Lingua disponibile: ingleseEndlessly curious as a songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Arthur Russell explored a range of styles that wound from avant-garde minimalism to dubby disco funk. Ahead of his time and existing in general obscurity during his short lifetime, Russell amassed an enormous amount of recorded material that brought his singular personality to whatever style he approached. After his death in 1992, Russell's distinctive voice and adventurous production range caught on in terms of popularity as well as influence on new generations of musicians. Albums released during his lifetime, like 1986's spare, dubby cello experiments on World of Echo, were joined by posthumous releases like 2008's collection of previously unreleased country-tinged material Love Is Overtaking Me. Russell was born in Iowa in 1952 and studied as a classically trained cellist in his early years. He moved to San Francisco in the early '70s, where he studied at a school founded by Hindustani (North Indian) music master Ali Akbar Khan. It was during this West Coast period that he began an association with Allen Ginsberg by providing musical accompaniment for many of the poet's performances. Russell moved to New York in the mid-'70s, where he collaborated in the Flying Hearts, a rock project that involved the likes of David Byrne, Rhys Chatham, and Peter Gordon. In 1979, Russell produced "Kiss Me Again," the first disco single for Sire Records, and made his reputation as a dance music producer with Loose Joints' "Is It All Over My Face" for West End. The club mix of this single was one of the earliest efforts by Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levan and qualifies without doubt as a prototype of what came to be known as the garage sound. In 1982, under the name Dinosaur L, Russell released 24-24 Music on his own Sleeping Bag label. The 12" single from this album, a François Kevorkian remix of "Go Bang," epitomized the loose, jazzy, somewhat minimalist underground sound that would inform Chicago house. Though the record was not a huge dancefloor smash, it was an influential turntable hit, finding its way into many radio mixes and supplying the identifying sample for Todd Terry's "Bango." In 1983, Russell released a portion of a larger instrumental composition as the Tower of Meaning LP, as well as another Loose Joints single. His 1986 World of Echo was a one-man show of original songs in a solo cello-and-vocal format that seemed designed to be overheard. World of Echo embodies the link between the two sides of Russell's output. The unusually percussive cello accompaniment evident on the album versions of "Wax the Van," "Let's Go Swimming," and "Treehouse" could be preliminary sketches for the keyboard-and-drum versions of those tunes that appeared on Russell-produced 12" singles. Though World of Echo received a favorable critical reception in the U.K. music press, Russell remained relatively obscure throughout his life, which was ended by AIDS-related illness in 1992. A retrospective of previously unissued material was released in 1994 as Another Thought. As the next decade dawned, Russell's recordings began reaching new ears, with reissues of existing records as well as collections of some of the volumes of unreleased archival songs he left behind. Calling Out of Context and The World of Arthur Russell both appeared in 2004, offering a cross-section of his various readings of disco, avant-pop, and singer/songwriter styles. The instrumental collection First Thought Best Thought and delay-heavy dance styles of Springfield were issued in 2006. In 2008, a collection of country- and folk-flavored unreleased songs called Love Is Overtaking Me was released in conjunction with a documentary about Russell's life. The next year, The Sleeping Bag Sessions materialized, focusing on dance productions. Corn, a collection of previously unheard solo recordings from 1982-1983, appeared in 2015. Archival releases continued with 2019's Iowa Dream, an album made up largely of unreleased songs recorded as demos for major labels in the mid-'70s.
© Richard Pierson /TiVo
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Folk - Uscito il 26 ottobre 2008 | Rough Trade
Since 2005, New York City's Audika imprint has dedicated itself to releasing the recordings of the late composer, cellist, and singer/songwriter Arthur Russell, a musical polymath who was as comfortable in the discos of Manhattan as he was in a cowboy hat in the fields as he appears here, on the cover of Love Is Overtaking Me. Audika has issued four albums -- three different compilations centering on different aspects of his musical adventurousness, an EP, and his seminal World of Echo album. Love Is Overtaking Me contains 21 tracks recorded between 1974 and 1990. It reveals another dimension of this seemingly limitless musician: his pop and country-ish recordings, done solo as demos, in session with the brilliant John Hammond at Columbia, and with musicians from the East Village and downtown scenes including Peter Gordon Ernie Brooks, Andy Paley, Jerry Harrison, Steven Hall, Larry Saltzman, Jon Gibson, Jimmy Chamberlain, David Van Tieghem, and Peter Zummo. Some of these are rehearsal versions of tunes he performed and recorded with his bands the Flying Hearts and the Sailboats project with Hall. Russell's companion Tom Lee wrote the liner notes to this set and discusses the sheer possibility for mass appeal in these songs; he's not exaggerating. Take a listen to the demo of the title track recorded with Hall on guitar, drummer Rob Shepperson, and conguero Mustafa Khaliq Ahmed. Its verse/chorus structure is woven straight from classic organic pop/rock melody -- think a less twisted Jonathan Richman -- and is utterly infectious. Elsewhere, in "I Couldn't Say It to Your Face," one can hear traces of John Lennon, James Taylor, and Randy Newman. Recorded by Hammond, this cut featured a full band with Gibson, Brooks, Gordon, Paley, trombonist Garrett List, and bassist Jon Sholle. The melody shimmers underneath a lyric that contains warmth, love, anger, and irony. The very next track, "This Time Dad You're Wrong," with a standard rock quartet, features a shuffling country rhythm under a melody that combines the sophistication of Big Star and the poetic directness of Willie Nelson. The latter is exaggerated a bit on the spoken/sung "What It's Like," but it's a story song and it works. The opening number, "Close My Eyes," is a pure country waltz, with Russell accompanying himself on a guitar -- he was almost as deft on it as he was on cello. These tunes reflect Russell's California origins. But there's the other side too; the New York side in the rockin' "Big Moon" and "Janine," which, though utterly friendly and even beautiful, is a kind of fractured future pop that transcends its form. On "Love Comes Back," Russell accompanies himself with a cheap drum machine and keyboards; he closes the entire argument as to what he was about artistically no matter how wide-ranging his recordings were: he was a composer and songwriter who wished -- and succeeded -- to express tenderness, empathy, and gentleness in everything he did. Russell's music connected with so many of his peers -- no matter what scene they were in -- and with his posthumous listeners for that reason alone. Russell was 100-percent genuine, and as Ted Berrigan once wrote, "on the level, everyday." This is one of the finest chapters yet in Audika's continuing retrospective. Let's hope there is still more where this came from. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
Colonne sonore - Uscito il 04 settembre 2012 | Audika Records