KING 4343; FEBRUARY 1950


More of the same from Earl Bostic… ideas aplenty with more talent than he knows what to do with and yet no firm grip on how to whittle those ideas down to form one cohesive and marketable record.

Are you tired of the repetitiveness of this narrative by now? It’s okay if you are, for it’s not just Bostic who’s been stuck spinning his creative wheels for far too long, I’m also growing weary of writing the same critique each time out. It can’t help but get a little monotonous after awhile and a quick scan of the last few weeks of reviews here from all artists shows that we’ve been mired in mediocrity lately with the last nine sides we’ve covered each getting a middling score that’s just about average.

But then again isn’t that the story of MOST endeavors we undertake, musical and otherwise? Human beings all like to think they’re special but looking around it’s hard not to see that the same people have the same strengths and weaknesses from one day to the next and the average output each person tends to produce winds up being… well… pretty average.

Such is life, such is music.

Naming Rights
The criticism of Earl Bostic is that his musical influences were so diverse that he hopped around from one genre to the next until you didn’t know what to expect each time out. If you wanted to be even more critical of him as of late we’d point out that now he can’t even seem keep these diverse styles separate within the SAME song, mixing and matching things that can’t possibly fit together as if he were a blind man playing cards.

No Name Blues is just such a record… and no, in case you were wondering, it has absolutely nothing to do with the blues, but apparently he thought he’d throw that in the title just to further confuse those who buy this and will find elements of rock, jazz and pop mingling together like strangers in the night.

But what keeps us coming back – albeit with increasing reservations – for each new Earl Bostic single is found as soon as you hit play on this one and his saxophone’s sultry tone caresses your ears, alternately beckoning you and taunting you, holding notes until your knees weaken and you lose all resistance, even knowing full well all of the times you’ve started to fall for him in the past only to have been burned by him in the end when he leaves you for another.


Fleeting Images
In those first forty seconds or so No Name Blues comes across like a seductress, cool and calculating but no less enticing because of it. The notes he coaxes from his alto are a beguiling mixture of warm resonant tones that are more at home in a tenor, even some grittier passages reaching down to the bottom of the tenor’s range, yet capped with an icy fluttering tone that makes your hair stand on end.

For more than half the record’s playing time Bostic delivers what we need to suit our tastes as rock fans and while there are a few intervals that try our patience a little – the segue between the first section and the second when the piano makes its presence known so that Bostic can transition from one playing style to another – those are minor complaints as we’re content to put up with that sort of thing as long as he returns to something we can get a firm grip on.

But this Earl Bostic we’re talking about and we know he’s never content to just leave it at that and call it day and so as the record comes down the stretch he abruptly changes gears entirely, hands the lead over to another horn and for most of the final minute produces something that can only be described as… well, let’s not mince words here… an entirely different song with absolutely no relation whatsoever to everything we just heard!

“Oh no, here we go again!”

Down For The Count
Normally the arrival in a rock song of a tenor sax is reason for celebration if it had been held out of action until this much time had passed, but here its presence is decidedly unwelcome.

Not only does Count Hastings not play with the same fire as Bostic’s alto, but he doesn’t play anything resembling the same music! From this point forward No Name Blues is a pop song and not even a very good one at that.

What prompted this turnabout in the song is anyone’s guess, even for Bostic this is an unusual tactic in that he’s making what follows far more simplistic than what preceded it. Here it’s not just simple but also boring, as Hastings turns this into a slumber party, playing something soft and sleepy and giving us a warm fuzzy tone that is suitable mood music only if you’re sitting by the fire as it burns itself out late at night.

The piano is aiding and abetting this unwelcome, but decidedly non-aggressive, takeover of the song, chipping in with cascading notes of no importance that leave you wondering if someone is in fact pulling a fast one on you.

Now had they crafted an entire song around this motif, that’d be fine – not our cup of tea mind you, but certainly something that would make for a pleasant enough listen in the right frame of mind. But to interject this into a record that was shaping up to be something else entirely is just baffling… intentional commercial sabotage if you want to be honest about it.

There’s nobody who could possibly claim these two radically different sounds were meant to be together… nobody but Earl Bostic that is, who once again is intent on portraying Dr. Frankenstein and putting together mismatched parts for his crazy musical science experiments.

But just as Frankenstein’s monster had trouble fitting in the community when he lumbered out on his own, so too does this record which rightly gets shunned by society as the latter half takes it out of the rock fan’s neighborhood and leaves it without a home to call its own.


Name That Tune
Looking back you wonder if Earl Bostic was doing all of this just to be difficult. That maybe he had contempt for those in the industry who didn’t share – or understand – his musical genius and so he was mocking them in a way, wondering if any of them would stop him and ask what the hell he was thinking and then instruct him to start over and stop screwing around.

Maybe if someone HAD done so back then they’d have earned his respect and from then on he might’ve consented to give them what they asked for, provided of course he could occasionally indulge in his own crazy whims on the side.

If that obstinate mindset was indeed the case then No Name Blues becomes a causality of that disdain for making music with a more defined purpose. He takes a song with the potential to be well above average as a tantalizing mood piece, an area of rock that Bostic could’ve had to himself had he chosen, yet because he can’t see it through to the end, whether out of impatience or spite or just plain old fashioned musical schizophrenia, he walks away with yet another record that hints at greatness before pulling the rug out from underneath you one more time.

Eventually you’d think we might get tired of falling on our collective asses and just move on to someone else… someone less talented maybe, but more reliable.


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