Magnuson channels glam's Jobriath
"The Jobriath Medley"
Pink Fleece Inc.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- That multi-talented Charleston native Ann Magnuson would choose to zoom in on late, glam-rock icon Jobriath is a gimme.
From his doomed trajectory as a flaming, over-hyped rock star, Jobriath's career ended with him taking requests in a cocktail bar and, eventually, dying of AIDS in 1983. It's safe to say that few other artists so completely capture Magnuson's spirit and imagination (and fears?) as this '70s cult figure.
Known as much for his flamboyant persona as his music, Jobriath was running about neck-and-neck with Bowie in the early '70s when glitter queens were in their exciting infancy: Jobriath's debut was released in 1973 (with a massive promotional campaign that included a towering billboard in Times Square) -- the year after Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" and the same year as "Aladdin Sane." In Magnuson's words, Jobriath sounds like "Mick Jagger doing Ethel Merman doing Axl Rose doing Elton John doing David Bowie doing Mick Ronson producing Chopin's next album if Chopin was a glam-rock fairy alive in 1973 . . ."
With Magnuson providing vocals, direction, background and commentary as only she can, she and keyboardist/producer/arranger Kristian Hoffman have offered up perhaps the ultimate tribute to one of the first openly gay rock stars. Even the cover recreates the original. In their hands, Jobriath "classics" like "Blow Away" and "I'Maman" (with former Sparks singer Russell Mael guesting on vocals) are not slavish recreations but artful extensions of the originals.
Magnuson's anecdotes are personal and poignant and add significant depth and theater to the project. Speaking over a curtain of angelic strings, she uses Jobriath's character to almost steal the show. As in her outstanding one-woman shows, Magnuson has a singular talent for putting her subjects in a larger perspective. In this case, Jobriath's short and tragic run at fame can be either cautionary or inspiring.
"The Jobriath Medley" is a perfect jumping-off point to check out the real thing.