Monday, August 20, 2007

Arthur Russell: Legend

The second good new release out today is a nice liitle four-track EP on Rough Trade featuring four different artists doing covers of Arthur Russell songs. It’s the brainchild of Jens Lekman, who fell in love with Russell’s music, via the Another Thought compilation, whilst wandering round Germany when he was 19. He suggested a covers EP first to his friend Victoria Bergsman, then the ball got rolling and not only her but Electrelane’s Verity Susman and The Hidden Camera’s Joel Gibb were both on board.

Lekman called time there, not wanting to make a full tribute album which are “boring in my opinion and tend to lose focus halfway through” as he says. So we have four Arthur Russell songs by these four artists, and very fine it is too. Susman, under her Vera November alias tackles the obscure World of Echo demo Our Last Night Together as a lovely piano-led number. The lo-fi version of Take 1,2 was the first recording of Bergsman’s post Concretes project Taken by Trees. Jens himself uses the kalimba to replace Russell’s trademark cello on a very faithful rendition of A Little Lost. And Gibb had to be brought over to Sweden so he could finally record his take on That's Us / Wild Combination, but it was definitely worth the air fare.

Download: Jens Lekman – A Little Lost

All of which served to send me back to Another Thought, the same album that first inspired Jens. It’s a truly lovely thing. Arthur Russell is an interesting character. A classically trained cellist, he made his way from Iowa to New York via a San Fransiscan Buddhist colony and Allen Ginsberg in the early 70s. In NYC he became involved in the arts scene and produced disco music under names like Dinosaur (L) and Loose Joints, as well as more stripped down cello-based music under his own name. His prolific music career was sadly cut short when he died from AIDS in 1992, at which time he wasn’t really recognised for the genius he was. But the passage of time has smiled in his favour, and there have been a few posthumous compilations, including Another Thought. However, that tends to focus on his more downbeat recordings, so I’m off in search of Soul Jazz’s 2004 World of Arthur Russell compilation, which I’m reliably informed is excellent, for more AR goodies.

Here are a couple of tracks from Another Thought:

Download: Arthur Russell – A Little Lost
Download: Arthur Russell – Keeping Up

And the mighty Francois Kevorkian remix of Dinosaur L’s Go Bang! (one of the finest disco records ever?)

Download: Dinosaur L – Go Bang! #5

Buy Arthur Russell stuff and the Four Songs EP


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