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BWW CD Review: John Minnock's HERRING COVE Is All About The Contemporary Gay Experience - Happy Pride!


BWW CD Review: John Minnock's HERRING COVE Is All About The Contemporary Gay Experience - Happy Pride! Writers are taught to write what they know. This could be a philosophy well applied to the work of any artist, though it isn't always essential, as the writers of science fiction and fantasy novels have proven. For his third CD, John Minnock went real personal, and it paid off - big time.

Herring Cove is the name of a beach in the vacation spot of Provincetown, a place that caters to LGBTQ+ clientele. Released on June 5th, during the month of Gay Pride, HERRING COVE is Mr. Minnock's artistic expression of "a dynamic and compelling portrait of contemporary gay life," per Lydia Liebman Promotions. It may not appear to all that this is what Minnock has done, but it is exactly what he set out to do, and he does succeed, whether everyone hears that in the music or not. Listening to jazz music is like going to the ballet - sometimes you get Gisele, others you get Martha Graham; some nights you see Sleeping Beauty and others you see Twyla Tharp. You may not always get the artist's full intent or message, and that doesn't matter; what matters is that the artist told their story and that you exposed yourself to creation and to creative growth. With Herring Cove, Mr. Minnock has provided the listener with Gisele and with Twyla, and he has done so while remaining true to himself as a man, and as an artist.

John Minnock has an extremely pleasant voice and it is well showcased on every track of Herring Cove, even as the disparity in styles flows from track to track, a prime example waiting for the listener, right out of the gate. The brilliant "Tell Him I'm Fine" tells the all-too-familiar tale of a break-up and the re-integration into the circle of mutual friends, filled with bitterness, anxiety, and a show of good face, all of which Minnock achieves with clever-as-hell lyrics and atonal, angst-ridden, frantic, desperate, defiant musical truculence. Immediately following is a grown-up, sexy, straight-forward, soulful declaration of wistful regret with an inspired jazz arrangement of the unforgettable Cher hit "If I Could Turn Back Time." If by this point, the gay theme of Minnock's CD is not clear, the listener is perhaps better off with some Don Ho or Jack Jones, both gifted vocalists that everyone enjoys, but singers that will not make demands on the ear or the intellect. John Minnock is here to tell his story, and he is doing it without pandering or explaining anything, as an artist does, specifically through six compositions written by himself and his writing partners Erick Holmberg and Enrique Hanenine.

Balancing out Minnock's own original works with songs by other writers, Herring Cove fascinates through arrangements musical director Enrique Haneine has created for well-known tunes like "Stardust" and "On Green Dolphin Street" that, while not written specifically for Minnock's exploration of the life of the modern gay male, certainly do evoke the mood that he is working so ardently to create. Through his song-cycle, Minnock offers a symphony in which each new movement tells the tale of one gay man's existence... or any gay man... or many gay men. The perspective lies entirely on the point of view of the listener and where they are willing and able to allow Minnock to take them, and it's a trip worth taking.

For jazz neophytes, the assertive, the assailing, the almost assaultive first number on the CD might be a turn-off, but DON'T turn off the CD. Such newcomers to the artform should stay with it, close their eyes for "Tell Him I'm Fine" and feel all the emotions (ones they will recognize) and then allow the Cher classic to draw them in, and by the time "Green Dolphin Street" reaches the piano and sax solos by Haneine and Dave Liebman, the novices will be swept up into their introduction to jazz, an intricate and complex one that aficionados will recognize, from the opening notes, as their kind of jam, the reason they go to clubs, the explanation behind their music collections. Indeed, with every cut on the CD, bassist Carlos Mena, and drummer Pablo Eluchans join in with Liebman and Haneine to stun and stimulate with their exciting prowess at their mutual instruments - this is some of the best instrumental work to be captured on an album this or any other year, it is simply breathtaking. Hanenine and Executive producer Liebman have helped Minnock to fully realize an album that is as intricate, emotional and multi-faceted as life itself, let alone the life of a gay male, bringing to life musical representations of the gay youth who is ousted from his home ("Unconditional") and the gay man that searches for the place where he belongs ("Kansas City") or the inevitable relationship each gay man has with his GBF ("Now There's You" featuring a winsome and wonderful Deborah Lippmann) and the day the long-coupled pair finally got to marry ("After All These Years"). No matter which song the player lands on, the individual story is crystal clear, an accomplishment only to be achieved when the artist leading the way has his or her eye on the trajectory: clearly Minnock is a leader with an empowered vision.

The eleven tracks and 60 minutes of music are a sophisticated yet interestingly base musical offering - sophisticated because of the artistry, base because of the skillful way that the lyrics touch the most honest, raw, and sympathetic emotions we all feel, everyone, though especially the gay men who will find their own stories here. "On Green Dolphin Street" feels like an established man at a cocktail party surrounded by younger men he could mentor or he could use, while "A Melody" simultaneously evokes that first day or maybe the fifteenth year of a love story. "Kansas City" has lyrics very specific to the telling of one man's experience - not all gay men search this hard for acceptance, but it's important to put this story out there. The song is effective at displaying the quest, especially the way the recording fades out, as the sojourn will always be one of the horizon, for the trajectory is never-ending - you can't move from town to town looking for acceptance; you have to make your acceptance by standing still and claiming your family. Meanwhile "Now You're Here," the most commercial cut on the CD, tells a story that is relatable to all gay men - though the mention of Regan and The Plague will resonate with men of a certain age, young gay men also have their BGFs, making significant the universal journey taken in the song.

Particularly special to the success of Herring Cove is the contribution of Academy Award winner David Shire, providing two songs for Minnock, who skillfully embodies the Maestro's mood. A new composition, "After All These Years" tells of the real-life moment when couples were finally granted the right to marry. Minnock's performance is articulate and emotionally in contact with Mr. Shire's artistry, and the moment we all said I do. With "It Goes Like It Goes" Mr. Minnock stays true to the original source. We are continually crusading, and the inclusion of the theme song from Norma Rae is a welcome one to the CD, especially since the LGBTQ+ community has returned to the fight, as the current administration repeatedly attempts to strip from us our rights. John Minnock makes the song his own without taking away the much needed gentle breathing, rolling flow essential to the emotional and musical movement of the piece, restoring to it its age-old anthem of activism, even in its quieter qualities, Liebman's sax acting as an outstanding beacon-like battle cry, in all its mournful, hopeful, determined intention.

Wrapping up with the classic "Stardust" John Minnock perfectly ends this recording - true to the authors, and the gay men he is representing, the ones who have reached the age they have, those who are in a place where they can look back and look forward at the same time. This is one of the best arrangements on the CD, allowing the full body of artists a chance to demonstrate why they are the members of the community that they are, with great vocals, astonishing flair, and credible style, bringing to fruition Mr. Minnocks third album, one for jazz lovers AND for people wanting to know more about jazz... and the life of the contemporary gay male.

The release of Herring Cove is planned to be celebrated at Feinstein's/54 Below in New York City on September 9th at 9:30.

John Minnock HERRING COVE is a 2020 release on the Dot Time Records label and is available on Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify, and at the Dot Time Records Website HERE

BWW CD Review: John Minnock's HERRING COVE Is All About The Contemporary Gay Experience - Happy Pride!

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