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SAVOY 810; JULY 1951



What constitutes a hot streak in music?

A string of massive hits? Well yes, but is that the actual bar to clear, especially in an era like this when there were only ten “official” hits at a time on the skimpy R&B Charts?

How about, more subjectively, when an artist is releasing nothing but good records – both sides – for an extended stretch? That may not sound as impressive but it’s actually a lot rarer than it would first appear and it’s something that Billy Wright is unquestionably enjoying in 1951.


The Moon Moving Towards The West
Here’s another way to tell if someone is truly on a hot streak creatively… when a record has very evident flaws and yet the artist is good enough to render those flaws somewhat irrelevant.

Again, that’s Billy Wright in a nutshell with both sides of this single.

On the hit side, Heh Little Girl, the idea itself was swiped from a three year old Paul Gayten song, refitted with new lyrics that are little more than a series of horny exclamations carried off with the brash confidence of a star, overriding any criticism of crudity – both in terms of relentlessly hitting on an innocent girl and in the sense it’s so musically direct that it’s completely devoid of subtlety.

Meanwhile on this side, Gotta Find My Baby, Wright’s given himself a slightly more complex song to work with and yet he’s forced to carry the dead weight of the band’s lifeless horn arrangement and still manages to do so fairly effortlessly.

It may not be a great record because of those drawbacks but Wright’s performance is never anything less than compelling, making it yet another example of how everything he touches seems to work out fine.


I Walk This Town From Door To Door
The song actually starts out really well in terms of the musical arrangement with a nice piano introduction that builds suspense by varying the patterns, holding them just long enough to get you hooked, then switching to the next as if it were unlocking a series of doors.

Unfortunately the last door leads to the room where the horns are and they’re not in the mood for these kinds of games, choosing instead to let the alto play a whimsical and lightweight melody that adds no energy to the track, only draws power from Wright’s strong vocal.

Luckily he’s got enough juice to not be too bothered by the drain of his resources because he’s going to need all his strength as Gotta Find My Baby lays out a pretty standard plot of a guy whose girl has left and he’s determined to bring her back.

This seems to happen a lot to rockers but unlike most songs where the guy feigns complete innocence, Wright hints at some faults, vowing to lay off whiskey for one thing because it “doesn’t help my case” and admits to acting like a clown at parties which his girl tends to frown upon.

Though these hardly qualify as shocking revelations they’re framed well and Wright brings an admirable sincerity to his telling of it, clearly placing the blame on himself which is a welcome change from the usual approach of “deny, deny, deny” or worse yet, finding fault with the girl for insisting on higher standards than the fella is able to deliver. It may be a simple theme at its core but it’s his mature reading of it which brings it to life.

When Night Starts Fallin’
Naturally his sinewy voice dominates the record, navigating the fairly stark melodic progression with chilling self-assurance, basically creating drama merely by his vocal inflections. Rock has had its share of powerful vocalists, from Roy Brown at the very beginning to Clyde McPhatter more recently, but Billy Wright takes a back seat to no one in terms of strength, command and dynamics.

Here he needs to tap into all of those skills to prevent the horns from dragging Gotta Find My Baby under as for some inexplicable reason they’re remaining out of the emotional fray entirely, acting more as a neutral observer at a society ball when two people off to the side start having a spat.

We can question the decision of why they chose an alto rather than a tenor to handle the primary role here, but the bigger question is why it’s playing such a flighty part, one seemingly taken from another song in another style of music entirely!

Hearing it wander around behind Wright’s declamatory vocals is frustrating, but at least then it’s providing a contrast to make his intensity all the more evident. There’s no excuse for it during the solo however where the sax would’ve been far better served if it had dug a lot deeper to corroborate the singer’s perspective. It’s well played and adds some much needed melody to the song, but it pulls you too far away from the stress Wright’s under to be of much use.

The piano is far more closely aligned with the primary outlook and hammers away when the vocals return, reminding you of the stakes involved. Of course Wright never wavers in his passionate conviction, winning this musical battle of wills with room to spare, but had he been equipped with more sympathetic support it would’ve been something of a cakewalk for him rather than a heated struggle requiring every ounce of his determination to come out on top.


Grab My Hat And Go
In sports the mark of a truly good player or team is winning without your best stuff and here Billy Wright manages to do just that.

The song itself is well-written with slightly deeper and more creative lyrics than many that fall under this broad category and if the musical side of the equation is more rudimentary it’s not a detriment thanks to Wright’s vocals which are typically first rate.

With a more focused band Gotta Find My Baby would be a much better record even if it would fall short of the greatness he was consistently reaching now. But it’s a testament to his abilities that he was able to turn something that might’ve been irrevocably harmed by a wayward horn section – as we’ve seen countless songs fall prey to – into something that only confirms what a commanding artist Wright truly was.

You definitely are on a hot streak when a compromised track never intended as anything but a B-side is still worth your time and attention even seven decades down the line.


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