Release Date: Oct 28, 2008
Record label: Audika
Genre(s): Rock, Folk
Most of the praise Arthur Russell has received since his death from AIDS in 1992 has focused on his role as a visionary experimentalist in genres from classical to disco. But he had a less avant-garde side, too, as showcased on this compilation of unheard demos, which are marked by gentle, folky melodies and deeply personal lyrics. Love Is overtaking Me is just another reason to mourn Russell’s far too early loss.
Russell's companion Tom Lee wrote the liner notes to this set and discusses the sheer possibility for mass appeal in these songs; he's not exaggerating. Take a listen to the demo of the title track recorded with Hall on guitar, drummer Rob Shepperson, and conguero Mustafa Khaliq Ahmed. Its verse/chorus structure is woven straight from classic organic pop/rock melody -- think a less twisted Jonathan Richman -- and is utterly infectious.
Beloved by hipsters for his odd, cello-assisted disco albums from the Seventies and Eighties, the late Russell was also a fine songsmith. This set has 21 unreleased folk and pop tracks, their conventional framework unable to contain the childlike dreaminess that marks their creator's best work, whatever the genre. .
Arthur Russell trained as a cellist but became a New York disco auteur, collaborating with Talking Heads and Philip Glass, among others, and filling dancefloors with his proto-garage music. He would surely have been better known in his lifetime had an acute perfectionism not kept him from finishing recordings. Culled from the 1,000 tapes he left behind on his death in 1992, this collection showcases an immense, eclectic talent.
Maybe it’s how weirdly enjoyable Russell’s music is, but in the spate of reviews for his re-released albums, no-one seems to be dwelling much on the “tragic early death from AIDS, etc. ” This is a fact, but not a factor. See, Arthur Russell made tremendously unlikely music throughout the 80s (cello-led disco?!); collaborated with Allen Ginsberg, Phillip Glass, and various Talking Heads and Modern Lovers; and the handful of fully realized albums now available don’t need any elegies or myths of what-could-have-been to justify discovering them.