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KING 4491; OCTOBER 1951

 
 

 

When a record company makes a bad decision on their releases, some labels seem to be rhetorically asking why not just double down on their stupidity and get it over with so they can start over with a fresh slate next time out.

Clearly that must’ve been the thinking here, as not being content with needlessly covering Peppermint Harris’s surging hit on the top side, King Records drafted over-matched singer Clyde Terrell – ostensibly backed by Earl Bostic – to butcher Big Joe Turner’s biggest hit on the same single.

Needless to say it got the reception it so rightfully earned – complete and utter dismissal by the public who have since come to expect such crass ploys in the music biz.
 

 

Made Me Feel So Blue
Of all of the huge rock hits of 1951 the one which may have been the most ripe for a cover version is this one.

The reason for that is because unlike some other smashes – like The Dominoes’ Sixty Minute Man or The Clovers’ Don’t You Know I Love You where the idiosyncratic performances of the groups in question were vital selling points for the records – Chains Of Love has the kind of enduring melody that is bound to be pleasing whatever else goes along with it.

That’s not to say Joe Turner hadn’t brought enormous gravitas to the original. His vocal inflections and his supreme intelligence in conveying the emotional underpinnings of the lyrics, were vital in making it the classic it soon became, but the song itself, both melody and story, were flawless and easily adaptable for a wide variety of styles.

Which is why the decision to try and have the modest talents of Clyde Terrell tackle the song in much the same manner as Turner is so baffling. There’s absolutely no way that he can approach Turner’s performance. It’d be like sending in a lightweight boxer to slug it out with the heavyweight champion of the world and as a result Terrell, try as he might to replicate the pacing, the hurt and the almost morbid melancholia of the original, can’t hold a candle to it.

Yet the record is credited to Earl Bostic, the one man who COULD conceivably match Turner, albeit in a different way.

Since this melody is so good, Bostic could cut it as an instrumental, drawing out every nuance of the song with his saxophone without a singer having to even be in the room, let alone open their mouth.

Put Bostic with just a stand-up bass and a drummer lightly ticking the cymbals, kind of like Sam Cooke did on Lost And Lookin’ from his immortal Night Beat album a dozen years down the road, and you might’ve had a masterpiece of atmospheric minimalism.

Instead Bostic most likely is the one who is not in the studio here (they seem to have just used his name to sell it) and so they let poor unfortunate Clyde Terrell take the blame for its inevitable shortcomings.
 


 

Now I’m A Prisoner
I suppose we have no choice but to dissect it even though the conclusion is all but assured.

The first order of business is their decision to frame it much the same way as Turner’s, the drawn-out pace, some tinkling piano and softly moaning horns. The difference is they’ve added a guitar to handle many of the parts that Harry Van Walls – the song’s co-writer – had played on the keys in the original rendition.

That in of itself isn’t a terrible idea, guitars are wonderfully expressive in their own right, but it’s not adding anything notable here and in fact is eliminating a lot of the quirkiness of Van Walls’s lines.

The second issue is the horns which are much more prominent here than on Turner’s where they were well in the background and were simply contributing shades rather than primary colors. Not only are they too in your face here, but their tone is grating, giving the song a whining quality rather than the far more effective moaning technique the horns used with Big Joe.

There IS an alto here, (Buddy Miles) but Earl Bostic never needed any help on his instrument, giving more credence to the idea that he was in absentia on this date.

But as poorly conceived as Chains Of Love is from an arrangement perspective, it’s still got one of the most indelible melodies in rock ballad history and Turner left an easy to follow blueprint for Clyde Terrell to follow… which he does to the best of his decidedly limited ability.

He doesn’t sound terrible, certainly he understands the qualities he’s bringing to the table and is rendering them as effectively as he can, but you’re unable to distance it in your mind from Turner’s expressive tones and naturally it can’t help but pale in comparison.

A lot of acts have attempted this song over the years in a wide variety of ways, Bob & Earl released an unusual harmony duet version backed by tire chains and piano triplets as a rhythmic device which is pretty interesting. Bobby “Blue” Bland slowed it down even more than it was written, backed by strings and looking at it more as a meditative exercise than a message to the girl in question. Even Pat Boone of all people took a swing at it and while his voice is far too wimpy to pull it off, he had a small measure of chintzy charm if you happen to like those kinds of white bread pop renditions of rock songs.

I always wondered what a Rolling Stones cover would sound like with Keith Richards transposing the piano lines to guitar, provided Mick Jagger didn’t try and embellish Turner’s vocal lines at all, but the fact of the matter is, no rock version is needed after Turner defined it forever, which is why Bostic – and Bostic alone – had the best chance to make something interesting out of it by stripping it down to its shorts and relying entirely on creating a stark atmosphere as an instrumental to put it over.

Instead they tried to imitate a giant with a gnat and it got squashed.
 

Are You Gonna Leave Me?
In the big scheme of things this release, though a waste of wax, didn’t harm Earl Bostic’s career, as his recently released masterpiece Flamingo continued to soar up the charts as if this worthless junk didn’t exist.

Furthermore it didn’t do anything whatsoever to distract the public from the beauty of Turner’s original record which continued to reign on the charts for quite awhile after this, despite already being five months old when King Records put this travesty out to compete with it.

But what Chains Of Love shows you is that – aside from the record industry itself being crass and exploitative by nature – is that there were some figures on the landscape who were so good, so immediately identifiable and so self-assured in their abilities that anyone foolish enough to think they could draw off that for their benefit were sadly mistaken.

Unfortunately that man in question in this case was signed to Atlantic Records, not King, and so the only thing this did was remind people that the former label which had been well in the shadow of the latter since their inception, was now pulling even in their race to rule the independent record field in rock ‘n’ roll.

That’s what you get for trying to copy someone.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Earl Bostic for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)
 
 
 

 
Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:

 
Big Joe Turner (May, 1951)