(1962-65 'Dot') (54:09/21) Arthur Alexander's early 605 Dot recordings include his greatest work and some of the greatest soul music ever recorded. Thirteen
years ago, I was an employee of the US-based Country Music Association,
and in Nashville on business. On Sunday 6 June I was out and about at
Nashville’s sadly now-defunct Summer Lights music festival, which
occupied several stages spread across several streets and blocks,
approximately between the Western edge of the Cumberland River and the
Ryman Auditorium. I’d noticed that Arthur Alexander was appearing at one
of the smaller stages during the early evening, but I’d already
arranged to meet a work colleague for dinner at roughly the time that he
was due to hit the stage but I had no way of contacting him to blow
said dinner off, “cellphones” still being a relative rarity in early 90s
Not to worry, I thought. Arthur’s making a comeback,
he’s just released a great new album, “Lonely Just Like Me”, and
doubtless there will be other opportunities to see him, possibly even
back home in the UK – as he’s always been popular with us Brits, he’s
bound to tour at some point. But all the while I was still thinking,
“hell, no, you should go, it’ll be one of those things you can brag to
your mates about in years to come”. Eventually, I decided to head on up
to the stage where Arthur was due to play, with a plan to check out at
least a bit of his 45 minute set before heading off to make my dinner
Once Arthur’s show began, I couldn’t tear myself away. Here
was one of my true soul heroes, appearing in person and singing not ten
feet away from where I was standing – a man whose UK 1960s tour I had
not been able to witness as I was not old enough. Arthur was in
wonderful form, mixing songs from his new album with those Dot,
Monument, Sound Stage 7 and Warners classics from 30 years previously.
At the end of his set, he smiled like a man who had just won the lottery
and been promised a lifetime supply of free beer and sex, all at once.
So did I – and the fact that I had just seen the great Arthur Alexander
deliver a stormer of a set more than made up for the ear bashing I got
from my colleague for turning up for dinner almost an hour later than
had been arranged.
The following day, local paper The Tennessean
gave Arthur’s set the glowing write-up it fully deserved. A couple of
days later, Arthur was again back in the paper – but sadly, this time in
the obituary column. He had dropped dead from a heart attack. How
typical of his luck that he should do so at a time when his life was in
its most upward curve in decades. He’s still mourned by his fans who
regret the fact that he recorded so infrequently, especially in what
should have been his prime years as a singer and songwriter.
his first label, Dot, did record him in the wake of his breakthrough
hit with what is inarguably the first-ever Southern soul record, You
Better Move On. So much so that Ace was able to license and released two
vinyl albums worth of his Dot sides and to compile the best of his Dot
repertoire, under the wholly-accurate title of THE GREATEST, as what has
now become one of the longest-serving CDs in the Ace catalogue.
19 years, the CD’s original packaging looked a bit meagre, and although
Bill Millar’s note was still an excellent read, we wanted to bring the
story right up to date. Bill didn’t have time to do this for us, but
kindly asked Alexander’s biographer Richard Younger to write fresh
notes. Both of them contributed by lending photos and memorabilia for
the package too. Thus it is that October brings a refurbished “The
Greatest” to catalogue, with the same great music it’s always contained
but with a sparkling new sleeve and booklet design that honour Arthur’s
memory. Even if he’d only written and/or recorded You Better Move On and
A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues, he would still be among the most important
artists of his generation. That his repertoire also included such
essentials as Anna (Go To Him), Go Home Girl, Soldier Of Love, Where
Have You Been (All My Life) and (not included here) Every Day I Have To
Cry Some merely reinforces that statement of fact.
recordings are not so much a part of deep soul’s foundation as its
corner-stone. If you know them and don’t own them, you will need no
persuasion of further purchase. If you don’t know them, you really need
to get a shot of Rhythm and Blues, with just a little rock‘n’soul on the
side, just for good measure. You may never now get the chance to see
Arthur sing his songs in person, but owning “The Greatest” is the next
best thing to being there.
Arthur Alexander, born in Sheffield, Alabama, in 1942, was the first hit artist to emerge from Rick Hall's Muscle Shoals studio with a beautifully understated interpretation of the self-penned 'You Better Move On' (1962) — a seminal per-formance, reflected by many later southern soul hits. Recorded before Hall had formed his own Fame label, it was released by Dot who proceeded to market Alexander as a pop singer.
Despite less sensitive productions, he was equally impressive on the Mann /Weil song 'Where Have You Been' and his own 'Anna' (1962) and 'Go Home Girl' (1963), and although he was indifferently received at home, all four records were much admired and covered by British acts (including the Rolling Stones and the Beatles). Subse-quent records for Dot, Sound Stage 7 (1965-9), Monument (1968), and most recently a fine album on Warner Bros., nearly all excellent examples of southern country soul, were ignored until he returned to the Hot Hundred with his own `Everyday I Have To Cry A Little' in 1975.