Tags

No tags :(

Share it

MIRACLE 140; OCTOBER, 1949

 
 

 

Don’t ask. I have no idea what the hell the title means either and frankly I don’t really want to know.

I’m sure it’s got a reasonable explanation, maybe it’s a foreign word that means something exotic, or maybe it’s just the name of a stripper, or perhaps it’s some senseless chant that one of the musician’s three year old kid was singing at home that stuck in their head and so they used it here.

It doesn’t matter. Whatever language it is, wherever it came from, whatever it means is irrelevant. It might just as well be some nonsensical jumble of letters decided upon because of the phonetic qualities of it.

Let’s face it, musicians aren’t always the most level headed of people to begin with, especially those coming from a jazz background. Surely more than one of them in the studio that day was quite familiar with the effects of some potent herb and so whatever comes out of their mouths in that condition makes as much sense as the gurglings of an infant, so you can’t be expected to understand it just because you’ve chosen to listen to the record.

Maybe it’s best that you don’t know what the title means anyway because over the course of a two-sided record in which it gets repeated far more often than any word, logical or not, has any business being sung, spoken or chanted, you’re going to be sick to death of it so the less said about it here, the better.
 

 
An Anonymous Star
Here’s a question for you that IS more answerable and even might be somewhat interesting to ponder, namely do you think Eddie Chamblee anticipated the kind of career he was currently enjoying when starting out?

Remember, he had just been a sideman who happened to provide one of the key ingredients to the biggest rock hit of 1948, a style of music which hadn’t even existed when he was coming up in the ranks mind you, but which he then found himself thrust into being a musical spokesman for thanks to his success with Sonny Thompson. So as a result of that he formed his own band and started cutting his own singles, still sitting in with Thompson when called upon and basking in his share of the credit when some of those songs became big hits, but when one of his OWN records – Back Street – became a national hit in its own right it seemed that Eddie Chamblee was on his way to rock stardom.

But was that his intent? Was this style what he really wanted to be known for? Did he even fully understand the cultural differences this type of music represented for the audience that embraced it, or did he not realize that it was attracting a much different constituency than the jazz he’d played for years with Lionel Hampton’s group?

We don’t know really because Eddie Chamblee, despite being a fairly prominent name who passed away just a few months shy of reaching the new century didn’t really seem to attract much attention beyond having his name on records that sold a lot. He was perhaps the most unassuming of the first generation of rock sax kings, more notable for his later work with Dinah Washington, whom he’d grown up with and later was married to for a time, than he was known for his own output. Even the fact that his most enduring contributions came by playing backup on Sonny Thompson’s records factors into his relative anonymity.

What we do know is that in mid-1949 rock ‘n’ roll was fueled by honking sax players and they were becoming ever more ostentatious in what they were being asked, or demanding on their own initiative, to deliver. The likes of Big Jay McNeely, Frank Culley, Red Prysock and even disgruntled jazz expatriate Hal Singer were leaving craters in the smooth bland terrain of popular music with increasing regularity and it’d be hard not to notice the means with which they were doing so.

For someone like Chamblee, who was never a raw honker to begin with, he might just as well have thought those competing sounds were merely a variation on the possibilities of the instrument itself. He could’ve looked to those noisier brutes and seen an approach that appeared alien to his own yet their popularity could only help the stature of his brand of sax playing. So in that way he may have figured they were tied together, but that he didn’t have to resort to that brand of sonic pummeling to make good himself.

That mindset would help explain the presence of Dureop, a record which fits comfortably in no realm even though it seems to try and connect in every one available, from bop to rock.
 

If One Is Good, Two Must Be Better
Maybe Miracle Records thought that since Thompson’s two part Long Gone was such a success a year before, both commercially and aesthetically, that it was worth trying for another two part record featuring the sax player who’d turned Part Two of the Thompson record into such a runaway hit.

After all, what Thompson and company had shown was that if you could establish a catchy seductive groove then you could ride it for as long as you wanted and a song that was twice as long as most singles would have ample opportunity to focus on specific instruments within the course of its playing time. That’s one of the many things that made Long Gone stand out so much at the time, the first half highlighted Sonny’s piano and Arvin Garrett’s guitar while Chamblee joined them for Part Two and took center stage as the others dutifully stepped back to fill supporting roles in the arrangement.

That approach gave listeners a clear choice as to which aspect they preferred yet kept the same feel for both so you were doubling your chances if you felt the core structure was one of your stronger ideas.

That’d seem to be the clear intent with Dureop, right down to the fact that it is almost certainly the Sharps & The Flats, who had backed Thompson in the studio for those late 1947 sessions, who appear on this, augmented by bigger name horn players as well as a pianist.

Like the acclaimed hit that came from those Thompson collaborations, this record also attempts to establish a repetitive mid-tempo groove that will allow for the individual band members to take turns “improvising” over the basic arrangement.

The difference is none of the parts – from the underlying groove to the various solos – are the equal of what was on the Thompson smash. Oh, and on that one Sonny wasn’t chanting a stupid word for no explicable reason other than to drive you to madness so he could abscond with your keys, you wallet and your girlfriend while you banged your head on the bar in frustration.
 

Designed To Drive You Crazy
But let’s not focus on that unfortunate recurring attribute quite yet and instead let start by concentrating on what does work fairly well if you can see your way to pick it out from the vocal dross that quickly obscures it.

Chamblee’s sax kicks off Dureop with an eleven note refrain that forms the basis of the entire song. In of itself it sounds okay, a little seductive even, like it’s working hard to put you in a trance. His tone is good, it’s got a lilting quality to it that’s fairly alluring and overall you like where it seems to be heading.

Then the vocals come in.

They’re repeating the same line as the sax, except they’re using the three syllable word “dureop” to replicate it. Same cadence, three notes followed by a pause then three more note and another pause before concluding with a stuttering “duh-duh dureop” to close it out… before starting all over again. And over again.

And over again.

Ad nauseum.

The effect this has might’ve been okay had they just injected it sporadically, letting the musicians carry the same hook on their instruments while the voices only stepped in when Chamblee took a break before or after soloing. Instead they keep it up for the entire first side. Aside from being as aggravating as anything they could possibly come up with if their intent was to drive you insane, their so-called vocals conspire to completely obscure what Chamblee is doing, which is actually quite good.

His sax playing sort of mirrors the voices at times, well in the background, then ramps it up and comes up with a flourish that closes out each refrain. These are perfectly appropriate for rock ‘n’ roll in every way. Their tone is full and rich, a little sultry (and a little smutty even), and for the most part there’s no sign of loftier musical aspirations as would be found in higher class music such as jazz.

Chamblee may not be performing an aural striptease like so many sax players in rock, nor clubbing you over the head with his horn as others specialize in and there’s no raunchy displays of honks and squeals to shock you either. But what he’s doing is giving you something solid to grab hold of and then pulling you along with him as grinds away… provided you can focus on him rather than the inane vocal injections.

By the end of Part One he’s mellowed out some, eased back on his intensity and consequently lost a little of his focus… but only a little. This was no doubt done to make for a more effective fade and in that respect it works nicely, seeming to vanish somewhere into the fog as the other instruments – guitar, light drums and piano most notably, all of whom contributed subtle effects throughout the first side – pull back as well until it disappears into the ether.
 

Losing Your Way
If you were to somehow be able to forcibly remove the voices of those who insisted on chanting the title as if under the spell of some mad atonal hypnotist, the first half would be firmly above average as a rock release for this stage of the game. It wouldn’t be at all difficult to envision that properly revised version of the first half of Dureop, sans vocals, becoming a modest hit. But with those voices getting in the way you can’t really appreciate what works beneath it because you’re constantly driven to distraction.

So flipping the record over – back when you had to do such things physically to hear both sides – you might be tempted to chuck it out an open window or turn on a vacuum cleaner or garbage disposal instead to drown out the echoes of that one incessant word that you are convinced will now be embedded in your mind until your body starts to decompose weeks after being lowered in the ground when you die.

But since you’ve already committed yourself to this musical endeavor we’ve laid out before you today you figure you might as well go all-in and see what devious means of aural torture they’ve conceived for you on Side Two.

Imagine your surprise when you find there aren’t any voices to be found, at least not anywhere close to what tainted Side One.

Hallelujah!

Right?… Well, not exactly, because while their absence is entirely welcome what’s also missing is Chamblee for the most part, who just softly blows that same riff in the background while the pianist James Craig along with Garrett on guitar take the leads instead.

This actually starts out okay, although that might just be relief cascading over your for not hearing any voices, and just past the forty second mark Garrett gets his solo which has you hoping he’ll contribute something worthwhile. Sad to say that’s not the case, for although what he plays is deftly executed it falls well short of being captivating, which for a song like this is mandatory if they want to pull you in. For starters it’s light as a feather in tone, sort of a gentle caressing of your cheek rather than anything more tangible to ensure a visceral response, but while it sounds okay it doesn’t have any sense of direction. There’s no riff he drills into your head, no rhythm he locks in on to transfix you, there’s not even a firm beginning, middle and end to it all, it just sort of wanders around unobtrusively, not really bothering anyone but lost in a world of its own.

When Craig follows with his solo it too starts off fairly well, pounding the keys as if to announce his presence and boogieing with some assertiveness that is entirely welcome, but then he too gets led astray by unfocused aims. It’s not helped that the disembodied voices return briefly here, but even they soon get bored with these misguided ideas and head out for lunch while Craig inexplicably starts to play some flowery mush instead of sticking with something more appropriate by which time you’re actually heading out the door to follow those annoying voices to a diner for a sandwich.

What stops you momentarily is Chamblee stepping to the microphone for his most prominent part since the first side, but even this is little more than the core riff repeated to the fade, none too enthusiastically either, and you wind up wishing you spent your spare change on a newspaper to read about Ezzard Charles defending his Heavyweight title against Pat Valentino in a bout that packed far more excitement in eight rounds than this record contained in two very underwhelming sides.

Despite this dismal showing, for a record that never gets out of second gear, Dureop still manages to leave you exhausted just from having to contend with so many bad decisions at each and every turn.
 

A Flummoxed Fix
The sad thing of course is this would’ve been so easy to salvage just by removing the one most obvious blight on the record by stuffing socks in everybody’s mouth when they hit the “record” button. The only one among them who needed his mouth free was Chamblee and as fitting his modest unassuming persona he didn’t say a word the entire time they were recording.

We wish we could say the same about the others.

If you then wanted to tighten up Part Two by getting both Garrett and Craig to focus more on maintaining the song’s basic riff and just embellishing it with some more fire we certainly wouldn’t protest, but really it’s Part One, the side that prominently features Chamblee – the star of the show after all – that was most important to this going over with audiences and so it probably doesn’t matter much what they did on Side Two.

Dureop wasn’t done in by bad playing, at least not on Chamblee’s part, but rather it was a victim of bad decisions, both in the original arrangement of the song and the executive decisions after it was laid on wax as Miracle Records seemed to recognize these flaws and brought Chamblee in again a month later to re-cut the song with a slightly smaller group, excising Part Two altogether and only allowing vocal nonsense on one of the three takes they recorded that day.

Apparently none of them were deemed worthy and so they chose the original two-part version, insipid chanting and all, as the one they ultimately released. In the end that decision may have wound up costing them a hit for a promising idea and certainly cost them here, resulting in a score that perfectly sums up something so maddeningly uninspired.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Eddie Chamblee for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)