Arthur Alexander - Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter 2007
Arthur Alexander had been forgotten by nearly everyone short of hardcore fans of Southern soul when he was lured away from his day job as a school bus driver in Cleveland to cut a new album as part of Elektra Records' American Explorer series, and 1993's Lonely Just Like Me was a potent reminder of Alexander's estimable gifts as a vocalist and a songwriter. However, Alexander died of a heart attack at the age of 51 just weeks after the album was released, and while the story of his short-lived comeback brought him back to the attention of music fans (and prompted long-overdue reissues of his classic sides of the '60s and '70s), the album that brought him back to the spotlight didn't fare so well. With no artist to promote the album, Lonely Just Like Me promptly disappeared, and Alexander's valedictory effort seemed doomed to obscurity. However, the collectors at Hacktone Records have given his final recordings a second chance in the marketplace, and Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter is a splendid expansion of what was already a wonderful album. This disc includes the dozen songs from the album in remastered and resequenced form (the new running order is meant to conform more closely to the original intentions of Alexander and producer Ben Vaughn), as well as an appearance by Alexander on NPR's Fresh Air, four songs recorded in a Cleveland hotel room while Alexander and Vaughn were working out material for the recording sessions, and Alexander singing his 1962 hit "Anna" at New York City's Bottom Line in 1991 (this was the performance that prompted Elektra Records to give him a new record deal). While it might sound as if Hacktone has cluttered this disc with odds and ends, what's startling is how committed and compelling Alexander sounds regardless of the circumstances, whether he's singing an old Neil Diamond tune into a cassette machine or recording superb new compositions for his major-label comeback. There's a heartbreaking emotional honesty in his best songs, and he sang them with a voice that melded churchy grace with gritty home truths, and even though he'd been away from professional music making for close to a decade and a half when he cut this music, it's as moving and timeless as anything he ever recorded. Songs as good as "In the Middle of It All," "If It's Really Got to Be This Way" and "All the Time" only come around once in a lifetime, and thankfully, Alexander was given one last chance to share them with Lonely Just Like Me; this new edition only improves an overlooked classic anyone with an ear for vintage R&B will cherish.