Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Eli âPaperboyâ Read: Read all about it!

Eli âPaperboyâ Reed @bluesandsoul.com
Eli âPaperboyâ Reed @bluesandsoul.com Eli âPaperboyâ Reed @bluesandsoul.com Eli âPaperboyâ Reed @bluesandsoul.com Eli âPaperboyâ Reed @bluesandsoul.com

Building on the strong international buzz generated by his first two, independently-released albums (âSings Walkinâ and Talkinâ And Other Smash Hitsâ and âRoll With Youâ), Boston-born, Brooklyn-based soul sensation Eli âPaperboyâ Reed this month makes his eagerly-anticipated major-label debut with âCome And Get It!â, his largely-self-penned first LP for EMI Records.

Described as âa call to party like itâs 1969â(!), âCome And Get It!â - driven by the horn-filled arrangements of Reedâs Stax-fuelled band The True Loves - harks convincingly back to the raw-and-impassioned heyday of classic Sixties soul. Its downhome moods ranging from the punchy brass of its sexily upbeat title-track single and the irresistibly joyous âName Callingâ to the string-laden, haunting country-soul balladry of âPick Your Battlesâ; before climaxing with the sweaty energy of its furiously-pounding finale âExplosionâ. Indeed, with the boyish-looking Reedâs belting, authentically-gritty vocal drawing frequent comparisons with such bona fide legends as Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Sam Cooke, the nostalgically-retro live sound of âCome And Get It!â makes for an effective showcase of his genuine fascination with, and love for, soul musicâs golden era.

âYeah, when I was making âCome And Get It!â I was listening to a lot of the late-Sixties/early-Seventies soul music from Chicago, like Tyrone Davis and Mel & Timâ, begins a knowledgeable Eli from his New York home: âSo, while recording I was particularly going for the way that they were able to orchestrate those records back then and kind of balance out the really dirty, funky elements of the rhythm section - and sometimes the vocal - with the beautiful string sections, the horns and backing vocal harmonies. Which I always thought was really, really interesting.â

âAnd then when Mike Elizondo (of Eminem/Pink!/Gwen Stefani fame) came on board as producer, he also brought some NEW ideas to the table - a sensibility that I didnât necessarily HAVEâ, he adds thoughtfully: â I mean, though the actual songs were pretty much already done before he got involved, sonically Mike DEFINITELY had an effect on things. Because, with him coming from a different standpoint to me - his roots are more in hip hop and contemporary rock - he was able to compliment MY reference-points with reference-points of his OWN. Plus he was also able to coax really good performances out of the band - which to me is something thatâs very, very important. So yeah, overall I think he did a really good job.â

Indeed, Reedâs depth of knowledge of obscure soul is evidenced by the melodic brass and floating strings of the albumâs evocative opening track âYoung Girlâ - recorded as a tribute to little-known Boston soul singer Frank Lynch, who died tragically just as his career was looking set to take off with the song in question: âYeah, the story there is that âYoung Girlâ was a record that came outta Boston in the late-Sixtiesâ, explains Eli: âBut, just as it was climbing the charts in Boston and New York and pretty much all along the East Coast, its singer Frank Lynch was tragically murdered. So, because Iâd always loved the song, had the record and wanted to record it, I actually managed to get in touch with its writer (Herschel Dwellingham). Who I later found out had also arranged and produced the record, AND played drums on it.â

âSo, to actually be able to talk to him and hear the whole story of Frank Lynch was just amazing to me!â, he continues: âI mean, we still talk regularly. And, being as heâs still making records, Iâm actually hoping to work with him on something in the future. You know, that was the first record that heâd ever made on his own. So he was like super-excited about the fact that somebody actually remembered it!â

Growing up in Boston, Massachusetts, Eliâs youthful musical education came via his fatherâs formidable record collection of early rock & roll and blues, with his introduction to soul music arriving via a Ray Charles boxed set. Recognising hearing Charlesâ records for the first time as a defining moment in his musical development, Reedâs love of the music next took him south to work at legendary blues station WROX in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Where at the age of 18 - having just graduated from High School - he began frequenting juke joints and lounges, and playing the blues five nights a week! Finding mentors among the veteran players like Terry âBig Tâ Williams and Sam Carr while honing his skills in the fertile yet unforgiving musical environment of Americaâs Deep South (he recalls being told to leave the stage numerous times for playing wrong notes!), it was also during his stay in the Mississippi Delta that Eli acquired the nickname âPaperboyâ - due to his frequently at the time donning a newsboy hat that had belonged to this grandfather!

Meanwhile, later moving north to study at the University Of Chicago, Eli once again found himself being drawn more to music than books, hosting a well-regarded Southern Soul show on the college radio station and exploring Chicagoâs South Side for records and fried chicken. While at the same time his fascination with the lesser-known but influential figures in classic R&B was satiated with him tracking down Sixties Chess Records songstress Mitty Collier. Who - best known for her 1964 US R&B Top Three hit âI Had A Talk With My Manâ - befriended the young Bostonian, hiring him to play keyboards and sing at Sunday services in her church, and paying him a small stipend that he poured back into his ever-growing record collection.

âWell, I was already very aware of Mittyâs music. I had a lot of her old recordsâ, relates Eli: âSo, when somebody tipped me off that she actually worked at the University of Chicago, I found her name in the school directory, called her and asked her to come on my radio show. She told me she wasnât really interested in doing secular music any more, but that at same time she was about to become a minister at this new church and didnât have any musicians. So, when I told her I was a musician, we got together. She sang and I sang - and we just hit it OFF! And I have to say that playing on Sunday mornings in that tiny church - and playing gospel music in general - was a great experience for me. Because it definitely influenced my singing, as well as my whole outlook and performance aesthetic.â

Returning home to Boston after the school year ended and now determined to put together his own band, Reed ended up putting out two well-received, independently-released albums in his hometown before - a couple of years later - moving to his now-home of Brooklyn, New York. Where - in addition to regularly headlining some of the boroughâs coolest clubs with his red-hot band The True Loves (and gaining a worldwide record-deal with EMI along the way!) - he has also remained true to his quest for returning to the source of his inspiration by finding unsung veteran artists and bringing them along with him in whatever way he can. With this past summer having seen him help organise The Brooklyn Soul Festival, featuring under-recognised soul legends like Barbara Lynn, Roscoe Robinson and Otis Clay.

âWell, the Soul Festival was really just a labour of loveâ, states Eli genuinely: âI know these two guys in Brooklyn who run a club night called Dig Deeper where they kind of find obscure, older soul singers and bring them in monthly to perform. So, because we wanted to do a big event, they and I joined forces. And, with me having worked with Roscoe Robinson, Barbara Lynn and Hermon Hitson previously through a bunch of other things, I just kind of called them up and said âHey, would you like to do this Soul Festival?â... And then, in addition to those three, on the second day we also had Otis Clay and Maxine Brown.â

âAnd for me itâs just been great to work with these peopleâ, he adds sincerely as our interesting conversation draws to a close: âI mean, Roscoe especially has been a BIG influence on me, in terms of not just music but also his LIFE! You know, heâs been in the music business and making records since 1950! And so just to be able to get on with him, hang out and kinda get the benefit of hearing about his experiences does mean an awful lot to me⦠In fact, just being in a situation where I can call ALL these people - Barbara, Roscoe, Hermon, Mitty Collier - my friends, to me is genuinely one of my greatest personal AND professional achievements!â

Eliâs album âCome And Get It!â and single âCome And Get Itâ are both out now through EMI/Capitol
Words PETE LEWIS

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