Arthur Conley - Burning Fire (Atco 6588)
You know, it's funny how things come together sometimes.
A couple of months ago, 'doctor spock' (who I imagine is a different guy than the noted pediatric authority), left this in the comments: "...as a lover of Jamaican music, I've always been heavily into the b-sides, giving the 'versions' to the songs. My favorite American b-sides are Atlantic 6588b Burning Fire by Arthur Conley and the 'version' of Shame Shame Shame." After which I did a little digging, and came up with today's awesome selection. I think Spock was on to something... this is the real deal (we'll save Shirley & Company for another day).
When Otis Redding died in December of 1967, Arthur Conley not only lost his best friend, but his producer as well. Once things had calmed down a bit, Atlantic teamed him up with their most empathetic and sensitive producer, and booked him into American in Memphis to record material for a new album, Soul Directions. The music Tom Dowd and Arthur came up with there in early 1968 is simply amazing, yet often overlooked in favor of Conley's Fame sides. The first single pulled from the album, Funky Street, hit #5 R&B, and the follow-up, People Sure Act Funny, made #17. Not Bad. This phenomenal cut we have here was released as the B side of that single in June of 1968, and was also written by Conley and Dowd.
Seeing as how we're kind of smack dab in the middle of our 'American Fest', I thought now would be as good a time as any to put this one up here. Once again, check out ol' Reggie Young, man. Chrisman's drums, Cogbill's bass, Bobby Emmons' piano... as good as it gets. I'm sure that's the Sweet Inspirations on the back-up vocals... a seriously high quality hidden soul masterpiece, folks - thanks Doc! That's definitely Arthur overdubbed on a second vocal track as well, something which they apparently did with him as a matter of course in those days (I guess that means we can finally put the question we asked over on The A Side to rest).
Now, as you may recall, I put up a lengthy post about Arthur back in September of last year. In it, we discussed how he had changed his name to Lee Roberts and settled down in The Netherlands, far away from all the hype and bustle. I recently recieved a 'comment' on that post asking for more information about Conley's life in Holland. As fate would have it, Cies (the proprietor of the great Just Moving On, and one of our major soul detectives), lives in Rotterdam. I figured I'd ask him. He told me that 'Lee' was Arthur's middle name, and that 'Roberts' was his mother's maiden name. He changed it after he chose to live quietly with friends in Ruurlo, way out in the woods...
Cies also sent along a link to an excellent video that aired on Dutch television in March of 1988. Do yourself a favor and have a look. It's not only incredibly interesting, but very moving as well. To see that Arthur Conley, member of the Soul Clan and one of the biggest stars of 1967, finally found peace in such simple surroundings does the heart good...
And now, as the extended family gathers around in yet another opportunity to eat (and drink) too much, let us give thanks for our own simple blessings, reflect a little on how short life really is, and be willing to accept love on its own terms...
"...like a burning fire, way down in my soul."