Arthur Alexander is not nearly as well known as his influence suggests he should be. His songs have been covered by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley. He also helped found FAME studios, the Muscle Shoals, Alabama-based studio in which Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Etta James and many more recorded. Alexander's 1972 self-titled album has now been reissued by Omnivore recordings, including six bonus tracks.
This was a 'comeback album' after a bit of a career slump in the late '60s, and his sound was appropriately updated from the early '60s pop/R&B of his first album, 1962's You Better Move On, to the country-tinged Southern soul displayed here. Alexander's slight drawl on the word "home" from "I'm Coming Home" enhances the comfy feeling in this music, as does the acoustic plucking on "It Hurts to Want it so Bad" and "Down the Back Roads." The energetic horn arrangements on most of these songs evince a lively soul influence, and the tropical rhythms of "Call Me in Tahiti" and the gospel of "Thank God He Came" make for a rich musical gumbo.
The quick fadeouts (common for recordings of the era) might seem jarring to anyone not accustomed to the style, but also help move things along swiftly. With only four of these 18 songs passing the three-minute mark (and only one over five minutes), there's definitely no overstaying welcomes here.
The smooth way in which Alexander's voice blends between shifting country and soul backgrounds demonstrates versatility, and his clear and accessible vocal delivery helps tie together these different strands like a good leader. While it's unfortunate that he fell out of the spotlight for so long, hopefully this reissue helps spread his deserving name. (Omnivore)