Rating: Headline news in the world of funk and soul is the imminent release of Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed‘s new LP, My Way Home, on the Yep Roc label. It’s the fifth album from the Massachusetts native who earned his soul stripes long ago by spending a year in Clarksdale, Mississippi to absorb the sound of the south and then re-located again to Chicago to wind up playing organ and piano in the South Side church of gospel singer Mitty Collier. His first LP was released in 2005 and each successive release saw him move to progressively bigger labels from Division to Capitol and finally to Warner for his last LP, 2014’s Nights Like This. After which Warner dropped him. Are they kicking themselves now that Reed has created a raw eleven-tracker that takes inspiration from his gospel experiences? Let’s find out:
1. HOLD OUT:
What you should do when the man signs you up then drops you like it ain’t no thing. Create a raw uptempo funker that is all raucous vocals, snappy drums, flaming organ and garage-y guitar. Take that global music megacorps!
2. YOUR SINS WILL FIND YOU OUT
They certainly will Warner. This is what happens when you dump what’s good for you. You have to listen to a scorching gospel soul burner that’s not on your label.
3. CUT YA DOWN
Inspired cover of a gospel traditional – uptempo neck-snap funk drums, righteous guitar and searing organ. This one’s about damnation – coincidentally a milder form of the expletive uttered at Warner A&R when they heard it and remembered they’d dropped Reed.
Movin’. Oh what? To a better home? Yes. Another thing you do when your label dumps you. As well as writing a haunting, downtempo organ-led cut.
5. TOMORROW’S PROMISED
It certainly is – and tomorrow is always a brighter day, right Eli? Hence the cheery ‘keep the faith and everything’ll work out fine’ vibe on this.
6. MY WAY HOME
Find your way home Eli! Probably somewhere in the sixties, warmly analogue, rich in tremolo guitar, soul organ grooves and very big gospel hooks.
7. EYES ON YOU
Like a Creedence Clearwater Revival track recorded in the mid-sixties in a dusty little studio tucked away somewhere in Alabama’s back of beyond.
8. THE STRANGEST THING
Blimey! Gospel garage rock. Truly the lord works in mysterious ways. Banger.
9. I’D RATHER BE ALONE
I don’t blame you Eli. All those Warner executives giving it large about targeting demographics and profits in the next quarter. It’s because they’ve sold their souls. Best write them something gorgeously bittersweet out of sympathy, yeah?
10. A FEW MORE DAYS
More gospel garage rock! Let it all out Eli. You’ll feel better and you know it’ll sound good.
11. WHAT HAVE WE DONE
…said one Warner A&R man to the others. Reed drops a closing organ-led gospel slowie to really rub things in.
Good lord! This is the best gospel-influenced funk and soul album I’ve heard since the last one by Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens. Admittedly it’s also the only gospel-influenced funk and soul album I’ve heard since the last one by Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens but since that was one of the best LPs of 2014, that is in no way faint praise. Are Warner kicking themselves? You’d like to think everyone responsible for dropping Reed is stood in a circle, one behind the other, with a large enough gap between them for a run-up to allow an extra hard kick to the target chalked on the ass of the one in front and that they have to keep doing this until they have an epiphany and work out what good music sounds like. Mind you – they might have done Reed a favour, if not themselves. It’s the old story – free from major label constraints, artist goes back to their roots and creates the bomb. Check audio snippets for all tracks on the humble Juno player and selected cuts in all their magnificence on vids below…
(Out 10 June on Yep Roc)
(Words: Stone Monkey)
Hold Out – Cut Ya Down – Tomorrow’s Promised – My Way Home – The Strangest Thing – A Few More Days – What Have We Done