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DECCA 48069; JANUARY, 1948

 
 

 

When last we encountered the enchanting Ms. Jones it was at the very beginning of the blog, September 1947, and thus the very beginnings of rock ‘n’ roll itself. Hers was not only the first record released by a female artist to fit in the rock ‘n’ roll bag, but in fact the two-sided gem set the bar staggeringly high for all women to follow.

Yet in the four months since then, “all the women to follow” have comprised a grand total of just two ladies, Annie Laurie and Sheba Griffin, both talented and with some decent work scattered amongst the scant number of sides, but any thought that rock ‘n’ roll was somehow ahead of the curve when it came to gender equality, at least in terms of opportunity, had to be put to rest in its first season. Truthfully in the nearly seven decades since women are still lagging well behind the men when it comes to both opportunity and recognition, with lots of huge names even fighting for the right to be called rock when in fact their music could be called nothing BUT rock.

But that’s a story that will get plenty of exploration as the calendar years go by here on Spontaneous Lunacy. Right now we’re concerned with just one lady, the first lady of rock as it were, one who left such a powerful impression in her initial go round a few months ago. So it’s with great anticipation that we meet up with Albennie Jones once again.
 

Come Give Mama What She Craves
There are many components that go into making a great record, from the song’s construction (melody, chords, rhythm) to the backing band playing that music, as well as the lyrics that adorn it and the production all it’s wrapped in, but as vital as they all are one facet always seems to have the ability to overcome what may be slightly lacking in those other areas and that’s the singer’s interpretive abilities. It’s been called many things over time, delivery, emoting, passion, soul, grit… but essentially the meaning behind them all is simply acting.

A song is like a play, the lyrics are its story and the vocalist is the actor, the one assigned the task of selling the story to the audience using nothing but their voice, their skill in shading each line properly to convey each underlying emotion with just the right touch. Too heavy and it comes across as overwrought and promptly collapses, whereas if it’s served up too lightly the inherent meaning runs the risk of floating away and getting lost.

On her first record we reviewed, The Rain Is Falling, Jones gave an Oscar-worthy performance, delivering tremendously powerful emotions which she imparted with such detailed psychological nuance that it projected her erogenous state of mind in the absence of her man absolutely perfectly.

So upon seeing the title to this one – Give It Up Daddy Blues – the already high hopes go through the roof.

Since she also wrote it you figure that she knew exactly what she was doing on that earlier masterpiece and set about trying to recapture, or surpass, that emotional quality with something in a similar vein. Perfectly understandable. So it’s a pity she made her intent so blatant and painted the song with such a broad brush that the only requirements really needed to sell this one credibly was that the singer simply be wearing a brassiere and lipstick.

In other words, all of the skills that allowed her to mine the emotional depths of the earlier song so perfectly are not only not needed here, but are almost unable to be used even should Jones want to try.
 

 
 

I Stayed Home Waiting…
On its surface “Daddy” contains the same basic sentiments as The Rain Is Falling, the sexually yearning female trying to lure back her man from wherever (or whoever) he may have wandered off to. But whereas “Rain” pulled this off with a deftness of touch, letting Jones’s voice impart her turbulent mental state, alternately rising and falling, growling and purring, snapping and soothing, this is the cliff notes version of that plot for people too dense to read between the lines of a more mature script.

In many ways though, shallow as it may be, Give It Up Daddy Blues is conceivably a far more commercial record than her previous outing. As its title suggests the song’s subject matter is laid bare and as such it takes its place in the long line of jukebox hits designed to titillate and arouse – to pull you in by mere title alone – as opposed to merely seduce as her previous effort did. Many a nickel had been dropped over the years by horny male clientele to hear lines that are serviceable in that regard, no matter how heavy handed they may be. To wit:

You said you’d give me peaches
You’d even serve me cream
I heard last night, baby
You made another woman scream

I don’t suppose we need to go into another anatomy lesson to uncover the analogies used, but therein lies the problem. It’s so direct – so lacking in subtlety – that Jones can’t do much with it. Everything is presented on a surface level, there’s no depth to explore, no range of emotions to plum here, no different sides of her persona to reveal, nor any conflict within her own mind to wrestle with as she had done so brilliantly the last time around. Here she is presented as simply one-dimensional, a cat in heat, and the hope seems to be that the male response will be carnal rather than cerebral and that will more than suffice.
 

The Rest Is Up To You
For many it just may do that. After all, prostitution offers no emotional connection and it’s the world’s oldest profession. Playboy magazine had some great writing over the years but the eternal joke to imply a lack of male virility was “I bet you read Playboy for the articles”. In the modern age the success of the internet itself was built on the easy access to thirty second porn clips (I know, I know, that’s news to all of you I’m sure!), so it’s not like the male mind in these matters is always known for its discernment.

Judged in a vacuum Give It Up Daddy Blues is a pretty good record, maybe even more than that if you don’t go into it with elevated hopes based on Jones previous work with “Rain” and its nearly as good flip side, Papa Tree Top Blues, which allowed her to employ her interpretive talents with an entirely different perspective. It’s even got the same stellar crew working behind her and they don’t disappoint, as Sammy Price on piano plays a few catchy fills while Billy Butler takes a particularly deft guitar solo mid-way through, fluid and light as a feather, and so certainly the musical side of the equation is more than adequate.

Jones may not have much to work with here but she imparts her reading with all of the formidable talent she was blessed with, changing her inflections throughout when the opportunity allows for it (which is far too infrequent), slightly teasing her wayward man near the start, injecting a moment or two of coyness later on and alternating the degree of yearning she shows at various points, her voice swelling with understated power in the song’s best moments.

But ultimately those moments are fleeting because the song itself is so transparent. She’s got such a rich, textured voice, she can’t help but sound good singing virtually anything. She also possesses the requisite insight and understanding to convey the subtext of each and every line without ever being heavy-handed about it, which in this song is a balancing act that is particularly noteworthy. Jones does indeed elevate this past what it has any right to be and I’ll admit my criticisms of its general concept might be unfair since it wasn’t someone else forcing her into doing something that’s beneath her dignity for commercial purposes, but rather it was her own intent all along.

It may indeed work for what it sets out to accomplish and thus is technically “good” in the ways that matter most when you have a nickel in your hand and time enough to hear one song on the jukebox before you head home and so you certainly don’t need to apologize if you get some honest enjoyment out of the record. There ARE plenty of strong components that make it worth hearing, but Jones is SO good that the standard I hold her to is a little higher than most and ultimately this song falls short of that standard simply because it remains something essentially cheap and easy at its core.

 


 

You Know I’ll Always Love You
It’s no secret that any reasonably attractive women can, if her needs are so base, put on a low cut dress one size too tight and hit the bars, bolstering her confidence and lowering her inhibitions with a few drinks along the way. If she flirts with any halfway decent looking guy it’s a good bet she’ll get what she’s looking for – free drinks or a one night stand, take your pick – without much more effort involved than a quick smile, an exaggerated laugh at something mildly amusing and lots of eye contact… toss in a hand on the knee or forearm at precisely the right moment and she’s hooked him.

Let’s face it there are plenty of guys who go out each night hoping for just that. Thus it’s a sellers market and so we know going in that women who advertise their intent as unambiguously as this song does won’t be buying their own drinks at the bar for very long.

But Albennie Jones is a girl who you’d notice right away sitting in the kind of dive this song places her in and you’d know before you even approached her that she doesn’t belong there. As a singer she’s got too much class to offer herself for this type of exploitative musical hook-up, one that will surely end up with a bad hangover, a missing stocking and ultimately a round of penicillin to go along with the shame and guilt that are the chasers for this type of cheap hard drink.

C’mon, Albennie, lemme call you a cab. You’ll thank me when you sober up come morning.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Albennie Jones for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)