Arthur Alexander: Arthur Alexander

Alexander's music shares an affinity with the gospel-turned-secular R&B that made Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack, and others so damn good. These songs express heart and soul.

Arthur Alexander

Arthur Alexander

Label: Omnivore
US Release Date: 2017-07-28
UK Release Date: Import

Arthur Alexander is one of those unsung heroes of rock 'n' roll who influenced a generation of great artists but is relatively unknown. His works were covered by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Otis Redding, Ike & Tina Turner, and many other famous stars. However, while Alexander is often considered an antecedent to these luminaries, he was actually a contemporary around the same age as them. His first singles were released in the early '60s -- with his first album arriving in 1962 -- but his output during the height of the decade was sparse because of personal circumstances. His self-titled second full-length did not come out until 1972. Fortunately, Omnivore's re-release features the entire album and six bonus tracks.

Those already in possession of the original 12 songs probably won’t bother repurchasing the disc for the new cuts. However, the extra music has merit as both art and artifact. Alexander sings a contemporary version of the folk legend about an honorable man who dies at war and whose buddy must go back home to tell what happened. Remember, this was recorded during the Vietnam War, when just a mention of war was a political act in popular music. The other bonus tracks are more upbeat; for instance, he does a rollicking cover of Billy Swan’s “Lover Please” and a boisterous version his own “They’ll Do It Every Time”.

Alexander has a remarkably intimate, conversational voice that makes him sound like a friend telling stories. The naturalness of his approach makes his music warm and affecting, sharing an affinity with the gospel-turned-secular R&B that made Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack, and others so damn good. These songs express heart and soul.

Many critics consider the original Arthur Alexander a classic, although it flopped during its initial release. He’s ably backed Muscle Shoals studio’s guitarist Eddie Hinton, Memphis master Tommy Cogbill on bass (that’s him on Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man”), and Nashville drummer extraordinaire Kenny Malone. The track selection is somewhat of a mishmash of styles that showcases Alexander’s ability to make any song his own.

Alexander recorded several Dennis Linde songs, including “Burning Love” before Elvis made it a hit, and the differences between him and the King reveal what made Alexander special. Presley engulfs himself in the flames of love. From the very beginning of the song, he lets out the clutch and sings at maximum intensity. When Elvis croons in the last verse that the fire is coming closer, you wonder why he’s been singing about the heat for so long if it hasn’t touched him. In contrast, Alexander starts out energetically and lets the song build. The horns behind him convey the fire growing, but his vocals remain steadfast. Love carries him away as a willing participant.

The album contains several other Linde songs, including the celebratory “Call Me Honey”, the exotic “Call Me in Tahiti”, and the welcoming “I’m Coming Home”. Alexander also covers three Donnie Fritts’ titles: the plaintive “Rainbow Road”, the reflective “Come Along with Me”, and the gospel “Thank God He Came”. There are also three Alexander self-penned titles. All the material showcases Alexander’s wistful way of dealing with life’s joys and miseries as part of the journey.

Because of the commercial failure of this record, Alexander did not record another album for over 20 years, and when he finally did, he died soon after. This reissue of Arthur Alexander suggests how much music was lost by his absence from the scene.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.