Last year I saw Eli “Paperboy” Reed and his band the True Loves at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. I came away a little disappointed. I’d been following their career for a year or so at that point, and their performance that night, while oozing with potential, seemed unfocused, and somewhat chaotic. Not long after that, I heard the news that they’d been signed to Capitol Records, and I was curious about what the label would do to, and for them.
I didn’t have to wait long to find out. In May I saw the band again, this time at WXPN’s NONCOMMvention in Philadelphia. What I saw that day was a slick, tight, fully focused unit, led by one of the best young soul men out there today. It was clear that some wonders had been worked by Capitol in bringing all of that potential to the surface, and putting it on full, glorious display for the world to see.
Now comes the debut album for the label, Come and Get It, and I’m pleased to report that it’s outstanding. The songwriting is so inspired, so informed by what’s come before, that you’d think that these were songs from the late ’60s or early ’70s instead of recent Reed compositions. This young man has clearly studied the classics. It would be wrong to accuse him of slavish imitation however. He brings a fresh energy to the form by finding the grit in his smooth vocal style, and leading his band through all the right moves. The album was expertly produced by Mike Elizondo, who spruces up the ancient form with a bright contemporary sound.
Nearly every song is a well-crafted delight. Standouts include the ballad “Just Like Me,” which brings to mind the great Tyrone Davis, the cleverly turned out “Name Calling,” the live energy of “Explosion,” and the funky and fine title track.
The Boston-born, now Brooklyn-based Eli Reed has quite a story to tell. His short life has taken him from New England to Mississippi to Chicago, back to Boston, and now to Brooklyn. He has learned his lessons well, and proven that desire and hard work can still take you a long way in the music business, especially when blended with a unique talent. His is a career to follow.
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