Artist: Arthur Alexander
Album: Arthur Alexander
Release Date: 7/28/2017
Alexander was like one of those short-lived comets that burned out way too early, before most people had the opportunity to appreciate him. Omnivore has reissued Alexander’s 1972 album with six bonus tracks (two previously unissued) and liners from Barry Hansen (Dr. Demento and former Warner Brothers staff writer). This has historical significance for several reasons. Alexander, hailing from the Muscle Shoals area, was one of the first artists to record a Rick Hall’s Fame Studio and feature the Muscle Shoals rhythm section. From these sessions emerged the hits “Anna (Go to Him)” and “You Better Move On” which precede this effort. After battling substance abuse at the end of the decade, he released this self-titled album, one of only three albums he made in his lifetime. Besides his soulful voice and knack for songwriting, it’s revealing to hear the originals that were later covered by high-profile artists like Elvis (“Burning Love Irma Thomas (“In the Middle of It All”), among many others.
These sessions were recorded in Nashville with mostly Memphis musicians. Alexander wrote or co-penned five of the dozen originals with contributions from Dennis Linde (four), Donnie Fritts (three) as well as Dan Penn and Steve Cropper. Aside from the familiar tunes previously mentioned, I agree with Hansen’s assessment in the liners that two of the most interesting tracks are “It Hurts to Want It So Bad” and “Rainbow Road,” written specifically for Alexander by Fritts and Penn. It reads like an autobiography of Alexander’s life but in fact only the first part relates to his own story.
The bonus material includes his 1973 update of Clyde McPhatter’s “Lover Please,” his 1975 hit “Evey Day I Have to Cry Some,” the tragic Vietnam-inspired “Mr. John,” and the two heard for the first time here: “Simple Song of Love,” and “I Don’t Want Nobody.”
Due to personal struggles and the inability of Warner Brothers to successfully market R&B artists at the time, Alexander never really got his due. If you want to learn more, you can delve into Richard Younger’s full-length biography of the singer, Get a Shot of Rhythm and Blues. There’s no denying the talent of this legend and kudos to Omnivore for honoring him.