For over fifteen years the Grammy-nominated Joseph Arthur has been creating some of the best unheard albums and been pushing himself into new exciting chapters. Always prolific, but not always great, he’s been in an uninspired wilderness for the last few years, but he is back to his tenacious best with ‘The Ballad Of Boogie Christ’ funded by his fans via Pledgemusic.com.
A return to form, ‘The Ballad Of Boogie Christ’ is a concept album around the fictional character of Boogie Christ (loosely based on Arthur himself) falling apart and finding himself again along the way. Some of the songs have been in his vault for years such as ‘Famous Friends Across the Coast’ . Some were written as recently as this year. It’s an album he has been meaning to make for years and now feels like this is the time.
Recorded across America from LA to his own studio in Brooklyn , this album is his most ambitious to date. Arthur stated that he wanted to try a more soulful soul. Which is definably noticeable on ‘Currency Love’ that shakes hands with the Motown sound.
Elsewhere we find Arthur questioning what Jesus would be like alive now on the album title track. Which is a clumsy beat-poem, that contains the lyrics “toss my salad and feed my rice “ Christ chewing gum / Christ without pathos / saying yum yum”. A strange affair that works with the records narrative more than it does as an individual tune. But that is the only real plight on the record. ‘The Ballad of Boogie Christ’ has some of the most commercially friendly music that Arthur has seemingly shied away from in the last few years. ‘Wait For the Lights’ and ‘It’s OK to be Young-Gone’ both have huge choruses and flow with a river of melody. Then he is back to his Dylan/Lennon comparisons on ‘I Miss the Zoo’, which did feature on his previous album, but this a more stripped down affair and is highly addictive. Ben Harper lends his vocal talents on ‘ I Used to Walk on Water’ another holy lyric about seeking answers and continues with the soulful thread.
The real highlight and his best track since ‘Temporary People’, is ‘Saint of Impossible Causes’. Backed by a mandolin and oddly a sitar, the piano lifted chorus is as uplifting by its melody and words, as anything on the album. As the album draws to a close with the more sombre ‘Famous Friends Across the Coast’ and ‘All the Old Heroes’ he may lose some of the swagger, but makes up for this with their cinematic qualities.
He made an Act 2 for the album for the UK audience of tracks left over from the sessions. But the second act feels like a left over album with a few highlights.
Joseph Arthur has at last made his best album and will be hard to beat for album of the year. His pallet for a new richer sound has paid off without losing any of his ear for a hook. Hopefully this will get enough publicity to allow the album to soar. Otherwise see you at the front on his small tour of the UK in the autumn.