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Come and Get It !
Eli "Paperboy" Reed Come and Get It!
Released 10 May 2010
Producer Mike Elizondo
Label Parlophone
Length 41:36
Genre Soul
Website www.elipaperboyreed.com
52

The cycles of pop music through the early part of the century has increasingly relied upon the stylings of the past. One such flavour of the month is the re-imagining of big band soul of the fifties and sixties. Acts such as Duffy, Plan B and Amy Winehouse have incorporated the production values and vocal stylings of a Phil Spector, Atlantic, Motown or Stax record into their modern beats and lyrical content. The current soul sound is so indebted to the greats of the bygone era that, with possible exception of Ms. Winehouse, the records and general fashion have come off as cynical and as mired with mimicry as you may presume. This is not just uber producer Mark Ronson’s fault. The contemporary take on soul has just not been good enough full stop. Step forward the latest contender to attempt to rebuke these accusations, Eli 'Paperboy' Reed, straight out of Massachusetts with his debut album Come and Get It!.

Things start off well for the guy with the fifties teen idol looks and a name that punches like a boxer. The lead single and title track 'Come And Get It' with its rasping groove endears the listener to Reed and its infectious beat already sounds like filling every dancefloor for the rest of the year. Even before hearing the album you’ll be willing to give this guy a chance.

Reed has self penned an album full of sweet soul melodies and growling vocal performances. He can bawl them out like very few people his age and his love of Bobby Ruffin, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke is evidently genuine and shines through each of his compositions. Reed, at his best, screeches and howls like a young Wilson Picket. On hearing tracks such as 'Just Like Me' and 'Pick A Number' for the first time the possibility arises that Reed may be the real article yet as the album evolves a nagging suspicion emerges.

Here’s the Stepford Wives theory. Everything seems too well in its place, too well polished and assured. From the pastiche fifties album cover and iconic label that produced the record (Capitol) down to the suit and the quiff. You could deal with all this if it wasn’t ultimately that the songs and the singer fail to combine.

Lyrically there is not much going on here but it’s almost refreshing that Reed doesn’t, unlike his contemporaries, try to marry modern angst with traditional soul lingo. His world is one of innocent bubblegum love and the implicit wordplay that served the classical pop lyricist so well from the fifties up. The songs in general are decent stabs of classic pop soul and would sit proudly within the roster of many great sixties labels. Reed knows how to write a good pop song. Unfortunately he doesn’t know how to sing them in his own voice. He constantly flits vocally from one reference to another. On the Gospel tinged 'Time Will Tell' he finds himself in a conundrum whether to sing like Al Green or Otis Redding. In the end he can pick neither satisfactorily and the track suffers. 'Tell Me Also' is inflicted by this same sort of karaoke juggling. As he clips out the lyrics "Tell me..." there’s an instant recognition of the phrasing as used by somebody else. I don’t know who, it’s yet to come to me. I just know it's someone infinitely better than our "boy wonder". As the album progresses disenchantment increasingly sets in on the listener. How many more soul greats can this guy try to slip in? The closing track 'Explosion' comes with a perverse sense of humour, it’s a proper rock out but even so he still doesn’t leave his imprint. Dismally the song is like one that has failed miserably to become a show stopper for Las Vegas era Elvis but still thinks it’s great.

Let’s be fair to Eli 'Paperboy' Reed. He’s got a powerful raw voice and looks to have good song writing instincts but Come And Get It! can’t really be recommended unless you’re too lazy to find some classic soul. Or love records that sound like they’ve been produced by Mark Ronson. Anyhow don’t give in. Stop the madness.

- Tim Gannon