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Sometimes getting back on track artistically means churning out something basic… even simplistic… provided it checks off all of the expected boxes in the current rock lexicon.

If it were an A-side maybe this would be seen as setting your sights too low, but as the B-side to a surefire hit this straightforward cut was exactly the kind of thing to put your mind at ease that Amos Milburn was taking his job seriously again.


What You’ve Been Doing To Me
This wasn’t a song that Milburn came up with himself, nor was it contributed by Maxwell Davis who penned the stellar top side, Bad, Bad Whiskey.

But thankfully it’s also not a cover record of another wayward pop song or country tune as Amos had been coaxed into tackling for the better part of 1950. Instead this is an original song written for him by Frank Haywood and Monroe Tucker, the latter whose name you may remember from Percy Mayfield’s breakthrough record Two Years Of Torture, a year old cut that was currently on regional charts after being re-issued on the Recorded In Hollywood label back in the spring.

The odd thing is Tucker didn’t write that song, Mayfield wrote it himself, Tucker was simply the bandleader who somehow wrangled the lead artist credit. Milburn, you may remember, covered that song earlier this year once the Mayfield cut was re-issued and started making noise and so maybe it was only natural that in doing so he inadvertently forged a connection between the two camps which encouraged Tucker to seek out Milburn to record a song he actually wrote so he might get some royalties for it.

As a pianist himself Tucker certainly knew music but he was hardly a great writer, at least he and Haywood’s catalog didn’t contain anything that was all that important.

Neither is I’m Gonna Tell My Mama actually (as it’s spelled in the ads, but not on the label), but that’s hardly a problem because it chooses a very clear target and hits that target with relative ease.

Call it formula if you want but reliably formulaic records are what gives any genre of music a firm enough foundation to be able to support the more innovative and experimental sides that push the music to reach new heights.

Brought All My Love Tumblin’ Down
Songs about paying a series of compliments to the singer’s girlfriend always require more than just flowery tributes taken verbatim from Hallmark cards if they’re going to connect with notoriously cynical rock addicts.

Rockers could get away with it on sweet ballads, particularly those who were inventive in their wordplay – Smokey Robinson made a living on that in fact – but when speeding up the tempo and abandoning soft crooning for more emphatic vocalizing you needed to come loaded for bear with more wit than romance on your mind.

I’m Going To Tell My Mama understands this requirement and while it contains no lines that are going to qualify as particularly memorable, there also aren’t any that miss their mark and leave you hung out to dry.

The best decision the writers make is not hiding the sexual connotations behind Milburn’s praise for his sweetie, something that not only makes the song more authentic but also gives those who were listening to this something to grin about once they’ve caught on to the true meaning behind such lines as “I’m gonna tell her what you’re doin’ must be wrong/Cause you’re hollerin’ ‘Let’s do it ALL NIGHT LONG!’”.

Actually that raises the question of how she’s phrasing that… as in does she add the words “all night long” herself to her command, or is Milburn telling us that she’s so horny that all she’s saying is “let’s do it”… but that she keeps saying it all night long whenever they’re together?

I suppose the end result is the same… the local drugstore running out of prophylactics.

Regardless, you know by the way he says this that he’s a willing accomplice in their debauchery and since he’s not actually telling his mother any of this, thus sparing her the… ahh… “blow by blow descriptions” as it were, he’s really recounting this as a way to encourage his girlfriend to keep up her enthusiasm for their nightly romps.

Once you’ve established that much the rest is mere details and truthfully from there on in the remaining lyrics just confirm the basic premise. For the more descriptive interpretation of those acts we leave it up to the musicians who, not being subject to any impending censorship if they take things too far, are free to be as uninhibited as they dare.


Made My Head Go ‘Round And ’Round
The first thing you notice here is that following the sparse stripped down arrangement that worked wonders in creating a much different atmosphere on the top side, this song has the full arsenal of weapons at their disposal and doesn’t skimp when it comes to using any of them.

The horns are back in other words, all four of them, and after a fairly mild intro they lay in wait for their chance to take center stage. The first break finds one of the tenors, be it Don Wilkerson, Willie Smith or Maxwell Davis himself, getting a suitably fierce solo that adds back into the mix whatever suggestiveness the lyrics left out.

The second solo after the next stanza is more of the same, the tenor grinding away with a rich – and slightly raunchy – tone before ceding the spotlight to Milburn himself who pounds away with renewed vigor. Consequently the rather demure lead-in to I’m Going To Tell My Mama now shown to be nothing more than a bait and switch tactic to ease you into the racier mentality the record now possesses.

Up until now the one glaring absence – at least when referring back to what was featured on Bad, Bad Whiskey – has been Chuck Norris’s lethal guitar, but in the final section it comes into view at last, never seizing control of the track but making sure you know of its presence as he adds spice behind Milburn’s vocals down the stretch before those group horns return for a briefly rousing conclusion.

All of this is very effective, each break plotted out to make sure they’re all on the same page yet still allowing for the individual musicians to improvise during their standalone spots to bring a certain level of excitement to the proceedings. It may not be anything eye-popping but as long as they keep your focus and get your heart pumping then they’ve done their job and lived up to their reputation as ruthlessly efficient musicians with an eye on the bottom line.

Tastes Like Wine
As stated, this was the side of the record that was completely non-essential to its commercial prospects. If they’d hauled out an earlier track, even an ill-chosen cover record left over from his foray into that realm, it wouldn’t have mattered in the least considering the plug side was so addictive.

But since it was something new and up to date stylistically, hitting all of the high points we’ve taken for granted in the past with Milburn, I’m Gonna Tell My Mama turns into something akin to a welcome gratuity… a stock dividend for having invested so much time, money and attention to Amos’s career from the start, reminding us why he was so potent, even with rather generic material as this.

{Ironically Milburn would re-cut this song at Motown in the 1960’s with a more driving arrangement, but one that actually has certain elements that hearken back to big band styles making it a curious mix of old and new… though at least his vocal prowess hadn’t diminished any in the interim.}

If in the end all this side did was confirm he was still capable of delivering in the manner we’ve come to expect from him after a few months wandering the wilderness then it was going to be a welcome addition to his catalog… quickly pushed aside when the hits started piling up again, but something which you’d never skip over if somebody cued it up.


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