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Arthur Russell

Arthur Russell was a formally trained cellist and composer with a background in Indian classical music and a résumé highlighted by collaborations with Allen Ginsberg and Philip Glass. His involvement in Manhattan's downtown performance scene of the '70s resulted in a long-running association with The Kitchen. Russell was also a quirky songwriter, a producer of one-shot disco singles, a founding partner of seminal hip-hop/dance label Sleeping Bag, and a principal designer of the dubby, underground club sound that bridged the gap between the disco era and the first stirrings of house and garage music. Yet, despite a career that seemed contradictory on the surface, he produced a body of work notable for its focus, integrity, and singularity.

Russell and his cello moved from Iowa to San Francisco in the early '70s, where he studied at a school founded by Hindustani (North Indian) music master Ali Akbar Khan. It was during this West Coast period that he began his association with Ginsberg by providing musical accompaniment for many of the poet's performances. Russell moved to New York in the mid-'70s, where he collaborated in the Flying Hearts, a rock project that involved the likes of David Byrne, Rhys Chatham, and Peter Gordon. In 1979, Russell produced "Kiss Me Again," the first disco single for Sire Records, and made his reputation as a dance music producer with Loose Joints' "Is It All Over My Face" for West End. The club mix of this single was one of the earliest efforts by Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levan and qualifies without doubt as a prototype of what came to be known as the garage sound. In 1982, under the name Dinosaur L, Russell released 24-24 Music on his own Sleeping Bag label. The 12" single from this album, a François Kevorkian remix of "Go Bang," epitomized the loose, jazzy, somewhat minimalist underground sound that would inform Chicago house. Though the record was not a huge dancefloor smash, it was an influential turntable hit, finding its way into many radio mixes and supplying the identifying sample for Todd Terry's "Bango."

In 1983, Russell released a portion of a larger instrumental composition as the Tower of Meaning LP, as well as another Loose Joints single. His 1986 World of Echo was a one-man show of original songs in a solo cello and vocal format that seemed designed to be overheard. World of Echo embodies the link between the two sides of Russell's output. The unusually percussive cello accompaniment evident on the album versions of "Wax the Van," "Let's Go Swimming," and "Treehouse" could be preliminary sketches for the keyboard and drum versions of those tunes that appeared on Russell produced 12" singles. Though World of Echo received a favorable critical reception in the U.K. music press, Russell remained relatively obscure throughout his life, which was ended by AIDS in 1992. A retrospective of previously unissued material was released in 1994 as Another Thought. Several collections have been released in the new century, including a reissue of World of Echo, Calling Out of Context, and The World of Arthur Russell, all of which appeared in 2004. First Thought Best Thought and Springfield were issued in 2006. Love Is Overtaking Me came in 2008 and was followed less than a year later by The Sleeping Bag Sessions. Corn, a collection of previously unheard solo recordings from 1982-1983, appeared in 2015. ~ Richard Pierson
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Love Is Overtaking Me

1. Close My Eyes

2. Goodbye Old Paint

3. Maybe She

4. Oh Fernanda Why

5. Time Away

6. Nobody Wants A Lonely Heart

7. I Couldn't Say It To Your Face

8. This Time Dad You're Wrong

9. What's It Like

10. Eli

11. Hey! How Does Everybody Know

12. I Forget And I Can't Tell (The Ballad Of The Lights Pt.1)

13. Habit Of You

14. Janine

15. Big Moon

16. Your Motion Says

17. The Letter

18. Don't Forget About Me

19. Love Is Overtaking Me

20. Planted A Thought

21. Love Comes Back

x

Track List: Springfield

1. Springfield

2. Springfield (Dma Remix)

3. Springfield (Detail)

4. See My Brother, He's Jumping Out (Let's Go Swimming #1)

5. Corn #3

6. Hiding Your Present From You

7. You Have Did The Right Thing When You Put That Skylight In

x

Track List: Calling Out Of Context

1. The Deer In The Forest Part 1

2. The Platform On The Ocean

3. You And Me Both

4. Calling Out Of Context

5. Arm Around You

6. That's Us / Wild Combination

7. Make 1, 2

8. Hop On Down

9. Get Around To It

10. I Like You!

11. You Can Make Me Feel Bad

12. Calling All Kids

x

Track List: World Of Echo

1. Tone Bone Kone

2. Soon-To-Be Innocent Fun / Let's See

3. Answers Me

4. Being It

5. Place I Know / Kid Like You

6. She's The Star / I Take This Time

7. Tree House

8. See-Through

9. Hiding Your Present From You

10. Wax The Van

11. All-Boy All-Girl

12. Lucky Cloud

13. Tower Of Meaning / Rabbit's Ear / Home Away From Home

14. Let's Go Swimming

15. The Name Of The Next Song

16. Happy Ending

17. Canvas Home

18. Our Last Night Together

x

Track List: Come To Life (Single)

1. Come To Life

x

Track List: First Thought Best Thought

Disc 1

1. "Instrumentals" Vol.1 (1)

2. "Instrumentals" Vol.1 (2)

3. "Instrumentals" Vol.1 (3)

4. "Instrumentals" Vol.1 (4)

5. "Instrumentals" Vol.1 (5)

6. "Instrumentals" Vol.1 (6)

7. "Instrumentals" Vol.1 (7)

8. "Instrumentals" Vol.1 (8)

9. "Instrumentals" Vol.1 (9)

10. "Instrumentals" Vol.1 (10)

11. "Instrumentals" Vol.2 (1)

12. "Instrumentals" Vol.2 (2)

13. "Instrumentals" Vol.2 (3)

14. "Instrumentals" Vol.2 (4)

15. "Instrumentals" Vol.2 (5)

16. Reach One

Disc 2

1. Tower Of Meaning (1)

2. Tower Of Meaning (2)

3. Tower Of Meaning (3)

4. Tower Of Meaning (4)

5. Tower Of Meaning (5)

6. Tower Of Meaning (6)

7. Tower Of Meaning (7)

8. Sketch For The Face Of Helen

x

Track List: Keep The Lights On - Featuring The Music Of Arthur Russell

1. Close My Eyes

2. Soon-To-Be Innocent Fun/Let's See

3. Come To Life

4. Your Motion Says

6. Being It

7. Goodbye Old Paint

8. I Lke You!

9. Our Last Night Together

Comments

Report as inappropriate
He should have stuck to the cello
Report as inappropriate
ptproduction s
One of my all time favorites... . such a sweet tender voice.
Report as inappropriate
I can no0 longer remember just HOW I heard of this artist, and when I opened up Pandora today, I chose him with no,memory of what to expect. I am so happy I was smart enough (momentarily ) to type in his name and create a station here! I am just carried over on a bright, melancholy haze, and will get to know his work seriously now. I have at least 5 or six people in mind who need to know this stuff!!!!
PS: AIDS took so much from all of us!
Report as inappropriate
earlwiggs10
SOUNDS A BIT LIKE BOZ SCAGGS WOULDN'T U AGREE??? NICE SONG!!

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