Arthur Alexander was an artist whose importance and influence sadly outweighed his commercial success; while his first hit, 1961's "You Better Move On," immediately cemented his reputation as a major singer and songwriter in Southern soul-style, working with management who played up Alexander's country leanings at the expense of his blues-influenced vocal style had thrown his career into a tailspin by the end of the decade, despite having his songs covered by both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. In 1972, Alexander was signed to Warner Brothers, and cut an album and a handful of singles which he hoped would kick-start his performing career; sadly, Warners were unsure of how to promote an artist whose music had more to do with vintage southern soul of the mid-60s than the funkier sounds which were dominating the R&B charts. In 1994, not long after Alexander's untimely death, Warner Brothers released Rainbow Road: The Warner Bros. Recordings, which combined the lion's share of the 1972 album with several single sides, and this collection made clear that Alexander's little-heard album was nothing short of a masterpiece. Alexander's songs dealt with the home truths of love and life, such as the tortured tale of a busted marriage "In The Middle Of It All," "Go Home Girl"'s heartsick story of falling in love with your best friend's girl, and the impassioned gospel-style closer "Thank God He Came"; Alexander also had a real knack for choosing other folks' songs, especially the superb title cut, written by Dan Penn and Donnie Fritts, and "Burning Love," which he cut several months before Elvis Presley scored a hit with it. But the best reason to listen to this album is Arthur Alexander's vocals, which combine a smooth, soulful sound with a gritty and emphatic bluesy undertow which makes his songs of both joy and sorrow real and emphatic, and they dovetail brilliantly with the sweet-and-sour tones of producer Tommy Cogbill's session band. Rainbow Road: The Warner Bros. Recordings is a superb testament to Alexander's tremendous talents, and an album any fan of vintage soul will revel in.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming