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By now, 1700 reviews into rock’s history, a few things should be obvious to regular readers.

Beyond simply the skills of the artists themselves on record, we reward originality, creativity and risk taking when it comes to the material they put forth.

On the other hand conservatism, repetitiveness and throwbacks to previous success are often penalized just as much as hitting bad notes and singing out of key on the records.

In other words your aristic intentions definitely matter around here.

In rock’s first few years Big Jay McNeely may have been deemed to be fairly redundent by the uneducated, but his work – within a specific framework at least – was highly ambitious.

When the hits dried up and the contracts ran out maybe his mindset changed just a little for now he’s back giving us something we didn’t ask for, didn’t want and certainly didn’t see coming out of someone as visionary as The Deacon.


You Do It Once, You Do It Twice…
When people debate music there is often an argument over the purpose of it in a big picture sense.

Is it art or commerce?

Obviously it’s not an “either/or” question, it’s clearly both. You are making art, but selling records. If you don’t sell them, you are making hamburgers at a fast food restaurant and your art is limited to how creative you are adding the condiments to the bun.

So you can hardly fault artists or their employers for trying to figure out the market and aim your work in that general direction.

In 1949 Big Jay McNeely defined for all time the honking tenor sax revolution in rock ‘n’ roll with The Deacon’s Hop and other likeminded records that took making melodic noise to a new level. His sudden success put him in great demand and he promptly jumped ship from Savoy Records to Exclusive in the blink of an eye and though some of his sides there sold well, they now were regional hits in distant locales rather than national best sellers.

A move to the larger Aladdin didn’t boost his sales and he went quite awhile waiting for a new offer, finally getting one at the end of 1950 with Imperial where he wisely changed his approach, adding the vocal group Three Dots And A Dash featuring Marvin Phillips as well as a young Jesse Belvin delivering a great performance in his first lead with All That Wine Is Gone.

It sold well but more importantly it diversified their output, but Belvin left them while on tour and it would be almost a year – early November – before they went back in the studio and cut Let’s Do It which is where they first showed signs of slipping.

Not only is it a shallowly conscious attempt to revive the memory of his first hit with lyrical references galore, but it’s also badly conceived, poorly arranged and atrociously sung by the vocal group.

Other than that however it’s fine.


Stop! Stop! Stop!
Where do we lay the blame here?

Big Jay McNeely, who not only approved of this idea but also wrote the music and contributed the basic head arrangement and whose name is on the record.

Marvin Phillips and Richard Lewis, the group members and already young veterans of the recording industry having first performed together behind The Great Gates and who will go on to success in other endeavors, who wrote the lyrics and are singing lead.

Or do we blame the record company itself who surely were prodding them into coming up with something like those hits from days of yore.

How about all of the above because there’s plenty of blame to go around.

While the musical side of the equation early on uses a decent anticipatory intro wherein Jay’s horn trades off with piano and drums to light a fuse before the voices come in, the problem is the fuse is sort of damp (read: No power) and so there’s no explosion when they play. It’s like a golf clap – the motions are the same, but the effect is diminished.

Then there’s the singers who without Belvin are lacking a really strong distinctive voice, not to mention one with a great sense of melody to mold this into something enticing. Instead Let’s Do It is little more than a bunch of bland statements delivered with no enthusiasm – or much volume – while promoting a dance known as The Deacon’s Hop… hmm, I wonder where they came up with that idea?

Their “dance” instructions are lame as can be and for a record calling back to another record that had no shortage of eardrum puncturing sounds, this one is decidedly muted when it comes to energy.

The one saving grace of course is McNeely, who is virtually incapable of giving a bad performance on his sax and even with such limited material to work with he manages to work up some good riffs but amazingly they’re mixed too low and are overwhelmed by the singers who keep chanting “Blow, Jay, Blow” with all of the zeal of sober adults singing Happy Birthday to their neighbor’s kid at a party.

Worst of all the vocal tone throughout this veers uncomfortably close to pop, thereby almost invalidating the very music that McNeely himself helped to put on the map in the first place.


You Won’t Wanna…
The failure of this record could probably be attributed to any of the critiques found in the preceding section centered around the limp performances and subdued arrangement, all of which are certainly guilty as charged when it comes to their shortcomings.

But the real culprit is the one referred to in the opening of this review which is the lack of creativity and originality in the idea itself and their desire to artificially recapture something already done to perfection.

I suppose you can credit Big Jay McNeely for not simply rehashing his biggest smash in every conceivable way and slapping a new title on it, but beyond that there’s not much about their intent here to compliment.

Jay the musician comes out of it relatively unscathed because his parts on Let’s Do It, buried though they may be, are pretty solid, but when every other thing here has you cringing, not just for how they were carried out but also how and why they were conceived, you know you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to his output.

That he was still in his prime (indeed a month before this was cut he was driving kids wild at the concert depicted in this site’s heading) only makes his lack of direction all the more bewlidering.

But fear not, as long as he’s got that saxophone in his hand he’s always capable of blowing away a bad review – and those responsible for the parts of that record deserving of that bad review – with one or two mighty honks.


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