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Arthur Alexander "Lonely Just Like Me" / Elektra American Explorer Series

April 15, 1993|RANDY LEWIS

As early R & B and soul singers go, Arthur Alexander was a minor figure in the early '60s, charting just four pop hits, only one of which ("You Better Move On") cracked the Top 30. But his influence went far beyond sales figures. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones admired his smooth, soulful vocal style which fell midway between the gossamer silk of Sam Cooke and the full-throated guts of Otis Redding (Ben E. King might be the most fitting reference point). He also was appreciated for his songwriting; the Beatles recorded his "Anna" on their first album, and the Stones covered "You Better Move On." For the last 15 years, Alexander has been driving a bus and doing guidance counseling in Cleveland. He was rediscovered in 1991 by organizers of the "In Their Own Words" songwriters' showcases, which led to this album, his first since the '70s.

His voice isn't always as taut as when he was younger but it still carries the uncommon sense of melancholy that characterized his early records. Check out the exquisite sadness he brings to the title tune, the story of a tragic love affair. One might suspect that he's returning the compliments he once received from John Lennon with "All the Time," a minimalist number in which he bares his broken heart for all in a way that recalls the naked emotion of Lennon's first post-Beatles album. There's a rural blues underpinning to "Sally Sue Brown," one of several older songs he's re-recorded here. Elsewhere, he draws upon classic R & B as well as country music traditions. It's a comeback that makes you believe in happy endings.

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