KING 4586; DECEMBER 1952



The choice is yours… you can look at these forays into rock styled jazz standards by one of the best sax players who ever lived as nothing more than tedious reviews to get through because I assure you they won’t tell you anything you don’t already know… OR you can take the three minutes it takes to listen to the record while you’re reading the essay to appreciate just how good Earl Bostic was at his job.

Sure, I understand, you’d rather have something new to consider, or something memorable to contemplate, or even something atrocious to make fun of, but most things in life exist merely to pass time.

Since that’s the case and since Earl Bostic was nice enough to give you some great sax playing to pass that time with, wouldn’t it be a pity not to take him up on that generous offer?


Linger Like A Haunting Refrain
We can at least skip a lot of the usual artist mish-mash – their recent chart action (none), their label hopping (he’s been at King this whole decade and he’ll stay there this whole decade) and their internal stylistic tussles (he’s been surprisingly consistent of late with the type of records he’s put out) – and cut to the bare bones facts here.

As with most prolific instrumental artists of the day, Earl Bostic was somebody who only occasionally cut original material, choosing instead to re-interpret a wide range of established songs for a new era and market.

Maybe it’s no longer considered an immortal composition these days, as like all music the longer it’s been since it came along the more things get dropped from consideration, but for a good quarter century after it first appeared You Go To My Head was widely seen as a one. A wide array of artists in the 1930’s took it up the charts, it was cut by countless legendary singers in the years since and long before rock songs were used in hit movies, this jazz tune appeared in some all-time film classics of the 1940’s.

Of course even if had totally flopped Earl Bostic would be irresistibly drawn to it with its major-minor switching, the kind of musical wrinkle he enjoyed. We know full well he can play anything, so as always with him the real question would be whether or not he’d remain true to the more demure origins and lean back towards his jazz upbringing, or if he’d give it the kind of grit and fire that we expect from him on his rock sides.

He still had a broad following that included jazz fans, as well as pop listeners, both of whom would recognize the title far more than your average rock hooligan of 1952, so he wasn’t compelled to make it palatable to our tastes, but thankfully he decides to treat us to a rendition that’s a little rough around the edges and therefore right up our proverbial alley.


Like A Kicker In A Julep Or Two
Before we get to Earl Bostic, it’s a shame in a way that they dropped the words to make it an instrumental – not that we want to hear Earl trying to sing again – because these really are some great lines thrown around, a personal favorite being “With a smile that makes my temperature rise/Like a summer with a thousand Julys”. Brilliant stuff.

But since Bostic is one musician who can seem to make his saxophone talk at times, maybe they won’t be missed. In any event, he gets things off to a good start with some emphatic blowing that is a far cry from the mild manner in which other orchestras handled it and obviously for our tastes that’s a good sign.

Of course we can’t help but notice some of the similarities to his big hit from last year that he throws in here that don’t seem quite as apparent in other versions of You Go To My Head, which suggests Bostic added them at someone’s vague request – “Hey, Earl, how ‘bout givin’ us another like Flamingo why don’tcha?”. Or else he just realized he was in a commercial dry spell since then, so he sort of pulled them out from between this song’s cracks himself, a feat which is made easier by the similar accompaniment of piano, drums and vibes that other song used as well.

Though that might be a little unsettling at first, we can’t say it sounds bad and once he departs from that mini-tribute the song settles in nicely with Bostic’s alto giving us the heft of a tenor while retaining the light flexibility of his own instrument. It’s a solid melody on its own and he never stops pulling on it, roughening it up at certain times and easing back at others, while his tone remains very full-throated for a song that is usually taken rather easy.

With the constantly audible backbeat this is actually a record you can dance to, even if it’s not quite slow enough for a romantic spin and not quite fast enough for an ass-shaker. It does groove well though and thankfully he doesn’t make the mistake of changing things up somewhere along the way to appease a different audience than us.

By this point though what can you say about a consummate professional like Bostic? It’s simply what we’ve come to expect out of him.


Casts A Spell Over Me
I don’t want to make it seem as if we’re shortchanging Earl Bostic by rarely handing out green numbers to someone who is immensely talented, but as always it comes down to context where we need to take certain specific things into account when grading it. The chance a record has to become a hit, to change his commercial or artistic fortunes for the better, to set a new precedent, expand rock’s possibilities and influence the direction of the music as a whole, none of which it accomplishes… nor does it try to.

Yet he’s as good as ever on You Go To My Head, which means he’s very good indeed. Far better actually than we can see fit to grant him in some otherwise meaningless number designed to show how it fares in those other aspects as opposed to merely evaluating the skill set he exhibits in the process.

Once again there’s no moments where he steps wrong stylistically, no point where the song stops being enjoyable melodically, no let-up in the rhythmic components behind him and no out of place instruments being given time in the spotlight. Yet having said all that it’s not at the forefront of the genre he finds himself in. While it may not be entirely inappropriate for rock thanks to how he plays it, there’s really no role for it to play within rock.

It’s glorified filler in other words. Sure it’s yet another testament to his abilities and it provides ample evidence to the value of good songwriting, but while absolutely no one should be prompted to lodge a complaint when it plays, in the competitive rock marketplace it remains pleasantly expendable in spite of its obvious quality.


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