The album opens with “Time Is Like A River,” which has a groovy, joyous feel. The summer can be endless if you play tunes like this one. “Keep on rolling, keep on rolling, keep on rolling.” It’s followed by “Stop The Music,” a wonderful bluesy soul gem, which features some cool work on harmonica by Arthur Lee. In this one he sings, “Well, I’ve been lonely and I’ve been blue/I ain’t had no loving, baby, since I had you,” but the song is about getting back on his feet. He sings that he’s “going out tonight,” determined to have a good time, to not give up. This one ends quietly with just Arthur’s voice, and then the next song bursts in, this great funky dance number titled “Who Are You?” There is some fantastic stuff on percussion driving this tune. He keeps things rolling with “Good Old Fashion Dream,” which has such a great joyous energy. I love the horns.
“Which Witch Is Which” is an unexpected, unusual tune that is bluesy with delicious psychedelic bits on electric guitar. But it is the acoustic guitar and vocals which are at the heart of this one. The odd lyrics urge, “Don’t be me/Don’t be you” and “Don’t be good/Don’t be bad/Don’t be happy/Don’t be sad.” And then it’s back to funky dance and soul with “With A Little Energy.” When Arthur Lee sings, “Love’s got the power,” is he talking about the emotion or his own band? I think both.
“Singing Cowboy” is a song that Love included on an earlier album, Four Sail. Interestingly, at the end of this song Arthur sings, “Keep on rolling” as he does on the opening track. On this CD you get two versions of it, as the bonus tracks include an alternate take. On the alternate take in particular Arthur at times makes me think of Blood, Sweat And Tears. He doesn’t sing “Keep on rolling” at the end of this version (but he does ask for something to drink). “Singing Cowboy” was written by Arthur Lee and Jay Donnellan. “Be Thankful For What You Got” is the album’s sole cover, written by William DeVaughn.
“You Said You Would” is kind of simple, but ends up being one of my favorites on this album. It has a good, catchy groove (I dig the bass), and lyrics that are easily remembered, and so you’ll be singing along soon enough. “Well, you said you would and you said you would/But now you’re gone/Well, you said you would/But you, you did me wrong.” The bonus tracks include the single mix. I prefer the album version.
Arthur Lee must enjoy juxtaposition and leading the listener on a ride, for the album’s hardest rocker, “Busted Feet,” leads directly into a soft, acoustic number, “Everybody’s Gotta Live,” which concludes the original album. “Everybody’s Gotta Live” is kind of simple too, Arthur’s vocals accompanied by some strumming on guitar, but it has this quiet, raw power, particularly in the chorus, where he is joined by backing vocalists. The bonus tracks include an electric version of this song, which has quite a different feel, with a more pronounced groove, but works really well. Interestingly, both of these songs were also included on Arthur Lee’s 1972 solo album, Vindicator, though not positioned together on that record. The electric version of “Everybody’s Gotta Live” is closer to the rendition included in Vindicator.
This deluxe edition contains twelve bonus tracks, eleven of which were previously unreleased. “Do It Yourself” is an electrifying funky number with an empowering message. “Don’t let no one make a fool of you/’Cause you can make it if you want to/You’ve got to learn to do it yourself.” It’s a wonderful, energetic tune. “Somebody” is a really good rock number, with some nice work on electric guitar, and I love those moments on vocals where he just lets loose.
“You Gotta Feel It” is a sweet, gentle soul number with a good groove. This is actually one of my favorite tracks on this CD, and to think this was an outtake, unreleased until now. Crazy. “’Cause if you feel it in your heart/It won’t be long, you’ll soon be home.” I love this song.
Some of the bonus tracks include a bit of studio banter, such as the alternate take of “Stop The Music,” where at the beginning Arthur says, “You can relax, you know what I mean, let’s get into more of a groove.” “Graveyard Hop” also has some studio banter at the end. This tune is kind of a weird version of “Jailhouse Rock” for your Halloween party, and I love it. “Everybody at the funeral hall was dancing to the graveyard hop.” (The second and third times he sings that line it sounds like “funeral march.”) It has a wild, Little Richard-type energy. And then the CD’s closing track, “Wonder People (I Do Wonder),” has just a bit of banter at the beginning and at the end.
CD Track List
- Time Is Like A River
- Stop The Music
- Who Are You?
- Good Old Fashion Dream
- Which Witch Is Which
- With A Little Energy
- Singing Cowboy
- Be Thankful For What You Got
- You Said You Would
- Busted Feet
- Everybody’s Gotta Live
- Do It Yourself
- I Gotta Remember
- You Gotta Feel It
- With A Little Energy (Alternate Mix)
- Busted Feet (Alternate Mix)
- You Said You Would (Single Mix)
- Stop The Music (Alternate Take)
- Graveyard Hop (Studio Rehearsal)
- Singing Cowboy (Alternate Take)
- Everybody’s Gotta Live (Electric Version)
- Wonder People (I Do Wonder) (Studio Rehearsal)
This special deluxe issue of Reel To Real is scheduled to be released on November 27, 2015 through High Moon Records.