Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Eli "Paperboy" Reed...

...genuine blue-eyed soul phenom or just a slightly more credible version of that Taylor Hicks idiot from American Idol?

YOU make the call!



Well, okay -- actually I will.

Seriously, I've been meaning to write about Reed for a while now, and not solely because because the good folks at MOJO have been singing his praises for what seems like forever. Actually, what I'd heard from Reed's two indie albums had been impressive, which is to say the guy had all the right vocal influences -- Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, James Brown, to name the ones that spring most immediately to mind -- and was apparently a hell of a bandleader and frontman.

On the other hand, the fact that Brits were hyping him made me nervous -- it seemed a little bit like somebody's rather too obviously calculated attempt to come up with a male version of Amy Winehouse, i.e., an easily marketable retro soul/r&b/blues star. Although in Reed's case, one without the encumbrance of a) being nuts and b) having a spouse in prison.

Anyway, I figured that Come & Get It, his just released major label [Capitol] debut, would tell the tale, i.e. would they slick him up to make him palatable to the masses or just let Reed be Reed? Well, I've been listening to it for a couple of days now, and so far it sounds pretty damned authentic; as you can perhaps glean from the title track above, the obvious analog is a better produced version of the first two Southside Johnny/Asbury Jukes albums, although I don't think the material is quite at that transplendent level. Yet.

So yes, I think the guy's very definitely the Real Deal, and you should check out the album posthaste.

I should add, of course, that I'm going to see Reed and company at a club show in NYC later this month; I'll get back to you if it makes me change my mind.

19 comments:

Sal Nunziato said...

I thought is first record "Roll With You" was closer to the real thing than this new one.

But what really sold me was his guest spot on "Live From Daryl's House."

http://www.livefromdarylshouse.com/index.php?page=ep27

Faze said...

He's not the male vocal equivalent of Amy Winehouse, that's for sure. She has the spacious cranial resonating chambers that are necessary for a big "black" vocal sound. She's also mastered the diaphragmatic "shout" delivery that is characteristic of black singing. But Reed has a Caucasian skull and this native soundbox, with its inferior reach, will always give him away as imitator (nice mastery of the falsetto, though). Tom Jones is a good example of a Caucasian who could resonate with the best of the black singers. Reed has mastered the falsetto swoop, but he makes it sound like work. One of the things that makes black singing wonderful is the lack of apparent effort that goes into producing these sounds -- you have to look like you're just tossing it off. (Singers like James Brown and Otis Redding were a little off the mainstream of black singing, in that they felt it necessary to work like white men to get your attention.)

steve simels said...

A Caucasian skull?

I'm not sure we want to go there....

Rinjo Njori! said...

At the end of the day some of the best stuff from the 60s and 70s featured imperfect singers. Most of the current R&b/ Soul singing is technical instead of just belting it out. Check out Mark Sultan if you want to hear imperfect soul singing

Michael said...

My problem with Reed and others who make music styled directly from their influence is that it sounds like studies in genre.

Which is not to say that I can't enjoy a good track, but I wonder if the artist will ever transcend his models.

Another example: James Hunter is a hell of a singer and a fine guitarist, but his music is not just informed by his influences, it's defined by his influence.

steve simels said...

Well, like I said -- I never had the problem you're describing with Southside Johnny, but that's because the songs were just so strong. "I Don't Want to Go Home" would have been a classic whoever sang it or when.

Reed's no poser, though -- clearly, he gets this stuff on the existential level.

FD13NYC said...

Not so impressive at all. Couldn't hold a candle to JB, Otis, Pickett or even Tom Jones. Too clean for me. Not down and dirty, gritty enough. This will be Justin Bieber in 5 years, if he survives the biz. Amy Winehouse was a big flash farce too.

White people shouldn't attempt soul music. With some exceptions. Daryl Hall, Righteous Bros., Joe Cocker, and of course Felix Cavaliere. Southside Johnny was good too.

steve simels said...

That Amy Winehouse album will outlive us all.

Just saying...

Noam Sane said...

Spacious cranial resonating chambers make Winston taste good...like a cigarette should!

There's no reason Amy Winehouse should sound like that, but she does, and that album is a very special thing. Some of it may be explained by that Charlie Parker quote - "If you don't live it, it won't come out the end of your horn". She may never top it or even match it, but it indeed will shine forever.

James Hunter came to my mind immediately, Michael, as being far more honest-sounding R&B than this Rick Astley-esque audio poop. Sorry Steve, not buying it, in any sense of the word.

Also, that cipher-chick that keeps showing up in the video can't dance...just sayin'.

You want some great modern R&B, grab the latest Was/Not Was record. Work around the novelty stuff.

steve simels said...

Rick Astley?

Oooh...that's cold.
:-)

Anonymous said...

other Great White Hopes:

Carmel's "The Drum is Everything"

Jess Roden's "Player Not The Game"

Frankie Miller's "Full House" (imo the definitive white Otis)

Boz Scaggs' recent jazz disc is not bad, either.

Noam Sane said...

Rick Astley?

Really ghastly.

Brooklyn Girl said...

White people shouldn't attempt soul music. With some exceptions. Daryl Hall, Righteous Bros., Joe Cocker, and of course Felix Cavaliere. Southside Johnny was good too.

You forgot Janis Joplin.

And I disagree with you about "white people" attempting soul music. Should they also avoid the blues? And, by the same token, should black people avoid ballads or standards?

It's all about feelings, not crania.

pete said...

Brits are really good - REALLY good - at playing dress-up, and they're really good at going to school. They have good study habits. Combine that with a questing spirit and being struck by lightning, and you get the Beatles.

Stick to the first two, and you get immaculate reproductions of stuff that's already happened, from John Eliot Gardiner to the latest soul sensation du jour. It can be deeply satisfying, but it ain't the Beatles.

And any racist peckerwood tells me I can't sing the blues because I've got the wrong kind of head-bone...

Just saying.

steve simels said...

I should add, BTW, that Reed's from Boston.

Anonymous said...

blue-eyed soul never had me fooled, even as a kid I thought the Rascals et al sounded white.

on the other hand, I just recently found out that Phil "Sea of Love" Phillips is black when his sound told my ears the opposite.

Edward said...

Have to go with the nice imitation, but rayon isn't silk. Listenable at the single song level, but instantly forgetable.
And yeah, Southside's first two albums are still great. And he put on a good show the couple of times I got to see him in the late 70's.

Maude Lange said...

Feh!

Anonymous said...

I would not be surprised to discover that this artist is actually a product of Pixar Labs, an amazingly lifelike CGI simulacrum of a 1960s soul singer.

None of the messy details of a James Brown or a Wilson Pickett performance. All is clean, neat, perfect. It's gotta be computer graphics!