[15] Arthur Alexander – The Ultimate

19 Jul

I’m shocked I hadn’t encountered Arthur Alexander before.

In this career retrospective of his singles there are many things I love, all merged into one – Rock and Roll sensibilities, riveting vocals, and sometimes melancholy lyrics mixing upbeat Country with Rhythm and Blues instrumentation.

The Ultimate Arthur Alexander

The Ultimate Arthur Alexander

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alexander’s sound is akin to so many of the bands and artists I do know and love from the era and beyond, but with a sense that it is its own thing in itself.

The very first impression is of classic early 60s Rock and Roll records, if slightly more soulful, a little more mournful. And yes, there’s even a country twang, sometime more than just a hint. This is the retro stuff that filled the old fashioned juke box of my youth.  Yet I’ve never heard the name or voice before starting The List.

And I cannot fathom how “Shot of R & B” did not get rediscovered in the “Twist”, “Wipeout”, “Locomotion” revival of the 80s?

I love story songs, as many of these are, and Alexander’s voice is one which you can believe has lived the tales you hear. Perfect 2 and 3 minute explorations of love and loss, some of which strike painfully close to home.

There are so many fun walking bass line shuffles, honking saxophones, and riffing pianos behind the open and honest vocals. Plenty of strut and guitar picking, simple compositions all hanging on Alexander’s delivery that all adds up to bite sized bliss.

He has some Elvis Presley in his voice, and I mean this in the most flattering sense. It is a sound that crosses genres, blends lines.

I would like to have heard Patsy Cline sing some of these (like the straight Country ballad “I Hang My Head And Cry”) – in fact I am not certain she did not . . .

To the modern ear there is nothing new here. We’ve heard this all before – albeit rarely performed by a single artist – but everything is in its place, the pieces forming a pleasing whole.  There are also more than a few moments of genius and heartache.  For example, the twist of the knife in the final verse of “Anna”:

“Just one more thing, girl / Give back my ring to me
And, darling, you’ll be free / Go with him”

Ouch.

Finally, there is the human story that enhances the accomplished music – an almost star (the guy who first recorded at Muscle Shoals) rejecting the industry when true stardom didn’t come, and who late in life return to the spotlight and almost glory.

Turn it up, and file under “life ain’t fair” . . .

Owned before blogging? No. (1 of 15.  7%)
Heard before blogging? No. (3 of 15.  20%)
Recommend? Yes. (11 of 15.  73%)

Next Week:  Alice In Chains – Dirt

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5 Responses to “[15] Arthur Alexander – The Ultimate”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [17] Mose Allison – Allison Wonderland | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - August 2, 2013

    […] is not like Arthur Alexander’s blending of genres. Allison starts firmly in one world and moves comfortably to another by the end […]

  2. [35] Baby Huey – The Living Legend | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - December 6, 2013

    […] least in this case I begin to get an answer to my recurring question – why isn’t this artist or that better known?  Given the choice of listening to Jimi, Janis or Huey sing there really is […]

  3. [93] Chuck Berry – Anthology | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - January 16, 2015

    […] Both Arthur Alexander and Huey Smith borrowing lyrics from “Roll Over Beethoven” for “A Shot of Rhythm […]

  4. [105] Bobby “Blue” Bland – Two Steps From The Blues | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - April 10, 2015

    […] It is not a remarkable vocal showcase such as the one encountered when listening to Arthur Alexander. […]

  5. [160] James Carr – You Got My Mind Messed Up | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - May 6, 2016

    […] the evocative down-tempo tunes which initially enchant, not as catchy or heartbreaking as those of Arthur Alexander, but polished and profound […]

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