of Maine

Arthur Russell, Love is Overtaking Me
December 5, 2008, 4:47 pm
Filed under: Hasty Music Reviews | Tags: , , ,


“Old music” and I have settled our disputes, and had a pretty nice year. Maybe I just found my niche. (More likely: the illusion of “discovery” weighs heavily on my likes.) Love’s Forever Changes is a new, perhaps permanent addition to my Best Albums Ever list. There’s more I can’t recall offhand, but discovering Arthur Russell has impeded any progress I hoped to make getting through the canon of notable 2008 releases. Fortunately, the deceased songwriter-composer actually has one, and it’s a beaut.

I’ll spare the career-summary for a while (writing at length about him in a couple of months), but two good places to start are (I assume) this New Yorker profile I haven’t read yet and the documentary Wild Combination – an excellent counterpoint to the largely nauseating hero-worship doc genre –  released this year and just out on DVD. (More on that when I write the other stuff; it’ll be screening at SPACE early next year, so locals are advised to wait until that event to see it. It’ll be worth it.)

Long story short, Russell was a songwriter/composer far ahead of his time, best known for his cello music and disco-pop songs (an obvious inspiration to Antony and the Johnsons, Kelly Polar, and others). Love is Overtaking Me, surprisingly, is a collection of mostly folk songs. Upon further research, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there are some traditionals here, but Russell owns them well. His voice and his composition is warmer here than his most famous material, and he mixes sadness and catchiness really well. Love is Overtaking Me is almost unabashedly MOR, Sunday-morning folk. From an email I wrote earlier today: It’s like my semi-cheesy semi-awesome cozy Sunday morning album dream come true.

You half-expect Russell to begin most of the songs with an achy, spoken-word plea: “Baby, you know I’ve been missing you and I hope you’ve been missing me, but there’s just one more thing I needed to say.” (On “What It’s Like,” he actually sort of does.) “Hey! How Does Everybody Know,” scratched-up and fuzzy with age, has winning backup harmonies, and stuff like “I Forget and I Can’t Tell” stinks of ’70s Dylan in a wonderful way. There are some more expected (read: experimental) pop and cello tracks thrown around, like the moaning, urgent “Eli,” but Love is Overtaking Me adds a welcome dimension to the work of a legend long overdue, and my favorite find of the year.


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I’ve been digging Arthur Russell a lot these days as well, but the best part of this post is that you discovered Forever Changes! Top Five for sure.

Comment by IAN

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