No tags :(

Share it




With the short but dazzling run of Freedom Records winding down, they were emptying out their vaults as summer came to a close, perhaps hoping that they’d somehow stumble onto a hit that might keep them in business awhile longer.

As with so many artists who cut sides for the label during their brief three years of operations, Clarence Samuels managed to right his creative ship while with them and breathe some life back into his stagnating career.

Though this was the weakest of what would ultimately be four releases for the company, yet still was a fairly acceptable single in the summer of 1950 shows just how much they’d be missed.


I’ll Do My Best But It’s Hard To Go On
This record is a fairly big change of pace for the usually blustery Clarence Samuels, a singer who never met a song he couldn’t leave battered and bruised with his normal method of vocal assault and battery.

Maybe that’s one reason why it doesn’t work quite as well as the rest of his output for Freedom, though it wasn’t the only slower tempo track he tried, but he seems a little unsure of himself throughout Got The Craziest Feeling, trying his best to croon while almost acting like he was embarrassed to be doing so.

If that was indeed the case it’d be perfectly understandable, as Samuels doesn’t have a voice suited for mellow introspection. As a result he’s a little shaky at times but he doesn’t give up trying which is admirable considering he was the kind of guy prone to tossing the script out halfway through and ad-libbing to the detriment of the song. Particularly impressive is how he carries each note at the end of the line through to their natural conclusion rather than cutting them short, which is what tends to happen to those who are self-conscious and uncomfortable in front of a microphone.

In normal circumstances of course Samuels was never uneasy about opening his mouth, but he usually was allowed to deliver songs in a dull roar which tends to steamroll listeners enough so they can’t voice any complaints. Here though he’s got to keep his tone steady and his projection in check in spite of his natural instincts to the contrary and if it doesn’t work as well as any of us would like, at least give him credit for trying to broaden his horizons.

Unfortunately the song he came up with to do so is fairly weak. The theme itself is just fine, he’s bemoaning a lost love in a way that’s rather esoteric for somebody used to conveying his thoughts in the most direct manner possible, but he hasn’t learned the nuances of writing in this fashion and so some of the lines are simplistic while other broader concepts – such as the fatalism he injects – doesn’t have the proper set up to prepare you for it.

As a result when he tells us “Before I was born I didn’t have cares and I won’t have cares when I’m gone” it takes a few seconds to realize he’s so down in the dumps that death is an appealing alternative to living out his days in misery. It’s a powerful sentiment undercut by the lack of context leading up to it.

But at the very least he sells the despair with conviction and it provides us with a much more humbled Clarence Samuels than we ever thought we’d get, which if nothing else might help to off-set some of the outrage we feel when in other songs he commits as many infractions on common decency as he can fit in a three minute record.


Guess I’m Gonna Lose My Mind
Because it’s such a bleak tune there’s not much chance for the top flight musicians to contribute more than a simple ambiance here, leaving far too much of the record’s impact resting on the wobbly singer’s shoulders.

But when Conrad Johnson opens Got The Craziest Feeling with a very strong sax lead-in is both urgent and full of aching despair you start to wonder if maybe they’d come up with something that lends itself to bolstering the mood rather than merely holding the status quo for this type of song.

After that introduction however nobody in the band gets enough to do. The piano triplets are the main accompaniment while Johnson is the one responsible for contributing some melodic touches without being allowed to really stretch out.

With the majority of the other Hep-Cats sitting out – meaning no Goree Carter on guitar, no Sam Williams on tenor – you have a very thin track even if there’s no outright missteps in what remains.

What really would’ve helped is a solo of some kind. Common sense would say to let Johnson handle that too since he clearly knows what this kind of song can support, but had they taken Carter off the sidelines they could’ve added a new element that would’ve made this stand out more. Even the piano, provided it was played with more finesse than is shown here when its role is so limited, could’ve shaken this up some.

But instead they went with the easier head-arrangement for a slimmed down group – fewer parts means a quicker day – and it suffers as a result.

It’s not altogether bad, but coming off two really strong records in a more typical style for him, Samuels really could’ve used a third straight impressive showing rather than a placeholder release just a few weeks after his last single – and a few weeks before his next one.


Until That Day They Take Me Away
Though in the end this fall a little bit short of average, there’s still signs that Clarence Samuels is more adaptable than his early output would indicate. There clearly needs to be some fine-tuning done, but he shows a fair amount of discipline and even throws in a few surprising moments along the way where his ideas outpace his technical skills but leaves you curious to find out if he can tighten up this ship in future outings.

When neither of his first two singles for Freedom broke through the way he’d hoped, you can imagine both the company and Clarence himself feeling the kind of genuine dejection Got The Craziest Feeling reflects in its own story, but hopefully he at least realized the benefits of stepping outside your comfort zone to see what else was possible down the road.

This specific approach might not pay dividends later, but it at least give Samuels an idea of what he might be capable of and where he needs to shore things up some more if he wants to pursue this kind of thing down the road.

Never stop learning, they say, even when the best run of your career is about to come to a premature end.


(Visit the Artist page of Clarence Samuels for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)