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ARISTOCRAT 1106; JULY, 1949

 
 

 

Is there a knack for picking potential hits which certain people have while others are lacking in that talent? Or is it even a talent to begin with rather than being something along the lines of flukish luck? Lastly, does it really matter all that much if you can predict such outcomes and if so, to whom does it matter?

Well, the answers to those questions are: Yes, some people do in fact have a better sense of commercial potential than others. No, it’s not so much a skill as it is simply an awareness of the current marketplace and an ability to read trends as they’re still developing. And no, it doesn’t matter much for the average man or woman on the street if they can guess which songs will hit big… but yes, it absolutely matters if you happen to be in the record business and your job depends on assessing the right songs to push.

So why is it that so often in rock history the obvious sides that seem ripe for scoring are ones that are afterthoughts by the companies issuing them, and the songs which would seem to contain more elusive qualities that won’t be as readily apparent to someone listening for the first time are the sides that these companies are staking their reputation on, pushing all of their chips into the pot on the gamble that it’ll be these songs that will hit big?

When they fail to get it right they don’t ever seem to hand over that responsibility to someone else, but rather they try again… and again… and again, hoping their bad instincts and gut reactions somehow turn around.
 

 
Make Him Or Break Him
I suppose I’m being unduly harsh on Aristocrat Records, having criticized them already over the course of a dozen or so reviews for a litany of missteps and outright blunders ranging from poor fidelity and intentionally confusing label sequencing to copyright thievery and failure to properly attribute the artists in question on their records.

Of course they were deserving of that criticism for messing up the virtually all of the primary requirements for establishing a successful record company and thanks to this they were still largely floundering at this point despite a collection of major artistic talents in their midst, so my pointing it out, even harping on it, is only an attempt to explain how these missed opportunities continued to pile up. Things began to turn around only after the label was sold to employee Leonard Chess who changed the name and made Chess Records into a pillar of the record industry over the next two decades, though as we’ll see in time even he was hardly infallible when it came to having a good sense of what to pursue.

Considering all of the examples to date of other record companies designating the “wrong” song as the potential hit A-side of a record – Jubilee Records preferring The Orioles somewhat cloying Barbra Lee rather than the game-changing It’s Too Soon To Know, or Aladdin Records thinking that the more modest charms of Amos Milburn’s It Took A Long, Long Time was somehow going to stir the masses more than the raucous party-invitation put to music of Chicken Shack Boogie – I guess you can’t single out Aristocrat for thinking that this particular song we’re reviewing here today was the stronger bet on returning Andrew Tibbs to the Best Seller list, especially when the B-side in question, He’s Got Her And Gone, wound up not becoming a hit itself and thus didn’t prove them to be clueless dunderheads after all.

But if you were going to send your most talented artist out into the market in hopes of drawing attention to his diverse skill set after a seven month absence from the spotlight, it stands to reason that you wouldn’t have chose In Every Man’s Life, an introspective slow-as-molasses ballad with which to do so.
 
 

 
 

Slow To A Crawl
Now to be fair this is definitely a side of Tibbs that is well worth the time and trouble to explore. It’s also a style in which he’s had some verifiable success with in the past as his only national hit on Billboard’s race listings was the ballad I Feel Like Crying, and while that had far more gospel-technique to it than this performance does, they share some of the same attributes in terms of pace and arrangement.

But that being said there’s a very clear difference in terms of eliciting a positive first response between a song that is designed to jump out at you in a declarative manner such as He’s Got Her And Gone and one that requires a good half dozen listens to fully absorb both the lyrical implications and the more sedate musical accompaniment of something as ponderously slow as this.

But enough about the B-side we reviewed – and praised effusively – yesterday, let’s focus instead on this record and say that wrong choice for the top side or not it’s highly doubtful that a small print “A” affixed to the label on In Every Man’s Life had anything whatsoever to do with its relative success or failure commercially.

Its primary obstacle to grabbing your attention immediately is its lethargic pacing. This is a song for whom the adjective “slow” would be about three gears ahead of how this comes across as sounding. Like a six year old stuck inside of a church, when listening to this drag on you start to wonder how long it takes for the clock to move.

Things are modestly helped by the mild vocal harmony provided by the Dozier Boys which opens the proceedings and is fairly seductive even if it’s not knocking you for a loop by delivering something more explosive right out of the gate. The piano that joins them is doing its best to keep your pulse rate from slackening off too much and before you know it here’s the star of the show, Andrew Tibbs, making his first appearance with a pained revelation that sounds delicately haunting.

Given all that you’d HAVE to want to stick around to find out what is troubling him, wouldn’t you?

When he’s then joined on vocals by bass singer Benny Carter, who’d done such a credible job on In A Travelin Mood, then regardless of it being slow, even tedious, you’re all but compelled see where they can take this.
 

Leave Him Without A Soul
The storyline is where you might find fault with things if you’re hoping for something more flashy to grab your attention. Instead In Every Man’s Life sets up a deeper moral conundrum to ponder which is actually pretty interesting, but then again they usually don’t banter around song meanings in college philosophy courses so maybe this would fly over the head of the intended audience for rock records.

But even that’s not quite fair because while the concepts themselves might be at risk for being housed in psychological textbooks the dilemmas the song itself presents are relatable for almost anybody who’s reached maturity.

The topic is girls. No surprise there I suppose, but this isn’t about just ONE girl, but rather three distinct females.

Before you jump to any rash conclusions about the potential decadence such a scenario conjures up, this isn’t exactly a sexual play by play report, but rather a weightier struggle over who has claim to your heart.

The set up has Tibbs explaining that his father – who by the way in real life was a minister and so he HAS to speaking metaphorically and substituting a generic father for his own – has told him that there are three women in each man’s life.

The woman who loves him.

The woman HE loves.

And his wife.
 

 
Ladies, feel free to hurl all of the obscenities at your screen you want over his Neanderthal views on interpersonal relations, I won’t blame you in the least.

When you’re finished though you’ll have to admit that the concept itself is somewhat heavy for a mere song circa 1949. Remember, this was well before uptight Yuppie rock stars began seeing shrinks and drawing their self-obsessive lyrics verbatim from their expensive counseling sessions.

If it helps set your mind at ease any Tibbs is clearly conflicted over this problem. The woman who loves him will do anything for him, yet the one that he wants treats him badly. That leaves the wife who surprisingly isn’t presented as someone to pity for her suffering through a marriage that may run hot and cold, or perhaps a marriage of convenience even, but instead – and in a way this might qualify as somewhat progressive thinking for the times – it’s she who is said to ultimately have his happiness and fate in her hands by how she deals with all of this.

That’s pretty heady stuff for a rock song in any era.
 

Nothing Much For Him She’ll Do
Now admittedly it’s not something you’re going to dance no matter how many drinks you’ve consumed. Nor is it a song you’ll cue up over and over unless you find yourself in the same situation, torn between two, or three, women, desperately trying to sort out your feelings for each of them while honestly evaluating the genuineness of their feelings towards you, as well as which of them possesses the kind of qualities that will endure.

So I suppose in that regard my original assessment of this being a song that in no way suggested “hit” was dead on.

There’s not much musical backing beyond the piano flourishes and even its brief standalone spot is shared with the Dozier Boys crooning harmonies. There’s not a horn to be found anywhere on the track and the pace never accelerates past crawling. There’s no melody to speak of beyond what’s conveyed by the lead vocal and even that is so full of stops and starts and interminable pauses for dramatic effect that you’d lose your way if you tried humming it in your mind five minutes after the record ended.

But what IS there works quite well for what they’re called on to do and of course I’m speaking of Andrew Tibbs, who delivers yet another performance that’s been squeezed through an emotional wringer until its dripping with pathos. He not only sounds authentic as he relates these problems, but actually seems emotionally drained by their implications, as if whichever route he chooses to pursue in life will afford him no satisfaction.

This is the most tormented we’ve heard any rock singer sound to date and as acting jobs go it’s absolutely first rate. The Dozier Boys prove their mettle with understated grace in support, essentially turning this into a duet, trading lines and adding infinite texture with their polar opposite vocal tones.

If a record focusing on something as discomforting as a man struggling with commitment issues and wrestling over the idea of settling down with the right one can be called “classy”, then In Every Man’s Life qualifies in that regard.

But classy doesn’t equate to being a hit and this song works far better sitting under glass in a laboratory being dissected in a cold sterile environment while admiring each individual component than it ever would sound coming out of a jukebox or being sung on a bandstand.

Now there are times when it WOULD work, when someone listening is in the same predicament themselves, wracked with guilt and confusion, their heart heavy with the weight of decisions they seem unwilling and unable to make. But those types of people are usually found in barren rooms sitting in the dark wide awake at three in the morning, or at the far end of a musty tavern just after they open their doors at 11AM, already drowning their sorrows in booze.

For the rest of us who are upbeat and riding high in life, we may admire the way such dire circumstances are expressed here, but we tend to want to keep our distance so the gloom doesn’t shroud our outlook on life.

Seven decades down the road what stands out the most is how all involved didn’t realize that while such sentiments and dramatic method acting techniques are fine for establishing artistic credibility, when it comes to putting asses in the seats, or in this case, feet on the dance floor, then it takes something more than a therapy session set to music to win your hard earned money.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Andrew Tibbs for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)