|Joseph Arthur — Lou (2014)|
Joseph Arthur — Lou
♦♣♥ “Each project from the musician blows me away, and this new one is no exception…his version of Walk on the Wild Side makes my eyes water” — USA TODAY
♦♣♥ “Arthur has restructured the songs in such a way that is seems you’ve never heard them before” — No Depression
Born: 28 September 1971 in Akron, OH
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Instruments: Vocals, guitar, harmonica, bass, keyboards
Album release: May 13th, 2014
Record Label: Vanguard Records
01. Walk On The Wild Side 4:01
02. Sword Of Damocles 4:01
03. Stephanie Says 2:53
04. Heroin 5:52
05. NYC Man 3:59
06. Satellite Of Love 4:02
07. Dirty Blvd. 4:09
08. Pale Blue Eyes 5:06
09. Magic And Loss 4:17
10. Men Of Good Fortune 4:22
11. Wild Child 4:18
12. Coney Island Baby 6:01
℗ 2014 Vanguard Records, a Welk Music Group Company
♦♥♣ Joseph Arthur was well aware of the expectations and potential pitfalls of recording a Lou Reed tribute album. It wasn't even his idea. When it was pitched to him by Vanguard A&R man Bill Bentley in November 2013, mere weeks after Reed's death, he only very reluctantly agreed to consider the idea. Reed had befriended the New York–based Arthur in the mid–'90s just as his career was beginning to blossom with release of his 1997 debut on Peter Gabriel's Real World label (Reed even took him out for ice cream after signing to celebrate the feat). Sixteen years and ten albums later, a tour–hardened veteran Arthur returned home after weeks on the road to attend his friend's final tribute show at the Apollo Theater and decided to try out a few songs at his home studio using only acoustic guitar and piano. Taking a simplistic approach to Reed's songs was the only way to make this album work. Reed's best music was subtle in that way with phrases and arrangements boiled down to their minimalist essence. He often made huge statements with his understatement and unwavering attitude. Bravely taking on some of the best–known cuts from Reed's canon, Arthur strips songs like "Heroin," "Satellite of Love," and even "Walk on the Wild Side" down, interpreting them honestly and organically with his expressive, embattled voice. There is obvious respect and reverence for the material and for Reed's style, but Arthur is also his own artist with a great body of work and years of touring to his credit. He manages to get lost in these familiar songs without becoming too subservient to their original versions or feeling the need to veer too far from them in order to make his statement. His versions of "Sword of Damocles," "Coney Island Baby," and "Dirty Blvd." are all tactfully handled, receiving more of a wistful reinterpretation than a showboating reinvention. A less experienced artist might not have been so reserved, but the veteran Arthur knows how to treat a song, whether it be his own material or something as iconic as the Velvet Underground's "Stephanie Says." As a tribute, Lou is deftly made and should please, or at the very least fail to offend, Lou Reed fans. As a Joseph Arthur album, it's a nice comedown from 2013's massive, lushly produced double album The Ballad of Boogie Christ. It has the organic purity of an acoustic (American Recordings-era) Rick Rubin production, but sonically falls more in line with something like Robyn Hitchcock's Eye, with its rough edges, beautifully rickety harmonies, and homemade charm. It has the shared benefit of coming across as both an honestly intended tribute to an artistic mentor as well as another well-made record in Arthur's impressive catalog.
♦♥♣ “It’s odd dancing around death, odder still if the death you are dancing around is that of a legend. You just never know what’s appropriate and what’s not, what to share and what to keep inside. There is no blueprint. I loved Lou and we were friends. The last thing I would want to do is turn his life into an opportunity, but at the same time, what better way to honor the man and his music than to celebrate it and sing it and record it?” (Joseph Arthur)
Singer–songwriter and Reed friend goes unplugged on upcoming album 'Lou'
By Jon Blistein, February 27, 2014 3:45 PM ET
♦♥♣ This past winter, singer–songwriter Joseph Arthur found himself holed up in his home studio, missing the tour he’d just finished and dreading the final tribute concert at the Apollo for his friend Lou Reed, who’d died in October. “I went almost without wanting to,” he writes. “I was tired of mourning him and it felt like I was done, but in truth, the real mourning was only just beginning.”
♦♥♣ Arthur’s words come from the liner notes to his new collection, Lou, a tribute album featuring his interpretation of 12 Reed tracks. Now you can take a listen to Arthur’s version of arguably the most classic Reed cut, “Walk on The Wild Side”: It’s a bit odd at first hearing the track without its signature bass slide and Reed’s spry acoustic strumming, but by turning the track into a heaving piano ballad, Arthur gives it a fitting sense of nostalgia for Reed’s younger, wilder years.
♦♥♣ After cutting a version of “Coney Island Baby,” Arthur set about recording the rest of Lou completely by himself, going by just one rule: no drums and no electricity. ♦♥♣ “The only way I know to give new life to something as rich with life as Lou’s songs and recordings is to go about them in a completely different way,” he writes. Arthur, who self–produced the album, kept the process as simple as possible, not trying to out–do the originals (“Impossible,” he notes), but just discovering something new within them.
♦♥♣ “It’s odd dancing around death, odder still if the death you are dancing around is that of a legend,” Arthur writes in the liner notes. “You just never know what’s appropriate and what’s not, what to share and what to keep inside. There is no blueprint. I loved Lou and we were friends. The last thing I would want to do is turn his life into an opportunity, but at the same time, what better way to honor the man and his music than to celebrate it and sing it and record it?” (http://www.rollingstone.com/)
♦♥♣ See the rock icon's final conversation about the sounds that moved him to tears. ♦♥♣ “Ordered sound is music,” he said. “My life is music.”
♦♥♣ On September 21st, Lou Reed sat down for his final interview and explained his personal relationship with sound: “Sound is more than just noise. Ordered sound is music,” he said. “My life is music.”
♦♥♣ The conversation Reed shared with director Farida Khelfa was part of a photo shoot for Parrot — Reed had offered his sonic expertise to the company, adjusting the balance of the Parrot Zik headphones so they'd be better suited for rock. In the quite significant footage from that day just a month before his death at age 71, Reed appears gaunt, but his mind remains razor sharp. Explaining why he became a musician, Reed said, “You do what you love. . . or you get arrested.” Asked if his father bought him his first guitar, Reed spat back, “My father didn't give me shit.”
But when the conversation shifted to Reed's ears, he turned immediately poetic. “I know the way I like things to sound,” he explained. “I wouldn't want to hear Beethoven without beautiful bass, the cellos, the tuba. It's very important. Hip-hop has thunderous bass. And so does Beethoven. If you don't have the bass, it's like being amputated. It's like you have no legs.”
♦♥♣ After complaining briefly about the "horrifying" sound on CDs, Reed said he'd recently revisited his entire catalog to improve his records' sonic profiles. “I just remastered every album I have to take advantage of the new technology. And it was so beautiful it made me cry,” he admitted. “I am very emotionally affected by sound. Sounds are the inexplicable. . .There is a sound you hear in your head, it's your nerves, or your blood running. It's kind of amazing to hear that.”
♦♥♣ Asked about his first memory of sound, Reed said all of us share the same experience. “The first memory of sound would have to be your mother's heartbeat, for all of us,” he said. “You grow up, from when you're a peanut, listening to rhythm. But then there are nature sounds. . . The sound of the wind. The sound of love.”
♦♥♣ Joseph Arthur (Akron, OH, 1971) had already been writing songs and playing music as a child. At the tender age of 16 he was the bass player for Frankie Starr and the Chill Factor which broke up in 1990, but fate was kind to Arthur a few years later when while working in a guitar shop in Georgia he was discovered by none other than Peter Gabriel.
♦♥♣ Gabriel was impressed enough with Arthur's first EP 'Cut and Blind' to make Arthur the first American musician signed to Real World Records, Gabriel's record label. As 1997 approached, Arthur went into the Real World studio to record his first full–length album, 'Big City Secrets'. His music was classic American singer–songwriter material. They were dirt road ruminations reminiscent of such artists as Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and even The Rolling Stones.
♦♥♣ What would eventually make his tracks unique, however, was his unusual singing style and eclectic electronic production elements derivative of Beck, Bowie and The Cure. The record was released worldwide in 1997 and was supported by a tour with Peter Gabriel. The millennium’s end would witness the release of 'Vacancy', earning Joseph a Grammy nomination for the album artwork in 2000.
♦♥♣ That same year Arthur also released 'Come to Where I'm From' and opened for such notable performers as Ben Harper and Gomez. In 2002 Arthur cut four "tour–only" EPs dubbed 'Junkyard Hearts' in addition to the well–received full–length album 'Redemption's Son'. Joseph then released an additional record christened 'Holding the Void', featuring bass guitarist Pat Sansone and drummer Rene Lopez who both also assisted with the vocals.
♦♥♣ Following a 2003 tour in support of Tracy Chapman, Joseph delved into studio to work to record 2004's 'Our Shadows Will Remain', also managing to eke out yet another EP, 'And the Thieves Are Gone' and support R.E.M. on tour in that same year. European and American touring continued throughout 2005.
♦♥♣ Arthur started his own record label, Lonely Astronaut Records, published an art-book entitled We Almost Made it, accompanied by the instrumental CD 'The Invisible Parade, and recorded his fifth full–length studio release 'Nuclear Daydream' in 2006.
♦♥♣ 2007, saw a UK release of a remix of Arthur's 2002 hit "Honey and the Moon" in addition to the release of Arthur's sixth studio recording, 'Let's Just Be' — the first album recorded with his band The Lonely Astronauts. Arthur followed the release of the disc with one of his largest US tours and announced in 2008, that he planned on releasing four EPs throughout the course of the year: 'Could We Survive', 'Crazy Rain', 'Vagabond Skies' and 'Foreign Girls'. Arthur then began to play solo shows, touring in support of his 2008 full–length release, 'Temporary People' in addition to the four EP's material.
♦♥♣ Over time Joseph's one–man show has become a source of much excitement. "Armed with an array of guitars and a stockpile of effects pedals and looping tools, "Joseph Arthur solo and barely acoustic" is inspired. Painting while he sings has also become a staple of Joseph's impressive solo performances, with the art available for sale after concerts, in online auctions, and to help raise money for various humanitarian relief efforts, such as Haiti Relief Funds.
♦♥♣ Joseph’s philanthropy extends to music as well; an EP including 6 versions of his song "In the Sun" (one cover by Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and Coldplay singer Chris Martin, one remixed by Justin Timberlake and one of which includes Arthur himself singing alongside Stipe) was released in 2006 for a Hurricane Katrina Relief program as part of an iTunes exclusive. In August of 2006, Joseph lent his musical talent to another worthy cause when he was invited to help launch 'A River Blue', an art festival serving to empower the creative endeavors of children living in Alebtong, Aloi and Amoro IDP (internally–displaced persons) camps in northern Uganda. Throughout his visit to the Alebtong camp in 2006, Joseph and the children recorded several versions of his song 'A River Blue', the musical work from which the project takes its name. He told interviewers: “‘A River Blue’ is a song I recorded with over one hundred orphans of the LRA nightmare in Northern Uganda. I wrote the song before I went to Uganda. . . I felt a little embarrassed about singing this with them as I could never understand the depth of their plight. During my visit there I was more interested in their own songs and paintings and . . . their incredible beauty. However upon coming home and mixing this whole event together, the song and our collaboration has gained power for me and strikes me now as a landmark blow against poverty and ambivalence.”
♦♥♣ 2009 saw the release of his cover of "Step Into the Light" by The Afghan Whigs on the album Summer's Kiss: A Tribute to The Afghan Whigs. He followed this up with tour dates in Europe with The Lonely Astronauts as well as more solo performances and a reissue of his 2006 CD Nuclear Daydream, featuring six bonus tracks.
♦♥♣ At present he is focusing on his collaboration with Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison, 'Fistful of Mercy' in addition to the release of a solo album due out in 2011. With Fistful of Mercy's debut album 'Come to Where I'm From' due out on October 5th and a November tour in support of the nine–song record, Joseph shows no signs of slowing down. One thing that remains the same is the fact that Joseph Arthur is constantly creating new material. It seems impossible even for rock journalists and critics to explain why he is not a major player in the music industry. Critic David Smyth believes it might be because “Arthur is too dedicated to following his wayward muse to worry about matching the commercial appeal of his famous (industry) fans”.
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♦♥♣ Big City Secrets (1997)
♦♥♣ Come to Where I'm From (2000)
♦♥♣ Redemption's Son (2002)
♦♥♣ Our Shadows Will Remain (2004)
♦♥♣ Nuclear Daydream (2006)
♦♥♣ Let's Just Be (2007)
♦♥♣ Temporary People (2008)
♦♥♣ The Graduation Ceremony (2011)
♦♥♣ Redemption City (2012)
♦♥♣ The Ballad of Boogie Christ (2013)
♦♥♣ Lou (2014)
♦♥♣ Cut and Blind (August 1996)
♦♥♣ Vacancy (May 11, 1999)
♦♥♣ Junkyard Hearts I (February 15, 2002)
♦♥♣ Junkyard Hearts II (February 28, 2002)
♦♥♣ Junkyard Hearts III (March 15, 2002)
♦♥♣ Junkyard Hearts IV (March 28, 2002)
♦♥♣ And the Thieves Are Gone (December 7, 2004)
♦♥♣ Could We Survive (March 18, 2008)
♦♥♣ Crazy Rain (April 15, 2008)
♦♥♣ Vagabond Skies (June 10, 2008)
♦♥♣ Foreign Girls (July 8, 2008)
|Joseph Arthur — Lou (2014)|