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SAVOY 841; APRIL 1952



Pick your poison.

Should we have gone with this, the designated A-side, to start our official look at vocalist Danny Cobb now that he’s gotten his own headlining record rather than just being a barely credited vocalist for Paul Williams?

Or should we have gone with what seemed like the more declarative statement regarding his intent to storm the rock world and kicked it off with the B-side instead?

We obviously went with the latter, but truth be told it was kind of a coin flip as to which was going to make for the better narrative, because both of these sides have their problems.

Different problems mind you, but problems all the same.


Have No Friends To Call My Own
In case you’re wondering the “why” in regards to leading things off with the other side, it came down to simply using the track with a slightly more prominent role played by Paul Williams, who not only was Cobb’s benefactor but also has a much lengthier résumé to sort of serve as the bridge into… well, frankly, into being usurped by his caddy on the 16th fairway as it were.

But we can’t criticize the idea being shown here, only the lackluster results in changing things up, because once the sax instrumental began losing its commercial clout as we left the late 1940’s behind us, the artists like Williams who weren’t about to start singing themselves to stay relevant had to do something to keep audiences curious enough to check out their records… to say nothing about keeping the record companies they worked for satisfied.

Danny Cobb seemed to fit the bill. He was young – just 21 or so at this point – and clearly eager to prove himself by the sound of I’m So Happy, but he was also not technically proficient yet and his voice didn’t have a distinctive tone to pull listeners in.

He was called up from the junior varsity squad before he was was ready in other words.

At least he was making an effort to be somewhat versatile with I Need Your Love, a more measured plea that might just be a better fit for his limited skill set than the wild exuberance found on the other side.

Then again, with its quirky backing track that is sort of jazzy and sort of funky…is that where the word janky (n. of extremely poor or unreliable quality) came from?… maybe Paul Williams was actually doing his best to make his young ward look better by comparison.


Sittin’ Here Baby In This Old Shack
The way this record starts off you fear the worst.

The vaguely boppish piano and percussion intro sounds like a bit like Thelonious Monk… after rigor mortis had set in that is.

Obviously it can’t help but improve from that ignominious launch, but it does take awhile as Danny Cobb just doesn’t have the command to divert your attention entirely from the rather sloppy intro, but while the song is another simplistic love on the rocks story told with little creativity, things do pick up as they all get more invested in it.

By the first chorus Cobb gets his feet under him and by the stop-time section that comes fifty seconds in he swells with unexpected confidence. The voice is still a little underpowered, but he’s navigating it well by not straining too hard and letting his natural projection suffice.

Here’s where the generic nature of I Need Your Love helps him, even if it hurts the song. Because he’s got such a familiar vocal template to follow, one he’s probably heard a thousand times before in various incarnations, he doesn’t have to make decisions on the fly. The road map is an easy one with no real twists and turns and yet still has moments, like that aforementioned stop-time section, that heightens the drama in a natural way.

That in turn lets the band follow suit, as their playing becomes more focused behind him as they settle into a standard rumba beat that succeeds simply because it knows where it’s going.

Of course they’re on their own when the instrumental break hits and though they have a clear destination in mind, their arranging choices centered around a back and forth between Williams’s baritone and other horns, are shrouded in fog and as a result they’re knocking down a lot road signs and hitting every pothole on the road to get there.

Let it be said that as they come down the stretch they all seem relatively satisfied with their performances, which frankly might be a little delusional on their part but it does make the record easier to accept. It’s the ones who are all too aware of how awkward and uncomfortable they look that are the most cringeworthy and these guys, no matter how bumpy the ride, seem to think they came out of it looking alright.

Alright, what they hell, we’ll begrudgingly admit it IS slightly better than the flip side at that. Let’s not give them a medal for it though.


(Visit the Artist page of Paul Williams for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)