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Arthur Russell - Love is Overtaking Me

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Artist: Arthur Russell

Album: Love is Overtaking Me

Label: Audika

Review date: Oct. 27, 2008


Arthur Russell - "Close My Eyes" (Love is Overtaking Me)


It’s strange to think that Arthur Russell’s entire catalogue of recordings was once confined to the margins of a few neglected New York scenes. Aggressive reissue programs during the last four years ensured that the music of the cellist / composer / disco producer / singer / songwriter reached the larger audience it so richly deserves. Now that his major works (World of Echo, 24-24 Music, Instrumentals, as well as most of the key singles) have been rescued and presented anew alongside a fistful of previously unreleased material, principle archivists Audika Records now turn to a relatively unexplored corner of Russell’s massive collection of personal tapes. Love is Overtaking Me is a set of mostly acoustic guitar-based pop songs that don’t have much of a precedent elsewhere in the man’s work.

Ever a polymath, Russell always balanced out his minimalist compositions and experimental disco affectations with earnest stabs at living in a pop world. Outside of his oft-referenced penchant for folk and country tunes, he also led the Flying Hearts for a spell, a group that featured ex-Modern Lover Ernie Brooks and, occasionally, talking head David Byrne. It is this material that dominates the 21 tracks contained on Love is Overtaking Me, offering a picture of Russell as the genteel busker and pop tunesmith, one painted far away from the dancefloors and havens for experimental music performance that he called home in the 1980s.

The set opens with “Close My Eyes,” a John Hammond-produced track from 1974 that lays bare Russell’s affection for earnest country strums. Surprisingly, it’s played pretty straight, with his voice wrapping itself around a subtle drawl. While things deviate from standard instrumentation on the following “Goodbye Old Paint” (beefed up with tambouras and tablas), Russell tended to stick to the script on these types of songs.

That doesn’t diminish their quality in the slightest, however, and as the collection progresses we get distinct shots of the different facets of Russell’s musical persona. “Time Away” borrows liberally from Jonathan Richman, while “Nobody Wants a Lonely Heart” plays piano-pop liked a roughed-up version of Elton John. Sadly, there’s only one actual Flying Hearts song here, a laconic tune called “What It’s Like,” that’s a pristine example of great blue-eyed soul if ever there was one. As the collection moves into its second half, the vibe gets distinctly new wave, and even works its way up to a Tom Petty-esque moment with “Don’t Forget About Me.”

Those who have fallen in love with sound of Arthur Russell’s music through exposure to his disco tracks and compositional efforts will undoubtedly be surprised by Love is Overtaking Me, as nothing here even tries to touch upon that stuff. Still, it plays like a revelation – a great set of raw, emotive pop tunes from a man whose heart always pulsed close to the surface.

By Michael Crumsho

Other Reviews of Arthur Russell

The Sleeping Bag Sessions

The World of Arthur Russell

Calling Out Of Context

World of Echo

First Thought Best Thought

Another Thought

Springfield

Read More

View all articles by Michael Crumsho

Find out more about Audika

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