Album release: The Ballad of Boogie Christ by Joseph Arthur
Release date: 9 September 2013
Label: Real World Records 
Listen: on Real World Records site   

“Joe is one of those rare writer-performers where you get the sense, whatever your belief, that something greater is being channeled through his music and voice. Like Patti Smith, Grant Lee Phillips, Thom Yorke, he trances, and the voice, the meaning, becomes bigger than him, bigger than a few pop chords or words strung together. It touches something very deep and universal.” — Michael Stipe from REM (for the LA Times)

Joseph Arthur returns to Real World Records to release The Ballad of Boogie Christ - a new high point in his critically acclaimed, Grammy-nominated career that has spanned nine full-length albums and 11 EPs. The double album is release by Real World Records (for the world outside of America/Canada) 9th September.  

Growing up in the '70s and '80s in Akron, Ohio, Joseph Arthur's musical life started off like many others, with mandatory piano lessons. But once he realized he could use the piano to conjure up his own musical worlds, he took to the instrument and began writing songs, eventually playing in bands while in high school. Days after graduation, he moved to Atlanta with a band, playing bass and supporting himself with day jobs at a music store and tattoo shop.

At the time, Arthur aspired to be a world-class jazz or fusion bass player in the vein of the late Jaco Pastorius. But when a demo tape of Arthur's songs made its way to Peter Gabriel, it was the lyrics that attracted Peter, as he realized the talented songwriter was a great fit for his label Real World Records.

Within a few months Arthur was signed and Big City Secrets was recorded at Real World Studios with Marcus Dravs (Bjork, Coldplay, Mumford and Sons) producing the album, released in 1997. Two years later, Arthur recorded an EP called Vacancy, followed in 2000 by Come To Where I'm From, which features his signature song, 'In the Sun'. That track was covered by R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe and Coldplay's Chris Martin in 2006 on a charity single to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina, having previously been recorded a decade earlier by Gabriel for a Princess Diana tribute album.

After releasing 4 EPs called Junkyard Hearts, his third album, called Redemption's Son, came out in May 2002.

Big City Secrets, Come To Where I'm From and Junkyard Hearts have been released as part of the Real World Gold series of repackaged reissues.

Nominated for a best recording package Grammy for his 1999 EP Vacancy, Arthur is an accomplished painter, having displayed his works in galleries around the world (museumofmodernarthur.com).

The Ballad of Boogie Christ Acts 1 & 2

For every song Joseph Arthur has released, he's probably kept three others in the vault for safekeeping. Indeed, Arthur has been known to start working on a new album - or two - while simultaneously trying to finish another.

It was amid this abundance of riches that the Brooklyn-by way of Ohio-native began molding a collection of music under a single narrative thread: The Ballad of Boogie Christ, described by Arthur as "a fictionalized character loosely based on my own journey."

The Ballad of Boogie Christ has defied the odds to become another essential cornerstone of Arthur's robust discography. Encompassing sessions put to tape in upstate New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Arthur's own Brooklyn studio, the 12-song album showcases the artist's signature rich storytelling set to a diverse range of rock'n'roll.

"I don't know that there's a beginning, middle and end to the story, but there are definitely experiences, situations and perspectives that point in those directions," says Arthur. "I wanted to let the listener fill in some of the blanks without telling the whole story in a straight-ahead way."

The album begins with the surprising orchestral pop of "Currency of Love", on which Arthur unveils a passionate croon unlike any vocal performance he's ever given. From there, Boogie Christ offers epic affirmations on overcoming addiction (the seven-minute closer "All the Old Heroes"), anthems of open-hearted solidarity ("Wait for Your Lights", "It's OK To Be Young/Gone") and the kinds of slow-burning narratives ("Famous Friends Along the Coast", "I Used To Know How to Walk on Water" and a reimagined, hymn-like version of his standout, “I Miss the Zoo”) that have won Arthur a legion of fans around the globe.

Songs like "Black Flowers", "I Used To Know How to Walk on Water" and the title cut were recorded several years ago with help from the Band's legendary keyboardist Garth Hudson and bassist Catherine Popper (Ryan Adams, Jack White), while newer additions to the track list such as "Currency of Love" and "Saint of Impossible Causes" were crafted in Los Angeles with assistance from Chris Seefried (Fitz & the Tantrums, Lana Del Rey). Among the other guests on Boogie Christ are Ben Harper (Arthur’s bandmate in Fistful of Mercy), session drummer extraordinaire Jim Keltner, Joan As Policewoman leader Joan Wasser and composer Paul Cantelon (Oliver Stone’s W., Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell & the Butterfly).

"There are certain moments on the album that are just pop music and sugary," Arthur says. "I didn't want it to be this diatribe of heaviness, and it had been like that sometimes. I definitely wanted moments of relief within it, where you just get a good jam."

At the center of the project is the autobiographical "King of Cleveland," a classic story song that connects Boogie Christ the character with Arthur the flesh-and-blood artist. On it, the narrator apprentices alongside a big fish in a small pond, "playing blues in the back seats, from biker bars to limousines" -- much like Arthur did in his early professional career in Northeast Ohio. Says Arthur, "He's just starting to live the life he's imagined, playing roots boogie in the real America -- Ohio."

"I've heard David Bowie talk about how Ziggy Stardust and some other records were the beginnings of screenplays that he just never finished," he says. "I could really see this becoming something deeper and bigger than just an album.

"Chuck Prophet reminded me that there's always the Great American Novel," he continues. "And that really stuck in my head about Boogie Christ. That's what I've been wanting to achieve with this album. He encouraged me that it was okay to dream big."

“‘The Ballad of Boogie Christ’ is unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It’s a big production featuring horns and brass and living legends like Garth Hudson, Ben Harper, Jim Keltner, Joan Wasser and many others. It’s a concept album with a story arc about a man falling apart and coming back together in insanity and enlightenment. It’s a psychedelic soul record about redemption and what happens when you find it and lose it.

“It all came from words and poems like seeds that bloomed into songs which themselves fathered some of the richest music I’ve made in 17 years of putting together records. I can’t wait for you to hear it. This is the one I’ve been waiting for years to put out.”  Joseph Arthur

Reaction

“When he was starting years ago, I was struck by the strength and visceral quality of Joe ... to connect to Expressionism, Art Brut, Basquiat and the Graffiti movement. I remember encouraging ... it has been great to watch its evolution. Joe is a really unusual, interesting and talented artist in music and art." — Peter Gabriel

“Joe is one of those rare writer-performers where you get the sense, whatever your belief, that something greater is being channeled through his music and voice. Like Patti Smith, Grant Lee Phillips, Thom Yorke, he trances, and the voice, the meaning, becomes bigger than him, bigger than a few pop chords or words strung together. It touches something very deep and universal.” — Michael Stipe from REM (for the LA Times)

 “This guy is not wasting one element of the experience.” — Cameron Crowe, director

“I’d like to go with those people. I would like to be with those people. I think they’re probably doing things that I’m not.” — David Letterman

“…lush, poetic, squalling, spiritual, and strange. Just like life.” — Boston Globe

 “A brooding bouquet of polyrhythms.” — David Hoekstra, Chicago Sun Times

“ …Elliott Smith, Nick Drake, and PJ Harvey are all great examples...Joseph Arthur proves he’s part of that elite group.” — Alternative Press

 “A driven, visionary character… he might just be a genuine mad genius.” — The Guardian

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