The major creative force behind the Off-Broadway musical revue Songs from an Unmade Bed is lyricist Mark Campbell, who employed different composers for each of its 18 songs without getting very different results. Tenor Michael Winther capably sings all of those songs, with backing from pianist Kimberly Grigsby, cellist David Kotay, and percussionist Shane Shanahan. Although there is no overall plot line, the songs have a related sensibility further unified by employing only one singer to deliver them all. These are first-person narratives from a gay man living in New York City in the present day. In his liner notes, Campbell writes of "the universal appeal the songs seemed to engender," which is not quite true, at least until you add the rest of his remark, "that the amorous experiences of one gay man could be understood by everyone, regardless of their sexual preference." And even that statement is really only true if the word "understood" is meant in its primary form, to mean "comprehended," and not in one of its other meanings, "to be sympathetic to." Certainly, the songs in Songs from an Unmade Bed are not hard to comprehend, but they will be difficult for a non-gay listener to appreciate, and even a gay listener may be unsympathetic, since the character who emerges is highly promiscuous, or used to be, or wants to be, much of the time. Campbell celebrates the gay lifestyle of bars and one-night stands and multiple partners, a lifestyle that, for more than two decades, as of 2006, has equated to being HIV-positive, at the very least. The only place his narrator is willing to draw the line, it seems, is when his character discovers that he is not the only man with whom his lover is being unfaithful to his regular partner; that he is, actually, "The Other Other Woman" (by which he means the other other man, of course). "I'm fine just being a slut," he sings, "but won't be demoted to substitute slut." In such a context, it must be a tribute to AIDS-fighting drugs that the show contains only one song about death, "Our Separate Ways," in which the singer describes to a departed companion what his funeral was like, noting that it was attended by "five hundred or so of the whackos you dated." Songs from an Unmade Bed is an unflinching portrait of one approach to gay living, but it is not as universally appealing as its author imagines.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann