KING 4570; OCTOBER 1952



For a guy who was so musically versatile it’s sad that Earl Bostic’s output on King Records was now becoming more or less formulamaic by design.

The goal the company had with his releases was simple: Find familiar standards and have him re-interpret them for modern sensibilities.

Luckily that might mean many things however, as he could take the songs in a jazzier direction if he chose, or if he was lazy he could aim them at half-asleep pop audiences, and if he were feeling whimsical he could come up with an arrangement that was suited for would-be hipsters just starting to take advantage of the so-called bachelor pad lifestyle.

But he also could – and frankly should – focus on eliciting some interest from rock fans who helped to make his singles career so successful for a few years and for which he thankfully still held some allegiance to even if it was no longer his main avenue for self-expression.


Over The Highway And Over The Street
It probably should go without saying that this trend towards reviving standards was hardly unique to Earl Bostic among sax players.

Freddie Mitchell had more or less made a career on it after releasing a few original cuts early on, except Mitchell tended to rely on the same boring arrangements around him no matter what song he was playing. As a result the aesthetic success or failure of these efforts came down solely to the melody itself being appealing and how ferocious he got while playing it.

Others, many not full time rockers, did the same thing, such as Buddy Lucas on Jubilee or even the great Maxwell Davis on the West Coast who these last two months released a pair of singles including Little White Lies, that we didn’t bother to review because all four sides are lightweight renditions of stale old songs. Why he, of all people, who was much more indebted to rock for his success as a producer, songwriter and session sax player, felt that taking a gentle stroll through the music playbook of twenty years earlier was a wise move is beyond me, unless he figured he’d already proven his chops in rock ‘n’ roll and wanted to show he could bore the pants off you just as easily.

Mission accomplished, Max!

But Earl Bostic, even when he was playing boring songs like For You, always was going to try and do something to surprise and impress you along the way.

Whether or not any of those other constituencies he courted – the jazziacs who cruised Greenwich Village in search of musical highs… the drowsy housewives with pop music playing in the background as they cursed their miserable lives while downing their third martini doing laundry… or the charmingly smarmy young corporate climbers in the suddenly booming defense industry who bought some low-slung minimalist furniture for their bachelor pad to try and make their nightly conquests – found this to their liking is hard to say.

But the rock audience, even if they no longer were scouring the racks for Bostic’s releases, might just be won over by what he displays here.


A String Of Pearls Out Of The Dew
The song itself is from 1931 where it was first cut by the immortal Joe Greene’s Marimba Band which reminds us there are not nearly enough marimba bands left anymore. Naturally this had the requisite cover versions that same year, but then the tune more or less disappeared until The Ravens cut their version in 1947.

After that the floodgates opened with lots of pop acts from Perry Como to Rosemary Clooney taking a whirl at it.

Ironically it was another rock act however, Rick Nelson, who had the biggest hit with it in 1963 giving him his final Top Ten hit for nearly a decade with a fairly treacly version that inched him closer to pop and helped make him irrelevant until he basically invented the next rendition of country-rock around the corner… a story for another day.

But Earl Bostic treats it not like the dull composition it proved to be in any (and every) other version, but instead he almost seems at times to go out of his way to make For You for US in the rock community and rather surprisingly the results are quite impressive for such a bad song with an uninspiring melody.

For those who’ve avoided listening to any one of the countless artists cutting this over the years, the song features a lurching sort of structure. It almost pitches forward, then recoils back and repeats this process endlessly, like someone on a boat in a storm just before getting seasick and throwing up.

But Bostic’s alto sax is like Pepto Bismol, Alka Seltzer or Mylanta, removing the clunkiness of the vocal versions and replacing it with an instrument much more capable of sliding over the bumps in the song simply by altering his horn’s tone along the way, adding trailing notes or just improvising off the actual written melodic thread to make it better.

For a song that is sickeningly lightweight when it has its lyrics attached – “There’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do/For you I’d do anything”… yes, it’s plainly obvious why it became a classic “standard” with sentiments that deep – Bostic makes this somehow assertive, grinding away as if those words were never uttered by hapless losers everywhere who thought voicing these wussy thoughts would get them laid.

Instead he treats that two-step progression it’s housed in like a guy who doesn’t have to resort to such underhanded tactics as, by the images his horn creates, he confidently escorts the young lady to his bedroom and starts methodically but erotically taking off her clothes as well as his own. I’ll let you decide when flesh meets flesh, but before the song is over something is happening between the grooves that Perry Como would be too embarrassed to take off his sweater to enjoy.


Stars Out Of The Blue
The temptation – no pun intended (or have you forgotten one of his best records?) – is to give this record a perfect score, not that it earns it mind you, but simply because if Earl Bostic can turn this piece of petrified cow manure into a worthwhile rock song than he has to be some higher life form beamed down from outer space to show humanity that miracles are actually possible.

But since we have no proof he can melt our minds armed with just a saxophone and thus we’re safe from being conquered and put to work as alien servants, we’ll be a little more modest in our praise.

Thanks to him though For You is not destined for the refuse bin of musical history, and while he’s definitely got better records, he may not have one more impressive than this simply because the building blocks he was working with here were utterly lacking.

But this shows an artist who combines that much talent with the right attitude can accomplish almost anything, even creating something out of nothing.

Imagine what he might do if he started with material more substantial than this. It boggles the mind.


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