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In the competition for the most clueless independent record label in rock’s first half decade there’s no clear-cut favorite despite a lot of viable contenders.

Nobody has been more oderous about stealing artist credits than the Bihari Brothers of Modern and RPM Records, but they’ve made the most of their roster thanks to hiring Maxwell Davis to produce and then staying out of his way rather than interfere.

No one has seen their assets walk away more than Herman Lubinsky of Savoy Records after brazenly shortchanging them on royalties, but he’s compounded that by trying to blackmail his producers which caused them to leave and take some of the artists with them in the bargain.

But edging them out by a nose is probably Jerry Blaine of Jubilee Records who may have only had only a few stellar artists on his roster but more than any other significant label their talents have been squandered by terrible choices when it came to material and arrangements and now by trying to capitalize on finally getting TWO reliable acts by having them cut duets ratrher than let each one focus on their own records.

Rather than double their success, it’s caused them to cut that success in half.


Why Don’t You Treat Me Fair?
The name Edna McGriff doesn’t have much cache these days… and in fact more or less was not all that recognizable a year or two after her breakthrough last winter thanks to Jerry Blaine’s idiotic decisions.

First he tried to artificially recreate the magic of her big hit, Heavenly Father, a self-penned secular plea for her sweetheart who was overseas fighting a war, by trying to shallowly find similarly ambiguous hymn-type ballads which naturally drew no interest because they were so shallow and calculated.

Then he had the brilliant idea of pairing her with Sonny Til, the lead singer of his cornerstone act The Orioles, and hoping that the latter’s name recognition might draw more interest to the girl whose career he seemed intent on destroying.

Meanwhile The Orioles, who’d rebounded nicely last year at this time with Baby Please Don’t Go, their first big hit in quite awhile, and first in a new more aggressive style to boot, were now cooling their heels as Blaine turned his attention elsewhere. Even when they had good records coming out these past few months, he seemed less concerned about those than he was about the McGriff – Til duets like Good.

The fact that this record WAS pretty good doesn’t excuse the fact that it was so pointless, especially in this era when artists got the majority of their income from live gigs and if this song hit big both Sonny and Edna would be unable to faithfully recreate it on stage without the other in tow.

But then again, Jerry Blaine could care less about their livelihood, only his own potential sales and so what could’ve been a strong solo record for either of them, particularly since it brought a more robust arrangement to their work, becomes a wasted effort for all of them.


You Gotta Be Good
We’re met by a tenor saxophone huffing away in the intro in a manner that we thought was outlawed at sessions for Jubilee Records.

Even after they added sax man Buddy Lucas as their bandleader, the majority of the records he arranged and played on relied on Hawaiian guitars and organ more than his own horn, which he soft-peddled when he did raise reed to lips.

But here he’s showing he’s got some breath in those lungs and pent up energy – more likely frustration – in his body and he’s ripping off some moderately lusty honks which set a great tone for what we hope will follow.

Normally both Edna McGriff and Sonny Til are asked to go easy on their vocal deliveries as well, probably so they don’t give guys like Lucas any crazy ideas, but here they actually sing with some authority from the start. That’s not saying they’re shouting, screaming or wailing away, but they’re both pouring on some emotion while emphasizing the rhythm of the song (yeah, you read that right… actual RHYTHM!).

Furthermore rather than use their lighter breathier tones, as was the standing order with the two of them, both are singing in full chest voice and still keeping the soulfulness in their technique.

Whether the song as written is worth such efforts is another matter. Both of them are making their plea to one another to be Good, so there doesn’t seem to be much chance that one of them is actually bad, thereby removing much of the potential conflict.

Naturally they’re both a little insecure about the relationship, as Edna wants him staying home rather than palling around with his friends (if she means The Orioles they must be bracing themselves for a potential split from their leader) while he’s just coming off as equally needy in his pathetic complaints. Maybe we WERE right all along and Til has never gotten laid – or gotten a kiss from a girl – as the majority of his songs with The Orioles suggest, even though in real life he was one of rock’s first sex symbols.

But in spite of the whiny lyrics, both of them sound REALLY “good”, as McGriff finally gets to show what a strong voice she’s got without overpowering the material. The story might be somewhat weak, but Lucas more than atones for that with a sax solo that is right in the pocket while the drummer (yeah, they actually hired a drummer too, can you believe it?) lays down a solid beat throughout the record which is never less than enjoyable to hear, even if it doesn’t set your soul on fire in the process.

Nope, I can’t believe it any more than you can!


Give You All Of My Love
If either one had been given a similarly mid-tempo song with this kind of support during their own sessions, we’d have been thrilled, but even though they mesh well together the entire concept of neglecting their primary output – her solo, him with The Orioles – for an ill-advised duet can’t help but sour us just a little.

Granted, it’s infinitely better than the two-sided debacle that came out this summer featuring the two, but the goal of any record company who have artists under long term contracts should be to maximize those artists commercial and artistic returns and to advance their careers by keeping them current when it comes to stylistic changes in the market.

Jubilee has for the most part failed in those regards with both entities and even though pairing them up here results in a Good record, it’s coming at the expense of seeking hits for each of them individually.

Sadly McGriff never will score another hit, and while Sonny Til’s Orioles do have one more commercial high point still to come, right now they’re giving the impression they’re yesterday’s news since their own singles are missing their mark commercially as well.

As a result unless you’re thinking of breaking up the group and forcing these two to became a permanent duo, the game plan here is shortsighted and self-defeating.

But what do you expect when Jerry Blaine is involved?

We like the results of the performance just fine, but we can’t help but think it cost us a more viable career for both individual acts down the road in the process.


(Visit the Artist page of Edna McGriff as well as Sonny Til for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)