Eli 'Paperboy' Reed
made a welcome return visit to London last night with a superb show at the Jazz Cafe. When I first saw him playing solo in the upstairs room of a pub in Chalk Farm back in 2008 I knew he was something special. He has one of the most fantastic soul voices that I've ever heard, quite extraordinary for a white Jewish boy from Boston.He can sound like Sam Cooke, like James Carr, like Solomon Burke, like Otis Redding, even James Brown, but his material is all his own and his singing is drenched in the raw emotion of deep soul, blues and gospel.
He has a genuine feel for the blues, having spent a year living in Clarksdale, Mississippi, a few years back and has a rare ability to write songs that sound like they were the work of one of the sixties soul greats. Over the last ten years or so he's recorded five albums, all of them good, but he didn't receive the support he deserved from first Capitol and later Warner Brothers, so his career didn't take off the way it should have done. But he's still around, still learning and every bit as good as ever. When I was in LA in April he visited the same three black blues clubs as I did when he was in the company of mutual friend Allen 'Charmin' Larman and got up and sang in each, getting a rapturous reception in all of them.
Eli has been teaching gospel singing to teenagers in Harlem for the last three years and clearly loves gospel music. His latest album, his fifth, My Way Home contains some strong raw gospel numbers and he sang several songs from this. Backed by a trio who clearly know him well, and who sang in harmony with him at the end, Eli was quite superb on up tempo numbers like Name Calling, from his Capitol album Come and Get It, and even better on the deep soul numbers. Don't Let Me Down was brilliant, as my Youtube clip shows, and other numbers such as Come and Get It and It's Easier were also spine tinglingly good. He's also a great guitarist by the way. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Irh3VGlC9U
It can surely only be a matter of time until Eli gets the recognition he deserves. He is, as my friend John Howard commented last night, the dog's bollocks!