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The margins between acceptable and forgettable are always razor thin in music.

Everyone wants a well-written song, but most are rather ordinary. You hope that a band has the right personnel playing a suitable arrangement, but it’s easy to upset the balance with an inappropriate instrument or by laying back too much. You long for originality in a record’s presentation, but almost everything is derivative in some form or fashion.

Which is why, more often than not in these cases, the singer is the one who holds the fate of the record in their hands… or more accurately in their throat.

They don’t necessarily have to deliver it in a way that truly elevates it, but if they’re only pedestrian, or if the material isn’t in their comfort zone, being merely competent will ensure that you’ll be unable to overlook the other flaws inherent on the recording.

Clifford Blivins was always walking that thin line with every record he made.


I Was Standing At The Station
On one hand we could rightly say that, as usual, Clifford Blivins – not Bivins as Modern Records mistakenly called him – puts forth a valiant effort.

He’s doing his best but this type of song just isn’t in his sweet spot, forcing him to be far too vocally expressive which throws off the carefully planned mid-tempo groove. But then again he’s the one who wrote the song and so the blame falls squarely back on his own shoulders.

With a generic topic and predictable lyrics, not even the moderately catchy melody can give this record much staying power if Blivins is unable to moderate his voice enough to make the song work.

If all you knew going in was this is a song that requires moderation, you wouldn’t have very high hopes that this was the right singer for the job, for as we’ve seen in the past his affinity for louder projection can overwhelm better songs than this if he’s not careful.

On the surface though it would appear he’s making the obvious choice for a song called Please Don’t Leave Me, as it’s a direct request – made with obvious dismay – to his girl to give him another chance. But unfortunately for him, in music, as in life, this is NOT the way to go about it.

It’s human nature to vociferously state your case when you feel somebody is not giving you the chance you deserve, but when it comes to relationships you can’t talk someone into staying. It’s not a court case where a strong argument will win you the verdict you’re seeking, it’s a romantic equation where the rules are far different.

In other words the woman is not making a cerebral decision, but rather an emotional one, and if you’re loudly begging, pleading or insisting on something that’s only going to turn her off more and force her hand.

Had Blivins understood this psychologically, he could’ve taken the same exact song and downplayed the vocal so he was barely directing it towards her at all, but rather looking inward while singing it to himself. He’d be saying the same words but in doing so thinking of where HE screwed up and why she’s probably right for leaving.

You might call that manipulation – and maybe you’d be right if he was too calculating in his attempt – but it would come across as if he were taking stock of himself, which is far more likely to get her to believe he was capable of change. But by incessantly whining Please Don’t Leave Me to her she knows full well he’s not changing anything.

Since the band isn’t getting nearly as worked up about the situation as Blivins, he had the perfect opportunity to really show he was thinking differently. To shake his head and moan to himself as he sang softly, unable to conceive he’s lost her, yet unaware that any of us are listening. The one who MIGHT be however would be the girl and maybe, if he was convincing enough, she’d get off the train before the record ended and give him another chance.

Let’s face it, things probably still wouldn’t work out between them… you are who you are after all, and Cliff Blivins wasn’t about to change his personality or his singing style even if doing so would’ve been for the best.


Daddy, I’m Leavin’
All things considered we’re not unhappy to see Clifford Blivins show up back in our neighborhood again, even if we’re left with much the same impression of him we had back in the late 1940’s when he was a little more prolific on wax.

People are by in large a failed species in that their natural advantages in the food chain mean they don’t really have to improve upon their individual weaknesses. Liars, cheats and scoundrels face few long term consequences for their actions and so they keep deceiving and in many cases are even rewarded for it. Those who are toxic in their personal relationships may lose one – or more – partners due to their behavior along the way, but there’s always another who is willing to cast aside their self-respect to be treated badly in the future, meaning the one who is at fault never is forced to change.

Maybe that bodes well for Cliff Blivins in Please Don’t Leave Me, as I’m sure there’s a different girl who will see past whatever issues brought an end to this current relationship, and consent to date him until she too gets tired of his behavior.

Ironically though the one area of life where we can definitively say that there ARE consequences for persistent mediocrity is in music and that’s where Blivins won’t be so fortunate.

By not improving upon his own shortcomings over the past three years – and by not avoiding songs where those flaws become more apparent – Blivins has little hope of getting many more chances to cut records. While the top half of this was certainly good enough to appreciate, it’s not hard to see how just the smallest of changes did him in here which isn’t a good omen for those considering someone of his modest talents down the line.

The margins are too small to risk for most successful labels, as they hardly want to bank on somebody who has to catch lightning in a bottle just to break even.


(Visit the Artist page of Clifford Blivens for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)