When they had signed a young up and coming tenor sax whiz back in late 1951 Atlas Records figured it was worth the risk.

After all, a company that small had no shot at getting the big time solo singers, dynamic vocal groups or huge ensemble acts that were coming to dominate rock ‘n’ roll this decade, but someone like Charlie Singleton was within their grasp since the kind of instrumentals he specialized in had faded from the charts since the dawn of the Nineteen Fifties.

While there was little chance at a wholesale commercial revival of that brand of rock at this point, that didn’t mean there wasn’t the possibility that a stray song or two might break through again and at least move some copies.

Despite some good efforts along the way nothing he’d produced had turned the trick yet, and so all they could do was slap another interesting title on this one and hope for the best.


The Train Of The Stars
In the days before interstate highways, when casual air travel was still a tenuous proposition, the rails were the fastest and most comfortable way to travel cross-country which meant competition for riders was dependent on providing them with all of the amenities they could want for their trip.

In 1938 the Santa Fe railroad line debuted the Super Chief, their premiere luxury train which ran from Los Angeles to Chicago featuring three lounges on board along with sleeping cars and a five star restaurant.

Though few Americans went very far from home for any reason in those days, the perceived exclusivity of the train (it was a big hit with Hollywood stars) only made the image of the Super Chief all the more appealing to a restless nation looking to get somewhere in a hurry.

Naturally for a kid like Charlie Singleton growing up during its heyday, the idea of hopping on such a train and being whisked off – at 112 miles per hour – to places he’d only dreamed of in pursuit of fame and fortune was an enticing proposition.

The fact is though to try and achieve these dreams he went to New York instead, which meant he would’ve had to have taken the 20th Century Limited to get to the Big Apple… though riding a bus or hitchhiking was a more likely possibility.

But in 1952 you can see why when looking for a title for an instrumental that conjures up something fast and sleek and full of untold possibilities, they’d go with this name.

Unfortunately the song they chose for that name was a little more suited to an old boxcar.

She Came In On The Super Chief
I suppose the chugging underlying rhythm played by the other horns with an assist from the drummer is what prompted them to think a connotation with trains was in order, but while it’s fitting in terms of the sound a train makes at slow speed in the distance, the image of THIS train – not to mention this kind of music – is one that is much faster and more exciting.

So on this ride anyway we just have to accept that the Super Chief sounds as if it’s struggling up an incline for most of the journey.

Oh well, at least we’re not walking and as long as the bar is open we still might have a nice trip as Charlie Singleton plays a fairly pleasant sounding slow lazy pattern on his sax, keeping the forward momentum going just enough to keep you from drifting off.

Actually, some of his melodic twists and turns are pretty well conceived. He may not be showing off in the way that most casual listeners would be sure to notice and appreciate, but musically speaking he’s taking a pretty simple progression and tweaking it subtly along the way, adding to it in small ways that keep things interesting.

But no matter how much you admire the skill – more conceptual than technical – you can’t help but feel a bit let down by the lack of a more powerful engine. He’s definitely got a firm course set and gets you there efficiently, but it’s a bit like taking that train ride at night when the view out your window is little more than silhouettes of vague indistinct shapes in the moonlight.

The prominence of the unceasing monotony of the backing pattern in the mix means you tend to lose focus in what Singleton’s doing too, at least until the middle eight when that backing takes a breather and he stretches out a bit.

It’s a refreshing change of pace, literally as well as figuratively as he takes things a little faster, but the quick stroll to the dining car is not enough to re-invigorate you fully before you’re asked to return to your cabin for the remainder of the trip.

The good news is you’ll get to the end of the line in one piece, something not always assured in the more raucous sax instrumentals, and you’re treated well by the stewards on the way, but when you disembark at the station the first thing you want to do is hail a cab and tell him to take a harrowing short-cut at top speed through crosstown traffic just to get your blood racing again.


Find Another Way To Travel
A lot of companies were no longer designating A and B sides on their singles but Atlas Records was and for some reason they deemed this somewhat lethargic – if well played – effort as the side to push.

Well, maybe they DID need to push the Super Chief the last few miles up the track at that.

It’s hard to criticize the playing abilities of Charlie Singleton who once again shows he’s got enough skill to suffice. Even his writing of the song is sensible from a compositional angle, as the parts play off one another as they should and the rather tedious arrangement is carried out nicely.

But somebody needs to remind him that his primary goal as a rock artist is to MOVE the listener with what they’re playing and if you’re charging them a full fare, you better believe the accommodations need to be more opulent than this, otherwise we might just be inclined to search for a covered wagon to take us back across the country for our return trip.


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