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Any way you try and explain it, this project is hardly a timely piece of work. The record being reviewed today came out just shy of seventy-one years ago and by the time many people come across this page down the road it’ll be even further in the past.

In other words these songs aren’t getting any more familiar as time goes on.

But today’s record is tied to one that’s far older than that, as it takes its basic idea – and almost entire structure – from a tune that was one of the biggest hits of the 1920’s… almost a hundred years ago as we speak.

Needless to say, time is NOT of the essence around here.


Coming Down The Street
In the heart of New Orleans at the midway point of the Twentieth Century you could take in plenty of talent playing the clubs lining each street every night of the week. You wouldn’t only see a lot of the future unfolding in front of your eyes but you could also get a glimpse at the previous fifty years of music being recollected on those same stages by artists who reached back into the past to create a diverse, well-rounded show that were designed to have something to suit everybody, young and old alike.

Archibald was one of those guys who packed a lot of history into his act. His most famous song of course, Stack-A-Lee, dated back in one form or another to the 1890’s, but there were remnants of a lot of unexpected tunes being re-imagined in his repertoire for the current audience.

One of which was My Gal, which came from as unlikely a piece of source material for a genuine rock ‘n’ roll song as you could find anywhere this side of children’s nursery rhymes.

It’s based on Has Anybody Seen My Girl (Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue), something I’m sure most of you have heard without possibly realizing what it was you were listening to. It’s a silly song, though it does have a certain era-specific charm to it as the skimpy lyrics mention flappers, the term for the loose, jazz loving, rotgut liquor swilling floozies of the Prohibition era.

Considering that when Archibald began performing in clubs it was only twenty years after the song was popular it was hardly a jolt to the senses to hear something like this… sort of like having a bar band today playing The White Stripes’ Fell In Love With A Girl or your friend doing Missy Elliott’s Get Ur Freak On in karaoke.

Now that Archibald had moved from clubs to a recording studio and was in need of material that he knew might go over well, he reached into his roll call of songs and came up with this – using new lyrics – to issue as a B-side and hoped that you didn’t have to get stinking drunk on bathtub gin to enjoy it.

I’m Satisfied With That Gal
The “appeal” of the original – such as it is – was the sing-along quality to the simple melody. It’s one of those things that is catchy on the first listen, redundant by the third and annoying by the fifth, so a lot depended on just how you were encountering this… at a club in the middle of a good set, it’d be fine, but on a record you were going to play repeatedly it was less than fine.

The main problem is that My Gal is remarkably thin as a composition. Keep in mind back in the 1920’s – and actually through the big band era of the early 40’s – the primary means for conveying a tune wasn’t through singing, but through a band playing and the vocalist was just one soloing “instrument”, like a clarinet or a flugelhorn, getting 24 bars or so to deliver the entire story. In that setting this repetitive melody would only last a short time, sparing you from being exposed to its mindless qualities for very long.

But Archibald doesn’t have that advantage as now singers were expected to fill more of a record with their voice – though to be fair, the same band (Dave Bartholomew’s) at the same time cut a few songs with Fats Domino which recalled those early approaches, in which his vocals lasted only a brief time while the music carried the day.

Truthfully Archibald would’ve been smart to do that here too, for the new lyrics are just as silly, and even less colorful, than the original rendition and while he sounds okay singing it, you’re inclined to tell him politely, “Once is enough, pal” when he starts to cycle through them a few more times.

Since he doesn’t expand on the story we’re left with only the barest of plots: his girlfriend is missing – probably because she tired of hearing him break out 1920’s songs in 1950 – and he’s simply looking to get her back.

As such this sounds more like a warm-up piece as the engineer is setting up microphones than it does an actual commercial record… at least when focusing strictly on the content which leaves you hoping that the peerless band might do something to make up for its shortcomings.

Always Looking Pretty
Archibald’s piano flourishes at the start have a vaguely Twenties feel to them, but he quickly gives that up for a more rudimentary pounding that sounds as if the piano is just a semi-tone out of tune, something which I’m sure was prone to happen in the humidity of a non-air conditioned studio in New Orleans.

Besides the fact that what he’s playing is pretty crude after that opening, there’s not much else going on behind him yet because the band is enlisted to provide responding vocals which are enthusiastic, but hardly reason for celebration.

But My Gal picks up a little once Archibald gets to show off his chops some, getting a nice solo, flailing away at top speed before settling down to provide counterpoints to the drum solo which, aside from its historical noteworthiness (not a lot of drum solos yet in rock), is appreciated mainly for shaking up the bare bones arrangement.

That’s the record’s second fatal flaw, though I’m sure it was done to mimic the club performances where Archie was highly unlikely to be working with anything more than a two piece rhythm section, but when you have Dave Bartholomew and his session aces on hand in a studio it’d be a good idea to give them more to do than just shout encouragement from the sidelines.

A horn solo following that back and forth between piano and drums would do wonders to give this more life, or to answer Archie’s vocals by blowing those horns rather than bellowing “Whose gal?” and “Oh no she ain’t!”. Instead because most of them sit out – at least instrumentally – we get so little to focus on that the more attention we do pay to what’s going on the more we realize how unsatisfying it is.


The Sweetest Thing You Ever Want To See?
In the big scheme of things a song like this on the B-side of an excellent record by an artist with just a brief recording career is hardly anything to worry about.

In many ways it’s actually a good thing that we were able to take a time machine back to the thriving New Orleans club scene of the era to see the types of playlists artists like Archibald were delivering each night. Since that’s something that would otherwise have faded into oblivion in short order it’s nice to hear him actually recreating something like My Gal on record – even in the same skimpy arrangement that we’d hear him laying down on a random Tuesday night on Decatur Street.

But that’s looking at this from the present, when the details of the past have become obscured by time.

If looked at as a current release in 1950 then no matter how well this song went over at a club where drunken patrons sang along to it reminiscing about The Roaring Twenties, it wasn’t going to make much of an impression. The rock fan of 1950 hadn’t been born yet, or at the very least were too young to be dancing the Charleston in speakeasies back then, so this comes across more as a throwaway novelty record than anything done to advance Archibald’s career.

If we could split the difference and give a little extra credit for the more distant past it conjures up, we would, but instead we need to be true to the era we’re focused on and look to get our freak on with something a little more modern.


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