The only songwriter whose songs were covered by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley was Arthur Alexander. One of the greatest soul singers of all time, if not the best known, he penned "Anna," "Sally Sue Brown" and "You Better Move On" among many others. The Beatles modeled their early sound after him. Yet by 1980 – a young man, just 40 – Alexander had left the music industry and was driving a bus and working at a center for disadvantaged kids in Cleveland. That's exactly where the story of Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter – a deluxe package chronicling his improbable, triumphant yet tragically short-lived comeback in the early '90s – begins.
In one comprehensive 18-track volume, Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter (Hacktone Records, due out 8/21) combines Arthur Alexander's Ben Vaughn-produced final album for Nonesuch (awarded a rave feature review in Rolling Stone ) with previously unreleased material from NPR's "Fresh Air" in a rare on-air performance, the never-before-heard hotel room demos (including Arthur's take on Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man") and a live version of "Anna" recorded at New York's Bottom Line. It's a document of the second half of Alexander's career. The sound is lovingly restored and remastered as well as re-sequenced to producer Vaughn's original design. Vaughn's liner notes provide a intimate and detailed story of the singer's all-too-brief re-emergence. "If heartbreak had a sound," he writes, "it was this voice."
The core of the set is the Nonesuch album Lonely Just Like Me , which won some of the highest accolades of any album released in 1993. The project was instigated by Elektra A&R executive Danny Kahn, who spotted Alexander in a rare performance in 1992 (the live version of "Anna" included on this set is from that very performance). Kahn signed him to Nonesuch, which had launched the American Explorer series. He called upon artist/producer Ben Vaughn to convince Alexander to record. Vaughn boarded a plane to Cleveland and the two formed a fast bond. The contract was signed and the album recorded in Nashville. Sessions featured a number of Alexander's accompanists from the '60s – Dan Penn, Donnie Fritts, Reggie Young, Thomas Cain and Mike Leech – along with Alexander newbies Gary Nicholson, Tommy Spurlock, Ashley Cleveland and Jim Spake. Reaction to the comeback recording was palpable, with positive reaction from the music press and such artists as Elvis Costello, Robert Plant, McCartney, Bob Dylan, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Kris Kristofferson. Alexander told Vaughn, "It looks like those seeds I planted a long time ago were good seeds."
The album's warm reception energized Alexander, who obliged his many interview requests, played the South by Southwest music conference and performed on a special live broadcast of NPR's "Fresh Air." The excitement culminated with a concert in Nashville. Sadly the show did him in. Alexander was checked into the ER at the city's Baptist Hospital. Within days he had, as Vaughn notes, passed on to the next life. The album was still a new release with reviews breaking daily. A major comeback and rediscovery was tragically cut short.
Alexander's memory continues to burn brightly even 15 years down the road. HackTone Records' David Gorman and Michael Nieves have set out to create a definitive memorial to Alexander with Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter . They enlisted the assistance of both A&R man Kahn and Vaughn and emerged with this sumptuous package. Just don't call it a reissue – at least without qualification – as it contains many never-before-heard songs that might have easily never seen the light of day.
Arthur Alexander – Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter
1 If It's Really Got To Be This Way 03:59
2 Go Home Girl 03:49
3 Sally Sue Brown 02:41
4 All The Time 03:22
5 Lonely Just Like Me 03:07
6 Every Day I Have To Cry 02:42
7 In The Middle Of It All 03:54
8 Genie In The Jug 02:31
9 Mr. John 03:47
10 Johnny Heartbreak 03:31
11 There Is A Road 04:23
12 I Believe In Miracles 03:38
(1-12 from Lonely Just Like Me, re-ordered by Ban Vaughn)
13 Intro 00:10
14 Go Home Girl 03:44
15 Interview 1 02:51
16 Genie In The Jug 02:13
17 Interview 2 00:36
18 You Better Move On 02:58
19 Interview 3 01:35
20 Every Day I Have To Cry 02:51
(13-20 recorded live on NPR's "Fresh Air," May 7, 1993)
21 Solitary Man (Demo) 02:02
22 Johnny Heartbreak 01:45
23 Genie In The Jug (#2) 01:56
24 Lonely Just Like Me 02:41
(21-24 from original cassette of hotel room demos featuring Arthur Alexander, vocals; Ben Vaughn, guitars)
25 Anna 03:19
(#25 recorded live at the Bottom Line in New York during "In Their Own Words: A Bunch of Songwriters Sitting Around Singing," September 5, 1991)
26 Glory Road (exerpt) 00:48
(#26, hidden track, from hotel room demos)
HackTone was founded by a pair of crate diggers who believe that there's no such thing as "good music whose time has passed," and their new distribution deal with Rhino represents a return to the fold. Before launching design and marketing firm HackMart, co-founder David Gorman was Rhino's "Creative Czar," winning an Art Direction Grammy for the Beg, Scream & Shout: The Big 'Ol Box Of '60s Soul collection in 1998. Co-founder Michael Nieves served as head of Rhino's music licensing and publishing departments before founding licensing company Sugaroo!