CD Review: Various Artists – Adios Amigo: A Tribute to Arthur Alexander (Razor & Tie, 1994)
When country soul singer-songwriter Arthur Alexander passed away in 1993 at the age of 53, he was in the middle of a comeback that finally saw him recognized and rewarded for his songwriting genius and the heartbreaking quality of his performances. His last album, Lonely Just Like Me, his first in over two decades, rang as true as anything he’d recorded previously, and was followed the next year by this multi-artist tribute. Alexander’s songs had long been a favorite of top-flight artists, with formative covers by the Beatles and Rolling Stones giving Alexander early crossover exposure. But the artists gathered for this seventeen-track set weren’t just looking for good material to foster their own burgeoning careers, they were acknowledging their debt to Alexander as a songwriter and artist.
As one should expect from an assembled tribute, the interpretations vary in quality, but if you focus on the set’s high points, they’re very high indeed. Elvis Costello gets the program rolling with a scorching vocal and low, electric blues guitar on “Sally Sue Brown” and legendary vocalist Chuck Jackson provides the grit needed to rough up Mark Knopfler’s polished backing on “You Better Move On.” Nick Lowe, who’s later songwriting owes much to Alexander, nails the quiet pathos of “In the Middle of it All,” and fellow Brit Graham Parker captures the soul of Alexander’s heartbroken “Ever Day I Have to Cry.” John Prince, Gary U.S. Bonds and others give additional heartfelt performances. None of these substitute for Alexander’s originals, but they provide a nice capstone to a career that didn’t always garner the fame it so richly deserved.