "Catch Me," inspired by a friend's despair during years of drug use. Friedman expresses the sense of community that is implicit in all of these recordings. "We had all these demo tapes people had done through the years," the artist has said. "By putting them together, the singers get to participate in something they might not have been able to do, and to benefit others." Amen.