KING 4437; MARCH 1951

 
 

 

Leave it to Earl Bostic to cruelly – surely intentionally – mislead us with such a song title.

Never one to follow the rules, or follow trends for that matter, Bostic has spent much of rock’s first three and a half years flirting with us while keeping us at arm’s length, showing just enough of what attracts us to him in the first place to never give up hope that he may want to get serious and settle down with us before he suddenly loses interest and looks to hook up with somebody else.

Yup, Bostic is rock’s perpetual flirt… a tease… a manipulator of the highest order and yet we keep coming back for more.
 

 

Come On Down And Join The Fun
Those with talent of any kind always get a longer leash on which to play no matter what aspect of life we’re talking about. Just as guys tend to put up with more fickle behavior from beautiful girls, so too do expert saxophonists get the benefit of the doubt more often than not when it comes to accepting their sometimes compromised output.

Nobody in rock – arguably nobody in any kind of music in the early 1950’s – was a more talented saxophonist than Earl Bostic, but he remained a constant source of frustration from music fans of all tastes.

The reason for this was Bostic never stuck with one genre, let alone one style within a genre, for very long. While this diversity was a good thing when it came to establishing his reputation as a creative force, it was hell on those who were debating whether or not to pick up his latest single without the benefit of hearing it first to know for sure just whether he was going to be playing something designed to suit your musical interest.

Bostic’s reputation was one designed to confound you as you might just as likely wind up with a dainty pop song or flighty jazz tune as a storming rocker.

So when his latest release was called Rockin’ And Reelin’ surely there were loads of weary listeners who thanked him profusely for helping them to decide whether or not to spring for the seventy-nine cents it cost to buy such a record. For those who were fans of the more sophisticated sides, they could avoid this one without feeling they might be missing out on something made for their tastes.

Meanwhile the rock fans among us could confidently dig into their pocket to come up with the change to bring this one home with them where… they’d promptly be let down and wind up cursing the twisted mind of Earl Bostic once again!
 


 
 

Rockin’ All Night After Their Work Is Done
Okay, to be fair to Bostic, this is NOT some pop trifle masquerading as a rock song thanks solely to the title.

Nor is it a jazz excursion, a blues dirge or a piece of classic music with an odd appellation. It is indeed a rock record.

Just not a very cutting edge rock record.

In fact this is more like a rock record as if conceived and played by someone who was steeped in pop and jazz… someone like say, Earl Bostic come to think of it.

But if going easy on the attributes which make for the best rock records was all this single had to deal with that might be easier to fathom, but instead it’s another song where Bostic’s saxophone takes a back seat to someone else’s vocal chords. Though Earl himself has warbled a tune or two in the past, this one is handled by Clyde Terrell, a passable vocalist but not one who justifies putting Bostic’s sax in the back seat of the car.

The presence of singing of course means the song must contain lyrics and therein lies your answer as to how this got the title Rockin’ And Reelin’, for while the song’s lyrics offer a plausible description of rock music, it unfortunately does not define that music appropriately with most of its playing.

For starters there are too many horns here and not enough of them are played by Earl Bostic. Since he’s not handling the vocals then there’s absolutely no reason why in the early parts of the song he’s not laying down a more forceful introduction but instead is conspiring with two other guys, Gene Redd on trumpet and Count Hastings on tenor, to deliver a stale sound that has little to do with rock’s greatest moments.

This brassy fanfare and cheery riffs that follow are completely at odds with what the song attempts to describe, where Terrell is claiming that people want to cut loose after getting off work and as such they get drunk, dance, screw and commit other crimes against nature in communal party settings.

The basic rundown of activities doesn’t get either dirty or specific enough to really create a vivid image in your mind, but the basic description would still more or less suffice if they backed it up with a more X-rated arrangement.

Instead this one is geared towards satisfying only the most sexually – and musically – repressed members of the audience which means it’s hardly suited for those who expect a little more kick when pursuing a decadent lifestyle that was promised us in the brochures on rock ‘n’ roll living.
 

A Mighty Fine Feelin’
Let’s try and separate the moments where Bostic takes center stage and when everybody else does and see if the failure of this record was merely a case of him being too generous in allowing others more time in the spotlight than they deserved, or if Earl himself was aiming too low and the others merely followed suit.

The tone he gets on the first notes in the intro are promising but when the others come in it takes the edge off and we’re left waiting an interminable forty more seconds before he gets another chance to shine.

When he returns for his first solo his he’s mostly laying off the harsher sounds we’d go for and while his playing is technically proficient as always, he’s not being very adventurous in WHAT he plays, choosing instead to merely suggest an edgy vibe rather than go all-out to give one to us without any reservations.

Okay, you think to yourself, that was merely round one and surely after another vocal interlude he’ll come back and really push things hard to allow Rockin’ And Reelin’ a chance to live up to its name.

Think again partner, for instead of going harder he eases up for the most part, especially leading into the second solo, and though he does get a little grittier as he goes he also starts to trade off with Terrell’s vocals and in the process becomes a little too whimsical, thereby leaving you reeling far more than getting you rocking.

When the party ends and you’re on your way out the door you’ll probably turn to your nearest cohort and ask them with all due seriousness what kind of a party it was when you both can make it back to your homes while still upright and under your own power.

The answer is… not much of a party at all.
 


 

The Dust Will Fly
A record like this is surely not going to satisfy anybody in Bostic’s broad diverse constituency. Those who like the classier stuff won’t appreciate the topic or the generic enthusiasm they try and drum up while those who came to lose their minds with an all-out rocker are going to feel deceived and let-down.

Even Billboard nailed it when they said, ”Rocker lacks spirit”.

That’s the biggest crime Rockin’ And Reelin’ commits… it’s not that it’s so underwhelming – we’ve dealt with plenty of that in the past with him and more or less have learned to take it in stride – but rather it’s the tantalizing promise of a title like this which fizzles out before the first chorus ends.

Maybe we can cut Bostic some slack since he didn’t write this one himself but he did choose to play it and in the process chose to play it safe and not try and rip it up as he was more than capable of doing.

Had he taken this generic song and added his own unhinged solos to it at least it would’ve been more appropriate for the field it was aiming at. Instead he treated it like the shallow stab for musical relevance it was conceived as to begin with and gave impetus to a growing movement among rock fans for stricter truth in advertising laws to prevent something like this from being peddled to them without attempting to live up to its name.

Snorin’ and Sleepin’ is more like it.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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