Second Thoughts

Arthur's Landing

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Second Thoughts Review

by Paul Simpson

Arthur's Landing is a group consisting of musicians who collaborated with the late cellist/producer/songwriter Arthur Russell throughout his career, led by guitarist/vocalist Steven Hall and primarily featuring Russell associates such as vocalist/guitarist Joyce Bowden, trombonist Peter Zummo, and percussionist Mustafa Ahmed. The group's self-titled 2011 debut contained reinterpretations (but not straight-ahead covers) of a few songs that are familiar to Russell's cult audience, as well as several previously unheard Russell compositions. Second Thoughts is the ensemble's second album, and it offers multiple mixes of seven Russell compositions, mirroring his predilection for endlessly re-recording his songs, never settling on a mix or version as the definitive one. Only "I Want to Change My Life" and "It's a Boy" from Arthur's Landing are reprised on Second Thoughts, with Alkalino's great mix of "It's a Boy" revealing the song to be a lost disco gem. Alkalino provides another one of the collection's highlights with a nine-minute mix of the previously unheard "List of Boys," marrying a beat reminiscent of early-'90s garage-house with unpredictable vocals, dubby effects, and tasteful, understated guitar. The collection doesn't just focus on Russell's disco side, though; another unheard composition, "Lost in Thought," is closer to the country-leaning singer/songwriter material eventually released on the 2008 collection Love Is Overtaking Me. Disco producer Bob Blank, who worked on a few singles with Russell, contributes a surprisingly stripped-down mix of "Lost in Thought," while Drop Out Orchestra offer a more lush disco-tinged mix. Love Is Overtaking Me highlight "Planted a Thought" is given no less than three disco revamps here, with Moplen's mix coming closest to what the song would sound like if Russell had actually recorded it as a disco tune. Andrew Clarke's nearly instrumental tech-house dub simply doesn't have the same effect. Indeed, the more the collection tries to sound contemporary, the more it fails, with Cooked Audio's attempt to turn "It's a Boy" into big-room electro-house being the worst offender. Arthur Russell's brand of introverted bedroom disco set the stage for house and garage in the early '80s, but it simply does not translate as EDM. Standard Planets' chillwave-leaning take on "Dumbo Dumbo" fares better. As expected of any collection of remixes, Second Thoughts is patchy and inconsistent, and absolutely nothing will ever be able to top the brilliance of Arthur Russell's original recordings. This is probably why Arthur's Landing primarily record unreleased Russell compositions, and on their best efforts, his spirit shines through.

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