CORAL 65080; JANUARY 1952



Though he was born in Atlanta, saxophonist Eddie Chamblee grew up in Chicago and worked professionally mainly in Northern cities which were of course far more hospitable to him than any place south of the Mason-Dixon line, so the comfort referred to in the title hopefully refers to the booze rather than the people down there, but since it’s an instrumental we’ll never know.

What we do know is that Chamblee’s output has varied greatly from one record to the next and one label to the next, as he was pulled – like so many jazz-educated sax-men were – between the sweet and the profane.

This one might not be quite as dirty as the the best rockers have been but it’s hardly saccharine either.


Pour Another
Though we don’t have any banner ads on the site (though once again we do encourage you to click on the album cover for the Amazon links and buy, buy, buy… anything and everything once you get there to help fill our coffers), we DO tend to talk at length about certain… shall we say… nocturnal activities enjoyed by listeners of rock ‘n’ roll which often includes the purchase of certain critical items…

Weed… booze… and prophylactics.

Continuing with the theme of the middle one here thanks to the song’s title, we won’t necessarily promote their product today, since we aren’t getting any kickbacks from them, but needless to say I’m sure a lot of it was enjoyed by those grooving to this record.

In fact, there’s an outside possibility the company’s Party Book pamphlet they issued back then was given away with copies of this record called… what was it again?…. Southern Comfort.

If so it was entirely fitting because it’s the kind of music that one might enjoy while getting cross-eyed with a bunch of no account friends on a Saturday night.

Of course, Coral Records were civic minded enough to also include a much more tame song on the flip side for listening to on Sunday morning when you attempted to drag yourself out of bed following your drunken revelry.

You wonder which one Eddie Chamblee preferred and fear that maybe it was the jazz standard In A Sentimental Mood, written by the great Duke Ellington, in which Chamblee plays with the kind of melodic sway those songs tended to gravitate towards. Nice music… sweet music… but not OUR music.

For that we go back to the night before, when the lights were low, the room was spinning and we were all drunk on rock ‘n’ roll… and whatever was sloshing around in your cup.


Drink Up
The issue with a lot of sax instrumentals, especially in the immediate aftermath of the “honking up a storm” era, is how many OTHER horns they bring on board. The full section of brass and reeds is a jazz staple of course as rock combos tended to be smaller, sometimes just a tenor and baritone working together.

Here we get a few more horns but for the most part they’re kept relatively at bay thanks to a tight focused arrangement.

The opening finds them playing a compact riff backed by a decent skipping drum beat. Once they segue into the main stem of the song it inches towards a lighter sound without ever fully giving in to that urge and which allows Chamblee to be the hero of sorts when he jumps out in front and quickly re-establishes the rock foundation of the record with a strong, fierce tone playing more quick bite-sized riffs.

Therein lies the good and the bad of Southern Comfort in a nutshell. It vacillates between what we crave and what we’ll only tolerate… never fully losing us in the process, but never completely winning us over either.

Since Chamblee is the star – and since his first time in the spotlight brought us the best moments of the first minute – we have high hopes for the longer solo that follows more of the same innocuous pattern played by the full horn section. But while it starts off well by repeating the first run through, it’s when he extends it that he eases off and tries blending in a little too much.

He’s playing well, the tone is okay, but there’s still a little bit of a jazzier feel to the section, especially early on. Maybe it’s the prominence of the stand-up bass that gives that impression, or the fact that Chamblee’s not grinding his lines enough. It’s certainly not bad by any means, but the best aspects of his playing is when he returns once again to that shorter recurring riff which has the most bite to it.

For the most part though this is a casual throwaway track, good enough to keep people on the floor if dancing is their thing, or to provide some aural cover for their hanky-panky in the dark if that’s their main goal for the night, but either way it’s perfectly adequate for any party where rock fans are looking to get their kicks… but they won’t be getting their kicks from this record per say.

It’ll do just fine as a place holder though until the roof is blown off by someone else.


Last Call?
With the decline of the hit sax instrumental in rock over the past few years we have to be grateful that someone like Eddie Chamblee – and Coral Records for that matter, hardly the most committed rock enthusiasts – were still looking to win us over with something like this.

Little did any of them know that around the bend was something that would briefly return those records to the public’s eye, but surely listening to Southern Comfort they had to know that while acceptable for our needs, it wasn’t going to demand our attention.

That’s the thing with any kind of trend in music… we can say something goes in or out of style and that more than anything is responsible for its success or failure, but the fact of the matter is it’s still the songs themselves which are the biggest determinant of their own fate.

A good performance, not a great one… a nice hook but not a riveting solo… and competent support which still doesn’t manage to elevate the main performer means its fate is to be only mildly appreciated even in the best of situations.

This was nothing to be ashamed of, but nothing to be excited about either.


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