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SAVOY 841; APRIL 1952



What’s going on here? Is this a misprint? Have we really come to this?

Paul Williams, the saxophonist who established Savoy records as an early heavyweight in the rock sweepstake and who remains the only important rock artist on the label from the 1940’s who is still with them in the third calendar year of the Nineteen Fifties, not to mention the guy who scored the very first – and later the single biggest – instrumental hit in all of rock ‘n’ roll is now reduced to being a sideman for a singer he had hired along the way?

This how he’s being repaid? With disrespect!

And why on earth is he so happy about it?!?!?


What Love Was All About
If you’re like most people, whenever you start a long and arduous task you want to excel at it, to succeed at it and to be recognized for it. That’s the entire point of pursuing things, right?

Paul Williams had done all that.

Only maybe… just perhaps mind you… he didn’t quite want to succeed at THIS specifically.

This rock star gig that is.

Like many frustrated jazz musicians who found fame in rock ‘n’ roll, there’s always the sense that he’d rather be playing anonymously for some larger jazz ensemble rather than being the headliner for a rock outfit.

That doesn’t quite explain his sudden “demotion” to being credited after Danny Cobb on I’m So Happy however. Chances are Savoy realized that they could in effect get two artists for the price of one, as they had with Little Esther on records that would’ve otherwise been credited first to Johnny Otis who still got secondary credit on their big hits.

There are two differences though… one is that Cobb doesn’t have it in him to be a breakout star along the lines of Little Esther.

Secondly, unlike Otis who was calculating enough to make sure that his name recognition remained high, knowing that singers come and go, Paul Williams might just be glad to recede into the background for awhile.

On this record if he isn’t, he should be.


I Could Jump And Shout
The days of recording an uptempo track that tries to joyously – but blandly – describe generic euphoria while thinking you might actually get a hit out of it is long gone in rock ‘n’ roll.

By now we’re demanding more verifiable reasons for expressing this kind of pleasure.

Danny Cobb gives us none of that. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he’s blabbering something about what his girlfriend told him, but it frankly doesn’t seem very important… maybe it is to him, but it surely is meaningless to us.

If he’d sung it with more of a full-throated roar perhaps… no, that wouldn’t help much. Neither would it matter much if he had a fuller richer tone of voice or a soaring falsetto to impress us with.

Nope, the problem with I’m So Happy is that he’s not convincing us he’s really happy. His girl loves him… fine. But he sounds as if he’s celebrating it to convince HER of this rather than because he can’t hold it in. The riff he’s riding is alright but we feel as though we’ve heard it countless times before and because of that it puts added pressure on the lyrics and vocals to elevate this. Neither does.

On top of it all Cobb is too frantic, sort of a less commanding Crown Prince Waterford (there’s a name from rock’s past for ya) and by the time he gets through the last line of the song we’ve learned exactly… nothing that he didn’t tell us in the first line.

Two and a half minutes of our lives gone forever.

Paul Williams – and whatever bandmates he had at the current time – could be expected to churn out this kind of track without much effort and here they set out to prove it, as their effort might not be lacking, but it’s not exactly very strenuous either.

The aforementioned primary riff, a stuttering high stepping prancing riff if you prefer not to sit through it yourself to find out, would be better served with greater emphasis on the lower end, but Williams’ has chosen to play alto and so even though they have a baritone to fill in for him and a tenor to go along with a trumpet, Paul’s alto is up front for much of this and it’s lacking muscle, something which only gets accentuated when he takes the first solo.

He sounds fairly inebriated truthfully, certainly not engaged if that other riff is somehow sounding good by comparison. Leo Pope’s tenor which follows is hardly much better and after awhile it just all blends together in a cacophony of aimless noise.


Tastes Like Wine
In the weeks before this record was released, Paul Williams and the band became the only act at Alan Freed’s notorious Moondog Coronation Ball to actually play a note at the concert before the doors broke down, the kids flooded in, the lights went up and the police shut it down.

Danny Cobb was there as well to sing with them, presumably I’m So Happy would be on the playlist, but it’s hard to imagine it stirring the crowd more than they already were with something this… ordinary.

Yes, it has the requisite energy and the general theme is not out of place, but it’s got none of the wit, none of the charm, none of the cheeky raciness of the best vocal tunes of this nature and musically it creates a racket but little else.

Though anyone with a track record as long and credible as Paul Williams is certainly entitled to a few sides that simply go through the motions and we can even understand that without having the responsibility of carrying the single maybe he was just giving Cobb the kind of wild ride the young singer felt he needed for this kind of gig.

But of all people Paul Williams should’ve known that it’s not 1948 when you could get by with nothing more than rambunctious enthusiasm… especially since back then he’d have been a lot more likely to contribute something worthwhile than he does here.

No wonder he’s hiding at the back of the stage.


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