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You rarely notice time passing in the moment. The seasons may change to let you know your existence isn’t simply one endless week or month, but when you think back from your present station in life it often seems hard to believe that it’s been two whole years since you saw somebody special… or that four years have passed since you first embarked on some major project.

You take things one day at a time, to coin a phrase, and it’s only when a lot of those days have piled up on one another and you attempt to sift through them in order to figure out just how far you’ve traveled that you realize there were more of them than you had realized.

In music though the days have a way of letting you know that time has moved on rather quickly, as the sounds of today will seem out of date just a year or so later, just as the sounds that were widely accepted a short time earlier have become passé.

In spite of this however sometimes singers and musicians can’t help but feel a certain fondness for days gone by and attempt to keep those memories alive a little longer before they fade away completely.


Lock The Door, Rock Some More
By all rights Joe Turner’s career revival at Freedom Records starting at the dawn of the Nineteen-Fifties had to be credited as much to the band, Conrad Johnson, Goree Carter and their fellow Hep-Cats, as to Turner himself.

Certainly Big Joe was a willing and enthusiastic partner in their efforts, not to mention a singer perfectly capable of riding whatever rhythmic freight train they got underway with their playing, but it was the mindset of these musicians which had fully brought Joe into the present… with an eye on the future… rather than kept him stuck in the past, looking to revive earlier glories.

Yet that band only performed with him on half of his output for the label. The rest of the tracks were cut just before they were brought in and featured what we’ve come to assume was a local pick-up band he worked with at a club, some good musicians among them perhaps but not the type to have their fingers on the pulse of tomorrow.

Since the company had mostly exhausted their reservoir of the better tracks cut with the label’s session aces by the spring, they turned to the other sides he’d laid down with the more outdated group of musicians to issue on Turner as spring turned to summer and now summer turned to fall.

Songs like I Want My Baby were still pretty good, Turner was at least on the same page as they were which always made things run smoothly, but when contrasting them with the records that preceded these – and those which followed on other labels – you can tell something is just a bit… off.

Not awful mind you, but definitely not all they could be had he gotten some better support that looked to set new trends rather than hopping on old trends that were already long out of style.

That they were cut during the same period shows that it’s not always what time you’re actually in at the moment that matters when it comes to how the music comes across, but rather what time your musicians think you’re in that makes all the difference in the world.

Let’s Get Loose
This is a song that had it been recorded and released in mid-to-late 1947, just as rock was launching, would’ve probably been seen as one of the records on the front lines of that change.

The spirit is fairly ebullient, the lyrics are optimistic, the rhythm is insistent and Turner is pretty focused on maintaining all of that as the song progresses.

However it’s not September 1947 but rather September 1950 and so the means with which they try and convey these attributes on I Want My Baby can’t help but seem rather archaic by now.

The horns that open these are “peppy”, not virile, playing with a higher shrillness that undercuts the energy just enough to have you question their credentials. One look at the instrumental line-up will have you fearing what’s to follow as we have multiple trumpets and a trombone prominently featured and though saxophones are present they’re going to be largely taking a back seat in the arrangement.

Sure enough the first solo is handed over to Joe Bridgewater’s trumpet and it’s about what you’d expect out of that horn… a little too jazzy and not guttural enough in what it’s suggesting to get across the urgency that Turner’s lyrics are hinting at.

Now Bridgewater was a fine musician, he’d go on to play with Ray Charles during his heyday and was never a detriment to any session he found himself on when it came to sheer ability, but “appropriateness” was another matter and his early appearance in the spotlight is an indication of the compromised nature of this record.

The sax solo in the second break improves things a little thanks to the tone it has but it’s still a little unfocused, swirling around the edges rather than digging down for something more transcendent.

By the last instrumental section – and you can see by the fact there are three extended breaks how this was approached with more of a jazz mindset wherein more band members would get solos – the horns are colliding as the trombone steps out in front with the other horns riffing behind it. Only the drummer seems to be aware that this requires more aggressiveness than his compatriots are willing to deliver if they have any chance of giving Turner’s growing rock constituency what they really crave.


The Lights Are Out
Normally after a fairly harsh critique of the band enlisted to support Turner in his efforts to maintain his stature in rock circles this is where we’d praise Big Joe for doing all he could to fight against the middling support.

Instead we made sure to save plenty of the same criticisms for Turner as well on I Want My Baby because when you dig below the snappy tempo they deliver this with, you’ll find that his enthusiasm is actually kind of lackluster.

The lyrics are pretty good as Turner is looking forward to his girlfriend’s return and all of the fringe benefits that go with such an event, but while we can certainly appreciate his… umm… desires, he sounds almost as if he’s putting on an act.

In fact, had they played this aspect of it up – although on a three minute record in 1950 I don’t know how you could – and indicated that while Turner might be glad his girlfriend is coming back from visiting that notoriously sick aunt in Baton Rouge or something, he hasn’t exactly been twiddling his thumbs in boredom since she was gone. You could easily picture Joe having a different girl over each night in his sweetie’s absence and now that his beloved is returning home he was afraid she’d be able to tell that he was worn down and quickly put two and two together and dump him for cheating on him.

So to try and stave that off he acts excited, says all the right things, and will hope the vitamins he’s been chewing like after-dinner mints kick in just in time for his bedroom performance with her so she doesn’t suspect anything is amiss.

But WE know of his transgressions because he’s not selling his excitement with his soul, but rather is simply hoping the words themselves will suffice. Since the band is sort of going through the motions too you wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Turner, his meager belongings slung in a knapsack over his shoulder, looking to get a room at the YMCA once his significant other gets through grilling him – and the neighbors – to learn about the wild goings-on that took place in her absence and perhaps explain why Turner sounds as if he’s getting over a case of VD.

If that’s NOT what happened however we have to question his commitment to convincing us otherwise, as he’s just a fraction off in everything he sings, never riding that rhythm as he does when he’s at his best, but is rather clinging to it by his fingertips in the hopes it’ll carry him home.

Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
In many ways this is an ideal record to look at for this precise stage of Big Joe Turner’s career.

After wandering in the wilderness and finding his way back out again he’s reminding us just how tenuous these opportunities were and how a mismatched band or a poorly planned arrangement could sink an otherwise sturdy song like I Want My Baby (When The Rooster Crows), seeming to derail Turner’s recent progress in the bargain.

We know of course that this would turn out to be nothing more than a minor setback, an insignificant bump in the road, but we also know that had he been paired with this band his entire time at Freedom Records there’s no way he would’ve gotten back into the fast lane these past nine months and very little chance his subsequent stops would’ve figured out the formula to use that kept him humming along well into middle-age.

The time for this kind of song had passed. Though it may not have seemed that out of step when it was recorded, one listen to it alongside his more modern sounding records would tell you that light years had gone by in music since this sort of thing would’ve passed muster.

Time moved on and thankfully, in spite of this throwback, Big Joe Turner had moved on as well.


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