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Yesterday we questioned the seemingly tossed-off lyrical and vocal components of the top side of this record and wondered why Dave Bartholomew didn’t apply the same dedication to his own records as he did to those he produced.

One question we didn’t raise but probably should’ve was why, if he were rather uncertain about his own vocal abilities which in turn staved off any serious attempt at crafting better stories for his own songs, didn’t he cut instrumentals instead.

After all, while the trumpet was hardly the most appropriate instrument to be the centerpiece of a rock instrumental, he was surely a good enough arranger to fit it into a more multi-faceted track which could showcase his top notch band… or so it would seem.

Today he shows us why that plan of attack was also fraught with peril, as once again he neglects all of the careful planning and fine craftsmanship that were the trademarks of his productions for other artists and instead throws together a song that never manages to find an identity to call its own.


We gave plenty of possible reasons for Dave Bartholomew’s reluctance to focus on own records with the same zeal he did when he was overseeing the work of others from the lack of confidence in his singing voice – an acquired taste to be sure, but not without its own distinctive charm – and probably his fear that were he to come up short commercially on his records while producing hits for Fats Domino, Jewel King, Archibald and Smiley Lewis, it might be perceived as refutation of his talents.

By intentionally selling his own songs short he could theoretically claim he hadn’t put much thought into them and spare himself the indignity of failing to match the success of those he was associated with.

But the other possible reason, one he’d surely have offered up in his own defense, was that he just didn’t have the time anymore to come up with better material for himself when he was giving his best compositions – of which there were many – to other acts.

A plausible explanation for sure, but one that doesn’t quite hold up when looking at a song like Frantic Chick, an instrumental that couldn’t have been offered to anybody else on Imperial’s roster since most of them, outside of Fats Domino, were singers-only, not musicians.

So since the band itself was going to be the same no matter who the song would be credited to, why wasn’t this on par with even the throwaway sides of Fats Domino like She’s My Baby that had just a skimpy vocal framework but were instrumentals in all but name?

All of which brings us back to the inescapable conclusion that, at this point anyway, Bartholomew was reluctant to throw himself into his own records for some reason which only he could explain, assuming he’d even want to acknowledge it in the first place.


The title of this song is by far the best thing about it, yet is also winds up being the worst thing it has going for it because it’s so misleading.

The record is not frantic in any way, there’s no wild arrangement, no crazed intensity, nor even a rapid pace to get the blood pumping. Instead Frantic Chick is a jazzy laid back tune that has no real hook, no compelling riff or standout solos.

It starts off pretty well with an atmospheric drum part that sounds as if it’s beckoning you into some giant hall for a ceremony of some sort. When the horns join in it initially picks up on that sense of pageantry before regressing into a far more mundane concept that briefly gives the reins over to each of the instruments without giving them anything interesting to actually play.

From there the whole track becomes pretty nondescript, that early flourish being repeated – without the drum lead-in – multiple times during the course of the song, each time ending with a descending refrain that is far too dreary to want to hear what follows.

The first standalone spot is particularly distracting as we have competing horns vying for our attention, the saxophones playing a supper club melodic trifle while Bartholomew’s trumpet tries to add color with a counterpoint that doesn’t fit. It’s a radio tuned to two stations simultaneously, neither of which would be worth hearing if they were coming in unobstructed.

This section thankfully doesn’t last long – twenty seconds or so – before they return to the more agreeable refrain, which by now is beginning to grow tiresome. So once again they shift to another interlude, this one handled primarily by Ernest McLean’s guitar in place of Bartholomew’s trumpet.

The other horns still are sticking to that classier tone without having added anything musically interesting, but at least McLean’s guitar accent notes provide a different sound to focus on before we get inundated with the same horn riff that we started off praising but now are looking about for a ball-peen hammer to bludgeon the record to death and put us out of our misery.

Any time such a great band comes up woefully short on an instrumental you can’t help but lay the blame on the poor arranging choices that provide them with far fewer opportunities to show off their talents than they’d have with more suitable material, which means the real issue with this comes down to its intent, or lack thereof.

If Dave Bartholomew was unsure he could compete on level ground in rock circles with artists more aesthetically compatible with the requirements of the music and thus was looking to introduce some jazz flavors to the mix to highlight his own experience in that realm, this was definitely not the way to do it. Frantic Chick isn’t advanced enough to impress even those who prefer jazz to rock, straight with no chaser.

Instead this is mid-set filler for a half empty club on a Thursday night. Uninspired and not engaging, competently played but without much enthusiasm and certainly nothing to justify being called frantic anything, other than describing the patrons frantically racing for the restroom to spare themselves being put to sleep by a great talent who seemed to have intentionally left that talent at home.


(Visit the Artist page of Dave Bartholomew for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)