No tags :(

Share it

STAR 718; MARCH 1950



The number of sax players ripping off raucous instrumentals in rock’s first three years is approximately 576 (* = no it’s not, that was done for shock effect, it’s only maybe half that) and so any new guy blowing a horn who comes along could easily slip through the cracks unless he scores a huge hit right away.

Charlie Singleton hadn’t gotten that hit though he certainly deserved to with Keep Cool, one of the best in that style we’ve come across.

Yet based on that early promise you’d think that he was destined for greatness. After all a talented kid who was poised enough to travel to New York when he was barely out of high school, start his own band and get hired for club work and promptly land a record contract all while still in his teens was a rare commodity and when that first side of that first record surpassed anybody’s loftiest expectations then why wouldn’t you be banking on his future success?

Well, because more often than not in music you learn that you’re only as good as your current record.


My Salary’s Been Cut Down
We don’t quite know why but for some reason Charlie Singleton didn’t stick with Apollo Records, a well-established independent label, albeit without any real experience in rock, leaving them after cutting just those initial two sides last summer. Now he lands at a smaller company named Star, cutting just two songs once more, something that was highly unusual in an era when all record companies sought four songs in order to get two singles out of the deal.

Whatever his reason for preferring these quick one-off appearances (and another would soon follow for a third company before he finally got with the program after that and stuck around for more than a cup of coffee with future labels), it theoretically might’ve been a canny move on his part to build his price up. Since he scored a regional hit at Apollo with the B-side of his debut, Later For You, it’d stand to reason that a company like Star might offer him slightly more to join their outfit, especially since they were altogether lacking in rock acts.

Yet rather than give them two top notch songs by putting his sax skills on display to get other labels to sit up and take notice and drive his future price up even further, he allowed Linwood Sutton, a vocalist in his band presumably, to handle the lead on a poorly executed out-of-date effort called Camel Walkin on the other side of this single.

Surely that will mean THIS side will be something that showcases Singleton’s horn prowess in full effect.

You’d think so, wouldn’t you, but you’d be wrong, because on the all too appropriately titled Hard Times Are Coming Sutton is intruding on the proceedings once again, in the process leaving us with far more questions than answers regarding Singleton’s intentions as an artist and a businessman.


Can’t Save A Dime
Being generous to your associates can be a kind gesture from a bandleader looking to make sure everyone in their employ feel appreciated. But after listening to Sutton butcher two songs in two attempts you realize that the band would probably feel a lot more appreciated if they remained steadily employed and the way to do that would be to put Linwood Sutton on ice.

On the top side he was the weakest aspect of the record, not much of a singer to begin with who was being tasked with trying to impersonate some jazzy hipster from ten years ago which is not a role any singer, no matter how good they were, could pull off effectively, nor would the rock audience buy it even if he could manage it.

The song itself, while crippled by that mindset, at least had a decent concept even if they went about it all wrong, but the same definitely can’t be said for Hard Times Are Coming which even stripped of the out of touch argot that ruined the other side offers up nothing of any value here in its place.

The theme itself is fine, a guy bitching about lack of pay and high costs of living. Hardly an uplifting song but certainly applicable in any age… though maybe not so much for teenagers like Singleton and rock listeners who were getting younger and younger by the day.

The problem is it’s so generic, so without any distinctive characteristics lyrically, melodically or in terms of noteworthy musical interludes, that you might as well have just gotten this at a three for one bargain sale. It’s the type of song that is barely serviceable for any band to fill out the late set on a Thursday night in a snowstorm when five people are in the club and three of them work there.

As for those two who don’t work there, they aren’t paying attention either but one hasn’t paid his heat bill and is putting off going home to a cold apartment while the other is thinking that loitering guy may have made eyes at her an hour and a half ago and is hoping he’ll offer to pick up her tab since she’s down to 85 cents and if she leaves a tip she won’t have enough money left for bus fare to her flat.

In other words they both know hard times up close and personal and if neither of THEM is bothering to listen to this song why would you, who are presumably sitting in the comfort of your own warm house, have any reason to pay much attention.

Work Hard Everyday
You’d hope that Singleton might at least get a chance to show what he can do on the sax since he sort of took it easy on the other side already and since it was his name on the label it stands to reason he’d want listeners to know he made an actual contribution to the record, but then again maybe he wasn’t too keen on being associated with this one either so once again he mostly lays low.

The majority of his time in our view he’s just playing long droning lines all delivered with a fragile glassy texture on his alto that makes this sound unable to stand the slightest bit of pressure. Even during the stop time vocal sections where it’d make the most sense to inject something interesting he’s mute on the subject which only draws more attention to the lyrical clumsiness of the lines that don’t even bother to rhyme.

Still, you can’t say any of this is butchered exactly, they all stay in tune, the progressions are sensible and even the mordant mood is appropriate for the topic of Hard Times Are Coming, but none of it makes you care. It’s so ponderous that you struggle to make it through to the end and that’s the biggest sin.

To be fair Singleton does have a few nice moments, that mordant spiraling cry his sax makes during the break especially, but unless you’re really focused you may not even notice… or care to for that matter. The band as a whole plays respectfully enough to let you know if you weren’t taking notes that this is a sad song, yet they do nothing to get you to bother leaning over and asking them all what the trouble is.

You really don’t have to ask though because the trouble here is now plainly obvious, none of them seem to be aware that the record buying audience is NOT the same audience that you’re trying to court in those clubs.

THAT was the shaping up to be the difference in rock ‘n’ roll and in all honesty that’s something a lot of record labels themselves didn’t fully grasp for another decade or more – the adult clientele would support a reliable live act but no longer were buying records in the numbers required to get hits. As soon as there was music being produced to appeal to a younger more fervent crowd then that was what was going to crowd out these types of run-of-the-mill songs and milquetoast arrangements on the charts.

Keep All My Room And Board
Singleton was young enough he should’ve realized this of course, but maybe the drawback of being on your own and successful in the adult world when you still should be stealing a bottle of wine to drink in the alley with your buddies from school is that you tend to buy into the adult perception of the world.

No 19 year old should be bemoaning Hard Times Are Coming even if he did leave the actual delivery of that story to someone who was – I’m assuming – a little older than him. But it’s still Singleton’s name on the record and his reputation that’s at stake and so now, having four released sides with which to assess his standing, he quickly went from ahead of the curve to decidedly behind it with three of the four cuts being unsuited for our needs.

Since his name recognition is shaky at best here in the next century that probably means he peaked very early and the rest of his catalog is just fodder for the career autopsy, but we’ll take it one record at a time and not pronounce him dead quite yet.

Still, all things considered, he’s already blown most of the credit he earned that first time out and is no longer playing with house money. Hard times aren’t coming for Charlie Singleton’s career, by the sounds of it they’ve already arrived.


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