A new record label owned by a former jazz trumpeter signing a twenty-one year old saxophonist who’d had jazz aspirations at one point in his younger days hardly is a promising formula for making hay in rock ‘n’ roll.

Yet thus far they’ve had two releases, both of which featured Charlie Singleton and his band, and all four sides have left no doubt that they were going to rock and rock hard, loftier expectations be damned.

Whether this was the intent of Atlas Records going into this endeavor is unknown, but what is known is that they could hardly have gotten off to a better start from an aesthetic perspective.

Too bad they didn’t get any hits out of it.


The Battle Is In My Hands
Whereas the solid top side of this single featured a strong groove and multiple disparate sections with good support by the band, it still kept things in relatively low gear.

No flamboyant solos, tempered aggression and a focus on establishing and maintaining a steady atmosphere for dancing… Gone With The Wind checked all of those boxes.

By contrast Blow Mr. Singleton (admittedly not the best choice for a title even though it acts as a form of free advertising) is a much more ear-catching track, one that bristles with energy and shows just how deep the band was and consequently how skilled Singleton was to corral them while at the same time letting them shine in the arrangement.

The initial shock cuing up this record is that it’s not Singleton’s sax we hear first, but rather an anonymous guitarist who practically steals the record before we hit the ten second mark. Three harsh semi-distorted notes followed by a fleet fingered run to set up the horns, which include not just Singleton but our old pal Big John Greer moonlighting from his two jobs, one as a sideman to the pre-rock band of Lucky Millinder, the other as a solo act cutting his own (mostly) rock records which will be competing with the likes of this.

The first solo belongs to Singleton’s alto, played in the lower register to where it almost sounds like a tenor, all while that guitarist is slashing and cutting behind him, the combined effect acting like an assault on the senses without ever going overboard and disorienting you.

The precision here is tremendous, they’re all playing with drive and focus and being kept in line – not to mention kicked in the ass – by Lester Jenkins on drums whose heavy hands refuse to let the beat slack off for so much as a second.

A little more than a minute in Singleton hands off to Greer whose tone is naturally somewhat deeper, but hardly grittier as he’s aiming to to break things up with some intermittent honks, though he quickly returns to that essential riff that forms the cornerstone of the song.

By the time they team up to carry this to the finish line they almost have no choice but to ease off a little because your heart is racing and since there haven’t been a lot of these no-holds barred workouts in rock lately, you might not be in condition to handle it anymore.


Go Blow Them Horns
Alright, go ahead and say it all you skeptics, doubters and disbelievers… tell me how this kind of thing isn’t breaking any new ground… that it’s not raising the bar on the type of wild histrionics we’ve heard in the past from even more ferocious sax stars like big Jay McNeely or Hal Singer… and remind me that the market for this kind of thing isn’t big enough any more to support this kind of thing, so why make a big deal out of it?

I’ll tell you why… because rock’s reputation was built on excitement, on stirring the passions of the audience and unleashing them from their inhibitions with music that allowed them – and which frankly encouraged them – to cut loose. No matter how big the genre becomes you can never have too many records to fit that bill.

It’s true that Blow Mr. Singleton doesn’t take that kind of thing to a higher level and may not even quite match the levels it had reached two years ago, but with the focus of the music having shifted lately to vocal groups and with the downplaying of the saxes in favor of more varied arrangements, this is a welcome return to something familiar but timeless.

The fact that Singleton was confident enough to share the spotlight with two, if not three, other guys who commanded plenty of attention with their playing here themselves shows he’s more concerned with making a good record than building a reputation for himself alone… although the better the record, especially one with his name plastered on the title, probably won’t hurt that reputation any.

But no matter how you denote value, whether by sales or by excitement, rock is always going to need something designed for little more than shaking your ass just to burn off the pent-up energy its fans have been forced to hold in all day in a world that doesn’t value or respect them to begin with.

No, this might not make the the walls come tumbling down, but it’ll get them swaying, pulsing and vibrating enough to let you think they could fall at any minute and sometimes that’s all you really need.


(Visit the Artist page of Charlie Singleton for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)