Calling out of Context

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Lydia Vanderloo
By all accounts, Arthur Russell was a difficult guy, a classically trained cellist with a background in avant-garde he collaborated with John Cage and Eastern music he studied Indian classical composition with Ali Akbar Khan whose perfectionist tendencies led him to remixing his own work ad infinitum. But the Iowa native's genre-blending music was anything but difficult, threading funky art-rock, nascent house, cool soul, and intimate poetry with rubbery rhythms reminiscent of Talking Heads and melancholy melodies suggesting New Order. Russell died of AIDS in 1992, at age 40, and outside of a few anthologized singles, his recordings have gone largely unheard. Enter ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Lydia Vanderloo
By all accounts, Arthur Russell was a difficult guy, a classically trained cellist with a background in avant-garde he collaborated with John Cage and Eastern music he studied Indian classical composition with Ali Akbar Khan whose perfectionist tendencies led him to remixing his own work ad infinitum. But the Iowa native's genre-blending music was anything but difficult, threading funky art-rock, nascent house, cool soul, and intimate poetry with rubbery rhythms reminiscent of Talking Heads and melancholy melodies suggesting New Order. Russell died of AIDS in 1992, at age 40, and outside of a few anthologized singles, his recordings have gone largely unheard. Enter Calling Out of Context, a cream-of-the-crop collection of a dozen unreleased tracks Russell produced between 1985 and 1990. They range from the spare, mesmerizing "The Platform on the Ocean," built on an eight-minute drone and plied with layered vocal fragments, to the funky blue-eyed soul of "Make 1, 2," which joins electronic and acoustic percussion, cello saws, and trombone moans. Even as Russell makes the most of his worldly knowledge of music and instrumentation, the heart and soul of these songs reveals his fascination with disco -- his singles "Is It All Over My Face?" and "Go Bang" not included here were, in fact, early disco classics. With its programmed beats and Russell's intimate vocals, the sensual "You and Me Both" could be a Pet Shop Boys bedroom recording, while the effusive "That's Us/Wild Combination" joins propulsive beats with a winsome synth melody and love-song lyrics. Russell's multifarious music is by nature hard to define, but even in retrospect, it's as easy on the ears as it is singular in sound.
All Music Guide - Andy Kellman
Like Another Thought, released ten years prior, Calling out of Context stitches together an hour's worth of songs left behind by the late, increasingly known -- and therefore unceasingly beloved -- Arthur Russell. According to liner notes from Audika's Steve Knutson, the content here pulls from a finished 1985 album that never made it past the test-pressing phase, along with an unfinished LP that was recorded and toyed with throughout the latter half of the '80s and the dawn of the '90s. Despite the multiple sources, the consistency of the tracks -- which all carry a hazy, memories-of-events-that-never-happened feel -- and the sympathetic sequencing make the disc seem more like a proper album than a vault-clearing compilation. If you're familiar with the sound that Russell and his accomplices made on singles like "Let's Go Swimming" and Indian Ocean's "School Bell/Treehouse," you'll be familiar with the sound here. On these recordings, Russell who plays cello, guitar, keyboards, and percussion is joined primarily by Mustafa Ahmed and Peter Zummo, and the three of them produce an abstract cross between pop and R&B, constructed with drum machines and more organic instrumentation on top. None of these songs woo a crowd of dancers as so many of Russell's short-lived aliases did before; instead, they're more rooted in song-based pop. This goes for the structure of the tracks, and it also goes for the subject matter of the lyrics. One of the greatest joys of listening to these songs is the regular presence of Russell's gentle, somewhat timid voice, which delivers one heartwarming line after another. If you're thinking this might possibly resemble a shoestring-budget, avant-garde version of Jam & Lewis, you're not too far off. With the many hats Russell wore, Calling out of Context should hammer home the fact that he was also a dynamite writer of heart-on-sleeve love songs -- not just a formidable cellist and innovative disco producer.
Rolling Stone - David Fricke
If Nick Drake had lived long enough to make records with New Order, they might have sounded a lot like this.

If Nick Drake had lived long enough to make records with New Order, they might have sounded a lot like this.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 2/17/2004
  • Label: Audika Records
  • UPC: 880301100124
  • Catalog Number: 1001
  • Sales rank: 59,105

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Arthur Russell Primary Artist, Guitar, Percussion, Cello, Keyboards, Vocals
Jennifer Warnes Vocals
Peter Zummo Synthesizer, Trombone
Mustafa Khaliq Ahmed Percussion, Conga, Drums
Steven Hall electronic percussion
Technical Credits
Arthur Russell Composer, Producer, Contributor, drum programming
Ray Janos Mastering
Walter Gibbons Remixing
Janette Beckman Cover Photo
Melissa Jones Art Direction
Mustafa Khaliq Ahmed Programming, drum programming
Steve Knutson Liner Notes
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