ARTHUR ALEXANDER: RAINBOW ROAD (1972-1973; 2001)
1) Rainbow Road; 2) Down The Backroads; 3) I'm Comin' Home; 4) In The Middle Of It All; 5) Call Me Honey; 6) Lover Please; 7) You Got Me Knockin'; 8) It Hurts To Want It So Bad; 9) Love's Where Life Begins; 10) Come Along With Me; 11) Burning Love; 12) Go Home Girl; 13) They'll Do It Everytime; 14) Mr. John; 15) Thank God He Came.
This disc collects most of the stuff that Arthur recorded during his brief stint with Warner Bros. in the early 1970s — although, what with all the commercial non-success he'd had in the previous six or seven years, it is amazing they even let him into a studio: Muscle Shoals, no less. The results were a couple of singles and a self-titled LP, all of which except for one song is reproduced here. It all sold about as much as usual — i. e. from very little to none — and Alexander soon found himself on the streets again.
Way too bad, because the Muscle Shoals stint gave the man the best backing he ever had, while at the same time the quality of his songs continuously remained the same: another bunch of modest, likeable country-soul that does not aspire to much except sounding friendly, touching, and very human. Not a single misfire all around; perhaps trying to promote 'Burning Love' as a single was a rash decision — no one messes with the King even in his Vegas-y state of mind — but no one can accuse Arthur of botching this hot pop-rocker, either (after all, 'A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues' had already secured his potential as a rock'n'roller).
The third re-recording of 'In The Middle Of It All' is a bit limper, less stately than the original version, and there is also an updated version of 'Go Home Girl' that is equally unnecessary, but, apparently, Arthur was struggling for material. Still, the album is worth locating for two tracks at least: 'Rainbow Road' is a humbly beautiful prayer that could have been a blue-eyed soul hit for Van Morrison (it was eventually picked up by Percy Sledge instead), and 'Mr. John' simply revels in darkness and paranoia, accentuated by wah-wah guitars and chain gang backing vocals.
These two stand out a bit over everything else, but not by much: regardless of personal fortunes, at all times in his career Arthur Alexander was nothing less than the perfect working man, never demanding genius from the songs he sang, but always demanding melody and emotional force. Even the little country-gospel number at the end is moving in its own gentle way, despite the fact that technically, you could hardly find a less qualified singer for gospel than Mr. Alexander. Then again, if we do not consider the ability to break glass and cover everyone within a half-mile radius in one's spit the necessary prerequisites of singing good gospel, I suspect that's subjective.
Arthur's last, faintest smudge of success came two years later on Buddah Records, for whom he recorded a minor hit version of 'Every Day I Have To Cry Some', but even that did not help his career to recover, and eventually he just switched to bus driving — all for the better, perhaps, because even with all that perfectionism, who knows what degrees of lameness could he have been driven to in the disco and synth-pop eras? This way, I can simply award him another respectful thumbs up, and then we can move right on to the very last chapter of his career, and life.
Check out "Rainbow Road" (CD) on Amazon