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Friday, May 06, 2005
  From a Voice Plantation #2

Arcesia: "Desiree"
Arcesia: "White Panther"
Arcesia: "Leaf"

Johnny Arcessi was a minor league big-band crooner who left Providence for California in the late ‘60’s. Instead of some flashy car or comely dame, the fruits of his mid-life crisis were drugs and rock’n’roll, false promises of reclaimed youth, all. He hooked up with some rocker types some three decades his junior, called the band Arcesia, and made one utterly fantastic, almost legendary album, Reachin’. Old Johnny, you see, didn’t really have much talent, in the traditional sense. What he did have is an absolutely unforgettable voice, a quavering, tuneless croon that slightly resembles Gary Puckett after some severe frontal lobe damage. Throw in some of the most amazingly convoluted and torturous hippie lyrics imaginable and you’ve got yourself an undeniable classic of almost incomprehensible proportions. The band’s mellow psych-rock is mostly competent, and at times quite nice; what makes this record the milestone that it is, though, is Arcessi’s incomparable voice and words.

Irwin Chusid mentions Arcesia in his Songs in the Key of Z, writing a small paragraph or two instead of the full entry that this amazing album deserves. Unlike much of the music discussed in that book, Arcesia isn’t simply bad, or awkward; this sound is utterly unique, and operates on a multitude of levels. Yes, it’s conventionally “bad”, but the same can be said of many notable singers who aren’t saddled with the outsider tag. In Arcessi’s voice you can hear a man who’s utterly confused, who has lost all connection to the reality that surrounded him, and who has found himself in a bewildering environment that he could never possibly truly inhabit. I wouldn’t necessarily call him a musical outsider, but he was certainly an outsider of the scene he was trying to crack. In his voice you can hear desperation, sadness, confusion, and maybe a bit of hope, and underneath it all the unwelcome realization that he is a man thoroughly out of place, and at least temporarily out of his normal mind. If David Brent were a mid-20th-century American, he would have made Reachin’.
 
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