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With something that’s been around as long as rock ‘n’ roll with no shortage of huge names over the years, there’s bound to be artists who were genuine stars in their day who nevertheless saw their recognition start to fade very shortly after their hits dried up.

Call them second tier historical acts if you want, artists who are important to know if you’re focused on learning about their specific era or style, but when it comes to the bigger all-encompassing picture of rock they’ll tend to be widely overlooked.

Everywhere but here of course, which means for us they’re often the most interesting acts to cover – consistently good, frequently great, yet not as highly acclaimed as their most indelible peers and thus there’s plenty of little known gems to turn newcomers on to.

Arguably Billy Wright has been one of the most reliable names in this cause, as virtually everything he’s done is worth hearing… until now.

Who knows, maybe this one is too for some people, but it sure wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice to explain why Wright deserves wider modern recognition.


Ain’t Built For Speed I Know
Though hits are not everything, especially in a day when there were but ten spots in the national charts in Billboard which for much of the early rock era were still polling locations that were serving a far different market, the fact is anyway you cut it Billy Wright was a resounding success ever since he debuted back in mid-1949.

He’s had four national hits and plenty of other regional hits in Cash Box which due to their outlets were often more representative of the rock audience tastes than their competitors.

Furthermore, you could usually tell how much Savoy Records were getting out of Wright based on how they marketed him, making sure to highlight his latest single in their ads for weeks on end.

But with New Kind Of Lovin’ there’s not much to be found, which is rather surprising considering it came right on the heels of a pretty big hit – Heh, Little Girl – the record the sparked a rash of cover versions even though Wright’s wasn’t the original rendition itself.

In other words he was hot and Savoy was still reeling from the loss of Little Esther last winter you’d think they’d be pushing this hard but not only didn’t they do so, but not long after they released another Billy Wright record, obviously unsatisfied with the way this one had performed in the marketplace.

One listen though and you can understand that no amount of promotion was going to turn this unfocused filler into a hit.


Listen To What I’ve Got To Say
With any singer as powerful as Billy Wright who also possessed such a knack for injecting dramatic flair into his delivery, even the most mundane songs theoretically could be transformed by Wright into something reasonably exciting.

That’s what he tries to do here certainly, but the problem is it’s just not a very exciting song as written.

There are some people out there who claim not to listen much – or care at all – about lyrics, which seems hard to fathom but to each their own. Anyway, I’d be interested to see what they thought of New Kind Of Lovin’ as it would seem to put that claim to the test because Wright is trying to project tightly coiled intensity hoping to lead into a powerful release but because he’s got nothing of any value to actually SAY along that road, it comes across as lackluster… all flash, no cash.

What I think that tells you is you can rant, rave, scream and wail all you want to as a singer but there always has to be a purpose behind it that the singer believes in to make it work effectively. The lines here are headed nowhere fast, something rather shocking considering the title has a good deal of intrigue built into it, and as a result Wright’s performance is just that – an empty show.

He’s got no conviction in what he’s saying and since he’s promising a revelation that never comes, it’s not building towards anything. His showcase spot has him reduced to wordlessly moaning which does nothing for the record other than hasten its demise.

Wright’s voice sounds fine, as usual, but without anything compelling to sing about it’s all for naught.

But if you could manage to make do with just hearing one of rock’s most dynamic singers go to town about nothing special, the backing band – led by John Peck – further cripples the record’s chances with an arrangement that is all over the place. At times too noisy and at other times too distant with instrumental choices that make this a confused mess.

The horns sound thrown together with no thought of how to use them to improve the dynamics and there’s scant attention paid to melody from any of the other musicians. There’s only one bright spot which is barely audible and may be more due to the recording of it than the playing, as the one feed sounds too hot and causes a noticeable throb in the bass and drum, unless they’re just using a really loose bass drum head to give it that echoey shimmering sound which is quickly overwhelmed by Wright’s voice anyway.

But if something that trivial stands out you more or less know the record itself has little to strongly recommend.


Your Love Comes Fallin’ Down
Obviously not every single by every great artist will wind up being particularly noteworthy and so it’s easy enough to chalk this up to a bad day, or just clearing a slightly older song off the books – it was cut back in April, with the flip having been laid down the previous December.

But when artists have so few records in the singles era to define their careers, an average of four, possibly five, per year, it’s always a shame when someone so good releases something so mediocre in the midst of their artistic and commercial peak.

New Kind Of Lovin’ is a stillborn song… a decent thematic idea with no story to back it up, a bad arrangement by an overmatched band and what’s left is a powerhouse singer trying to compensate for all of the above.

Because of his vocal talents – and to a degree his writing skills, although that’s evident here only in a few random lines, not the song construction itself – this is certainly not unlistenable and we’ll be generous with the score that could’ve dropped a point without much concern, with the caveat that it’s probably the weakest of those with this mark. But the real crime is in a perverse way this almost a parody of Billy Wright at his best. Sort of imitating himself on a song that’s not worth the effort because it’s all he can do to try and sell it.

But as we know it didn’t sell and so hopefully we can all agree that if you’re trying to convince the world of Wright’s enormously underrated historical value, you’ll choose any one of his other records with which to champion his cause and leave this for the completists.


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