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A.K.A. “Deacon’s Blowout”


ALADDIN 3050; MARCH 1950



Having just excoriated Aladdin Records for *seemingly* having mangled a more visionary experimental idea of Big Jay McNeely on the top side of this single by possibly chopping a larger work into pieces and rendering it somewhat incoherent in the process, here we are to show that when it comes to doling out criticism we play no favorites.

Big Jay McNeely has been one of the most lauded artists on these pages, his average scores for each release placing him among the elite of the first generation of rock artists… heck, his picture even adorns the banner of the very site itself.

We’ve praised his playing ability and his creativity in equal measure, with no small share of acclaim for his performing style thrown in at no extra cost. We’ve railed against his lack of mainstream recognition historically and celebrated the fact that McNeely’s records showed a diversity of approaches that was admirable, rarely resorting to simply rehashing old glories in an attempt to extend his time in the spotlight.

But now, Big Jay, it’s time to face the music as it were and pay your debt to musical society by suffering through your first critical review.


Everybody’s Gotta Take A Beating Sometime
As so many parents say when they’re punishing their wayward kids – “This hurts me more than it does you” – so we’ll try and keep this public scolding short, if not exactly sweet.

Because of the uncertainties surrounding the winter recording session for Aladdin Records which produced these sides we’re left with more questions than answers as to what the overriding concept was with the tracks being laid down. As detailed on the top side, Jaysfrantic, there seemed to be a larger theme at work which then got destroyed in post-production cutting which made this one of the more unsatisfying recording dates of McNeely’s career.

Emblematic of that, although for a much different reason, is Deac’s Blowout, a song that was surely named after the fact in a blatant attempt to connect it with Big Jay’s breakthrough, the chart topping smash The Deacon’s Hop.

After that record hit big there were attempts by Savoy Records to re-name “Deacon” McNeely which typically went nowhere, so you’d think by now, more than a year later, people would’ve given up on the idea of drawing water from the same well, but the record business is known for liking well-water even if it’s mostly muddy after so many people have dropped their dirty buckets into it and so here we are with an unimaginative moniker staring us in the face.

But if the name itself was the biggest issue we had with this record then that’d be easily overlooked. A name is mere window dressing for the performance the record contains, a point of interest maybe but hardly crucially important in the big scheme of things.

Unfortunately what IS important – namely the music contained within that record – is where Big Jay lets us down, as this is without question the worst playing he’s featured to date. For all of those critics who always claimed that what Jay, and those like him, were doing was nothing more than crude unmelodic noise not fit for the ears of civilized human beings… well, in this case they might actually have a point.


Guilty As Charged
The way this starts out, with a succinct refrain that has a definite beginning and end to it, you immediately think this must have been a well-planned song, maybe not connected in any way to the other sides they were doing that day where things were decidedly off-the-cuff in nature.

Think again.

Though this might’ve indeed been a separate track altogether, one unrelated to what else they were unfurling in the studio, chances are they were doing so only after coming out of an extended lunch break… or drink break as it were.

Now I’m not about to out and out accuse Big Jay of violating his faith by overindulging in spirits, but from what I’ve read Jehovah’s Witnesses are allowed to drink alcohol, just not to excess. I’m sure there might be another factor at play here, maybe they ate some bad shellfish, or there was a faulty air filtration system in the studio that let in some Los Angeles smog which affected their breathing, which as we know is vital for a saxophonist to play properly.

But if someone DID sneak in a few nips between songs, then by the sounds of it Big Jay thought the odd smelling liquid was harmless refreshments and had his fill. Or more than his fill as it were, because frankly they all seem quite drunk.

I don’t mean tipsy either, they sound as if they can’t find the light switch at times on Deac’s Blowout, as they’re missing notes with alarming frequency as soon as that rather orderly intro fades out and Jay’s first solo begins.

It’s not just the bad notes themselves that turn this into a train wreck but the fact that the tempo and melodic structure implies everyone involved is staggering around with lampshades on their head, eyes at half mast and their flies unzipped looking for a potted plant in the corner to relieve themselves.

Because the slow lurching pace only adds to this image you almost hope it was by design, one which would actually result in the title making a little sense, as in they were having a bachelor party for the wayward deacon which got a little out of hand as the booze was being swilled from the stripper’s size 7 high-heeled pumps.

But even if that WERE the case, which we doubt, there’s no need to put the sounds of it on record without at least including color home movies of the stripper herself in action… though by the sounds of it she earned most of her pay by putting the drunken stumblebums to bed and lifting their wallets in the process.


Hangover Cures
Thankfully with such a woeful first half of a record there’s probably nowhere to go but up and in the second half the effects of those early drinks start to wear off a little. Of course that doesn’t mean you’re going to be spry and ready for action anytime soon, you still are going to be seeing blurry and have a pounding headache and so what follows is hardly that much more appealing than what led us to this point, but at least the room is no longer spinning.

McNeely’s extended solo midway through Deac’s Blowout brings with it some semblance of power in the held notes, though at first it sounds more like bleating than wailing, and his brother Bob is at least trying to keep the ship righted with some repetitive honking on baritone. This conspires to focus them all on the task at hand and they manage to get back on track, however wobbly they all still remain.

As Jay heads down the stretch he’s finally shaking off the effects of whatever ailed him earlier and his lines start to show just who we’re dealing with here and the simple backing riff the others play is now tighter and more in tune. The intermittent shouts from the others that you hear tells you they’re not quite over their bout of self-inflicted alcohol poisoning but they’re working it out of their system at least and apparently the drummer remained abstinent the whole time because he doesn’t lose the steady, if unspectacular, beat.

The last few bars finds them sober enough to stay in formation on the stop-time closing, though you can still picture them woozy as they play and ready to drop the second the producer yells cut. It’s not a pretty picture even without imagining the technicolor yawns that will soon follow as they hug the porcelain thrones in the bathrooms, heaving their guts out, but at least you, the listener, have made it to the end of the song without losing your own cookies in the process.

Blowout Or Blew It?
The list of record companies Big Jay McNeely would ply his trade for over the years contains some of the most successful in the post-War independent record label boom – Savoy, Exclusive, Imperial, Federal – yet Aladdin, which is certainly on par with any of them in terms of prestige is one McNeely is rarely associated with… for what now appears to be obvious reasons.

That they fell short on advancing his career just as should’ve been poised to take off is pretty obvious, but then again if Deac’s Blowout was one of the sides Big Jay turned in maybe you can’t really blame the Mesner brothers for being so concerned about his future prospects.

That doesn’t mean they didn’t screw up in releasing this underwhelming side rather than the unexpurgated extended workout that might’ve made for a stellar two-part single as we detailed yesterday, but this session marked the first time where McNeely failed to live up to his reputation. Was he running out of ideas by this point or merely having a bad day?

Based on his track record it was probably the latter but that still doesn’t assuage the quesy feeling you have when you see that the King Of The Honkers is suddenly wearing a somewhat tarnished crown.


(Visit the Artist page of Big Jay McNeely for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)