Southern soul singer Arthur Alexander was always something of a square peg, making music that often split the difference between soul and country. His early work exerted more influence in the UK than in the U.S., and some of his best songs were immortalized in cover versions by the Beatles and Rolling Stones (“Anna” and “Soldier of Love” by the former, “You Better Move On” by the latter). In the late 80s I picked up a copy of the indispensable Ace compilation A Shot of Rhythm & Soul, and it’s remained a favorite for three decades. I’ve also collected his less consistent later work, and I was heartened to see him rediscovered in the early 90s, after which he cut a wonderful album, the 1993 Elektra/Nonesuch release Lonely Just Like Me. He seemed on the brink of the late-career renaissance he deserved, but on June 3 of that year, just a few weeks after the record dropped, he suffered a fatal heart attack at age 53.
I haven’t listened to Alexander’s music in a while, but a few weeks ago the Omnivore label reissued his self-titled 1972 album for Warner Brothers, which accentuates the way his music straddled southern traditions. Though the material is a mixed bag, Alexander’s beautifully reedy, restrained voice sounds great throughout. The opening track, “I’m Coming Home,” sounds unfortunately like the theme song for a 70s sitcom, but a cover of “Burning Love”—cut before Elvis made his hit version—works much better. For today’s 12 O’Clock Track I’m sharing “Mr. John,” a single Alexander cut the same year for Warner Brothers. It wasn’t issued on the album, but it turned up on a 1994 reissue called Rainbow Road and also appears on the new reissue—in addition to a pair of solid previously unreleased tracks. The version below has vinyl surface noise not present on the CD.
Melvyn Poore, Death Be Not Proud (Wergo)
Toot, One (Sofa)
Brigid Mae Power, Brigid Mae Power (Tompkins Square)
Daniel Erdmann’s Velvet Revolution, A Short Moment of Zero G (BMC)
David Kirkland Garner, Dark Holler (New Focus)