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REGAL 3250; JANUARY, 1950



Just when we got through writing off the star-crossed career of Chubby Newsome, or at least going to lengths to point out her unfairly derailed momentum caused by unsympathetic musical decisions made on her behalf by the record label seeking to recapture her initial burst of commercial appeal by giving audiences barely concealed remakes of the same material, here she comes with something that is an entirely welcome stylistic curveball.

Though it too won’t have any effect in reviving her fortunes it at least gives us a chance to see how her career might’ve played out had they taken such a tact earlier and with a bit more conviction than they ever did.


Although You Told Me We Were Through
Even when granting her – and us – what we’ve been asking for with a song that trades in her usual perspective of a cat in heat for one who more closely resembles a stray kitten left out in the rain, meekly purring at somebody’s doorstep hoping to be let in and allowed to dry off and keep warm until the storm passes, Regal Records STILL can’t get things entirely right.

Like say the title on the label… which thanks to their misprint makes it seem as though Chubby is barely literate.

But it’s not as if the proper title, I’m Still In Love With You shows much creativity either. That’s about as standard a romantic trope in song as could be found, regardless of style, so considering the fact that Newsome’s prior résumé placed her squarely in the category of the girl who never was alone on a Saturday night… or Friday night, nor Sunday morning or Wednesday afternoon either for that matter… it’s not surprising that in an effort to craft a different image for the voluptuous Ms. Newsome (now with the last “e” surgically re-attached to her name as it appeared on her Social Security card) they looked to a reliable – if not altogether original – means for accomplishing such a feat.

Whereas most of her previous work found Chubby the confident aggressor when it came to romance, this song puts her in a decidedly subservient position and that change alone allows her to show off a delivery that is in stark contrast to her hip-thrusting sensuality she made her reputation on.

The lyrics, however simplistic, even trite as they appear on paper, aren’t about the words themselves of course as much as they are the underlying emotional meaning Newsome invests in them. She’s hung up on a guy who is a playboy, who was probably using her for that amazing body of hers but beyond that has no use for her, not when there are other girls who are equally willing to put out for him. But Chubby, in a reversal of her normal thoughts on what “use” men are good for, cares deeply about him on a personal level and only wants to be with him.

Most of this is just generally implied because the lyrics don’t dig too deep. You can easily envision Holland-Dozier-Holland spinning this short-story into a novel for The Supremes down the road – and indeed they would, taking the same basic key points and embellishing them with a thousand and one gleaming details to bring the scene to life – but Newsome, given much less to work with, does well in conveying the basic internal conflict it presents.

She knows he’s a cad and even tells us so by informing him he could lie to her and she’d believe what he said simply because it’d allow her to keep her fantasy of their eternal happiness intact, but because WE can see the truth of this toxic relationship so clearly we’re going to sympathize with her and if we could we’d be the ones coaxing her away from him… not to have her for ourselves (at least that’s the line we’d give her) but just to rid herself of someone who doesn’t value her.

When Newsome rises in volume for two identical bridges it has a galvanizing effect, especially since the second time around she delivers it with even more passion and intensity. Her choices are impeccable, displaying hurt that is overwhelmed by sadness, which is a distinctly different mindset than someone heartbroken but made bitter by the sting of rejection, and her higher range is put to good use in getting us to lean closer to hear her breathlessly confide in us her troubles.

Chubby Newsome may indeed have been known for her looks, but her voice alone was good enough to draw notice in its own right and this performance typifies that.

Thought You Were Mine
On the flip-side of this, the retread of her biggest hit, almost right down to its all-too similar title, Hard Lovin’ Mama, we railed against the unimaginative musical accompaniment that cast aside the instruments – guitar, piano and sax – that might’ve elevated the track beyond its conception as a facsimile of an earlier idea, in favor of an atonal trombone and trumpet tandem that sucked the life from it, but here they give us the very things we’d wanted them to use all along.

Go figure!

The guitar is the first new sound, the one which opens the record with a quick five note intro that sounds nervous and jittery before slowing down and drawing out its lines as if it had all the time in the world.

Though there’s not exactly anything startling in what its playing and quickly recedes to the background it keeps tossing in fills throughout I’m Still In Love With You, some of which help set the fragile ambiance, others of which seem too spry and break that mood temporarily, but his mere presence is a welcome sight, a sign that they were at least not going through the motions with this side as is your fear considering their recent history with Newsome.

Howard Biggs, the song’s co-writer, on piano throws in his own two cents at various times during this as well, both by providing a sparse melodic bed for it to ride, but also with a few discreet musical embellishments that shifts the weight for a moment or two away from the vocals.

The third sound, and most crucial to setting and maintaining the after-hours vibe, is the saxophone which seems to appear out of the fog and is suddenly right next to you without noticing his approach. Whoever is manning the horn he plays softly but melodically, discreetly providing the necessary cushion for Newsome’s light airy tone, ensuring her delicate frame of mind isn’t shattered by coming in contact with anything more harsh and jagged.

We DO get a bit of a pick-me-up in that aforementioned second run-through of the bridge when Biggs hammers the keys as an intro to it and the horns reply in unison, matching Newsome’s own more fervent approach, but that quickly dies down as her hope fades and they all settle back into treading softly which may not be quite so galvanizing to hear, but is far more appropriate for this kind of introspective performance.

Walking In Circles
So why isn’t this getting a better score, possibly even getting us to state that she seems to be on firm ground going forward, refuting our earlier claim that she was being undercut by her record label who were stifling her artistic creativity?

Well, though they all have the right idea in taking her in a different direction, and the musicians play their parts with class while Newsome proves herself to be as good delivering with this far more subtle technique than on her more blatant come-ons, the song itself, not to mention the arrangement and the production, are all taking pains not to do anything wrong rather than taking risks to do something that might be great.

I’m Still In Love With You is a “safe” record by design. Well-executed for sure and certainly much appreciated for allowing Newsome to portray a different type of character, but you listen with baited breath, hoping for something unexpected to lift this to another level.

But it never arrives as the only thing unexpected about it turns out to be the change in perspective it offers Chubby, as if that decision alone was the biggest gamble they were willing to take.

Both sides of this record show – probably more than most – how expectations combine with the tangible elements of a song to impact your reaction. On Hard Lovin’ Mama the idea itself was stale and the arrangement made mistakes so it had no chance to live up to our high hopes, yet the lyrics were pretty good and Newsome delivered it with enough panache to make up for it and keep the record above water.

Here we’re grateful for the fresher idea and an arrangement where everything fits nicely and Chubby once again is as appealing as ever, yet the lyrics don’t delve deep enough and on top of that they repeat themselves so you can’t get more invested in her plight, selling her short yet again.

Both sides of the record have strengths that are different, as are their weaknesses, but in both cases your expectations are the deciding factor. Like Chubby herself as a character in this song, we both end up wanting more than the one we’ve put our faith in are ultimately willing to offer.


(Visit the Artist page of Chubby Newsom for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)