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ALADDIN 3058; MAY 1950



Well, one good thing about Aladdin Records having their top artist shamefully cover recent releases that are showing commercial promise for others is that in their haste to get the song cut and shipped before the light filaments even dim in the studio it’s forcing them to go back into the deep recesses of their vaults and pull out songs Amos Milburn had cut years earlier that were otherwise unlikely to ever see the light of day to serve as a hastily chosen B-side.

Small favors are better than no favors after all, I suppose.


Give Up All My Gold
This is the second time in the past two months this situation has occurred, as Milburn was coaxed, cajoled or conned into covering another country-themed record then and Aladdin issued it with a leftover track from way back in 1947, Anybody’s Blues, which was one of that month’s best releases… even though it was more than three years old.

We don’t get quite that return on I Love Her, which isn’t so much a knock on Amos Milburn as it is on Aladdin Records for choosing this to pair with the fairly well-done but utterly pointless cover of Birmingham Bounce rather than the knockout uptempo raver Wolf on The River which they never did get around to releasing.

Who knows, maybe if they’d had continued having Amos cover every song on the Hit Parade they’d have gotten around to it eventually… probably when he humiliated himself on a cover of If I’d Knew You Were Comin’ I’d Have Baked A Cake, but luckily for us they never stooped that low.

Still, all things considered, it’s nice to be able to revisit Milburn in his formative years at a time when he was unaware of his impending stardom and merely trying to find the right approach to make his chances a little more promising.


I Cry All Night Long
Though a lot of the traits we’d come to love in Milburn are present here, you can still see why Aladdin initially chose to bypass this in favor of other sides that show more character, more polish and more flair.

The song finds Milburn trapped between two competing forces… he’s in love, which I suppose you could have figured out from the title… but he doesn’t sound very happy about it because that love is being taken for granted. He goes so far as to admit his girlfriend does him wrong and I somehow doubt that means just raising an eyebrow at the tie he chose to go to work wearing, or complaining that he still hasn’t taken out the trash.

But therein lies the problem. I Love Her is a song built on vague impressions, not concrete evidence. It’s not that Milburn’s internal conflict isn’t palpable – this guy was a great actor as a vocalist, able to mine the emotions he was feeling in a nuanced understated manner – but he’s asking us to accept and sympathize with his predicament based on little more than his hangdog expression and weary voice, not anything that we can relate to with any conviction.

Milburn didn’t write the song so at least we can take him off the hook for the simplistic lyrics and amateurishly constructed framework of the song which uses not just trite sentiments but a childish sing-songy pattern that quickly becomes tedious and almost laughable. To wit:

When she’s feeling low
It worries me so

Which later gets flipped to show he’s got both sides of this issue covered…

When she’s feeling right
All through the night

In other words, as convincing as he sounds expressing these thoughts, they’re the kind best left unexpressed, especially on record where you tend to be judged for things like rhyme scheme and lyrical insight.

But as we know by now with Milburn there’s more than one way to convey his deepest thoughts and with his old gang of studio aces alongside him, this is where he starts to make up ground.

Sends Me So
There’s been a lot of words spilled on these pages praising the skills of Maxwell Davis and yet it still feels like we’re underselling his talent.

It’s hardly surprising over the years that there’ve been a lot of top-tier producers who were also working musicians and if we exclude those who primarily self-produced their own work (Stevie Wonder, Prince, etc.) I think it’s safe to say that in terms of musicianship Maxwell Davis stands alone. As great of a producer as he was he was equally great as a saxophonist and where he got his biggest chance to shine was working with Amos Milburn in the late 1940’s before he ceded that role to Amos’s own road band (which included such stalwarts as Don Wilkerson so even then there wasn’t a huge drop off in quality).

Davis was never an enthusiastic honker like so many of those coming along in rock at the same time as him, though he could do so effectively if need be, but where he really excelled was in blowing haunting languid parts that established an incredibly vivid atmosphere fit for the silver screen and on I Love Her Davis steals every scene he appears in even though he never steps out of the shadows.

After Milburn’s piano sets the stark framework Davis answers him with his smoldering tenor sax that is so unhurried that it acts like a parachute on the song, easing you back down to a crawling pace whenever the vocals or piano want to start pushing it forward more.

The production values on this are impressive (for 1947 anyway) as Davis keeps himself much further back in the mix and then sees to it that his horn is fringed with a faint amount of echo making it sound eerily detached from the proceedings in a way, yet still adding to the slow burn quality of the overall performance thanks to the smoke he’s emitting each time he blows another line.

Unfortunately there’s only so much one tenor sax can do to transform the record and while Milburn himself gets in a pretty good solo that evocative in its own right, sticking mainly to darting around the treble keys with some strong melodic improvisations, there’s no way they can – or should – break out of the narrow boundaries the song requires.

As such it’s a not much more than an effective mood piece, lyrically shallow though musically alluring, which all things considered means it’s impressive that it manages to just break even.

Find Somebody Nice And Kind
You’re never going to complain about getting another vintage era Amos Milburn track, especially one featuring Maxwell Davis as his primary accompanist (in fact, save for faint rudimentary drumming, his ONLY accompanist here), but hauling this out of mothballs three years after it was cut doesn’t really DO much for his career.

Starting with his second release of 1950, a pointless rendition of Johnson Rag, we hinted (actually we strongly suggested) that Milburn’s momentum was being forcibly curtailed because Aladdin seemed content with what they’d already built with him and now were trying to get as much mileage out of his popularity without investing further in his development.

That approach has only intensified since then with constant cover records (and with even more to come!), dredging up long-shelved sides to pair with them and a surprising lack of interest in getting him in the studio to record new original material. But because Amos Milburn was so hot – and so good even when doing things that were beneath his dignity – it didn’t hurt them as much as it probably should have, as these records still sold well enough to justify the company’s suddenly limited and shortsighted goals.

But we know all too well how fleeting even the greatest artists’ peaks truly are and so while I Love Her could be modestly welcomed after such a long wait to hear it, we’d much rather have something current to show where Milburn is going rather than something old to remind us where he’s already been.


(Visit the Artist page of Amos Milburn for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)