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TRANSVOCALIZERS — “Abbalicious”

| Dec 7, 2009
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Transvocalizers by Pamela DeGroff

This year, just in time (hopefully…) for the Christmas season, Transvocalizers would like to offer a gift suggestion for that extremely hard-to-buy-for fan of drag on everyone’s shopping list. Along with our companion column, Perpetual Change, I’d like to introduce some truly unique music that will probably be new to many, but nonetheless is definitely off the beaten path.

abbaliciousLast August, I had the pleasure of interviewing Roger Mapes, a.k.a Yolanda, for Perpetual Change. Roger is a truly unique and gifted individual whose talent as a singer and musician I’ve come to respect. In doing the research for that column, I came across a project Yolanda was involved with called Abbalicious. Here’s the concept: an entire album of Abba covers done by nine different drag queens. Got your attention? Well, it certainly got mine.

The album was released in 2004 on Figjam Records, and is hard to find. You can go to their website for copies, although I found mine through amazon.com.

The ladies involved in the project are Hedda Lettuce, Sade Pendarvis, Cashetta, Connie Cat, Betzy, Joie Starr, June Bug, Edie, and of course, Yolanda. Yolanda does make a second appearance as part of the “famous drag duo” known as Chixie Dix.

The album opens with Hedda Lettuce covering Gimme Gimme Gimme. She delivers one of the better vocal performances, but for some reason inserted a rap into the song, which kind of messed with its overall feel and continuity. Nonetheless, it’s a great opener for the project.

Sade Pendarvis (…love that last name; sounds medieval…), who has probably the most believably feminine voice on the project, covers Knowing Me Knowing You, as well as Voulez-vous.
Some of the other more stand out track are Super Trouper (covered by Betzy as almost a cabaret type tune); Take A Chance On Me (covered by Cashetta); and the album’s closing track, Mamma Mia (covered by a chorus of everyone involved.)

Perhaps the most unusual track is Edie’s cover of Waterloo, which ends up sounding musicially like bad karaoke on methamphetamine. The tempo is…well, very, very fast.

This brings me to the actual sound quality of the project. With the exception of Yolanda’s material, the entire album is done with a synth-drum loop, and credited to someone named Donnie D. If you’re an audiophile by any degree, the technical side of Abbalicious will sound like fingernails on the proverbial chalkboard after a while. In all fairness, though, the backing track arrangements aren’t musically bad, it’s just that it’s the same thing over and over.

As I said, the exception is Yolanda’s material. Robert Urban worked on Yolanda’s cover of Lay All Your Love On Me, and has this to say about the project: “We were unique among all the other Abbalicious participants in that , instead of a cloney, synth-drum loop type cover, I rearranged our Abba tune for real acoustic guitars, playing in a very differrent bluesy way. We went into the recording studio and I banged it out in real time. Yolanda singing and me playing guitar at the same time. Then I went in and added guitar solo lines over.”

Yolanda is credited with acoustic guitar on the two Chixie Dix cuts, the first of which , The Dancing Queen Story, is a sort of comedic recitation/introduction to the Chixie Dix doing their version of Dancing Queen. Hedda Lettuce is the other Chixie Dix.

“Thanks for promoting the CD,” Yolanda said when contacted for a comment. “Although it’s been such a long time, I really want people to hear the record. I though it was very good and I loved doing Lay All Your Love On Me as a ballad, with Robert.”

For all it’s technical flaws, Abbalicious is still a real gem, and apparently is becoming harder and harder to find. I guess I just lucked out with amazon.com. Figjam as a record company also released an album called Marry Me, supporting gay marriage, but supposedly the company went belly-up soon after. Nonetheless, this is the type of project any serious collector would want to own-if not for its rarity, then just to enjoy the sheer campiness of nine drag queens covering Abba.


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Category: Music

Pam Degroff

About the Author ()

Pamela DeGroff been writing for TGForum since the start of 1999. Her humor column, The Pamela Principle, ran until 2005. She started the Perpetual Change music column in May of 1999, and in 2008, Angela Gardner came up with the idea for the Transvocalizers column and put Pam to work on that. Pamela was a regular contributor to Transgender Community News until that magazine's demise. While part of a support group in Nashville called The Tennessee Vals she began writing for their newsletter, and also wrote for several local GLBT alternative newspapers in Tennessee. Pamela is currently a staff reporter for a small town daily paper in Indiana, and is also a working musician.

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