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DELUXE 3305; AUGUST 1950



Songs serve purposes, commercially and creatively, and being aware of this as a consumer helps to temper expectations going into a release.

From obvious lead singles off a much anticipated new album to Side Four filler from the days of double LP’s, you need to know what a song’s intent was in order to better judge it.

This song for instance is an ideal B-side, something done in a style that plays to the singer’s strengths and is appealing enough to hear on its own, yet doesn’t quite have hit potential.

Unfortunately it was pressed into service as an A-side because the flip of this release wasn’t able to reach the standards of that slightly more important designation, forcing this song to shoulder more weight on Erline Harris’s final single on DeLuxe than it was able to carry.


Different From The Rest… Or Not
With its tougher grinding sax riff that opens it, the fears that you’d rightly have after listening to the throwback horn sounds on the top side quickly subside and you promptly settle in to hear something far more suitable for both Erline Harris and for the rock scene of 1950.

But while Blues At First Sight fits the overall requirements for this stage of rock ‘n’ roll, it’s not doing much of anything to try and advance those sounds, giving us instead a suitable arrangement with a few minor outdated touched that are an unfortunate reminder how much of a struggle it could be at times for veteran musicians to completely disavow their own histories.

It’s not enough to sink this however and with Joe Thomas doing his best to atone for the mistakes on Spare Time Papa by blowing in a more soulful manner, this manages to stay one step ahead of the ghosts of seasons past, giving it a nice mellow feel.

Of course this is more understandable considering the song itself isn’t very fresh. Though technically an original written by Harris it’s clearly modeled on – both lyrically and melodically – on the durable standard Blues In The Night, and perhaps DeLuxe should’ve been grateful that this didn’t sell enough to draw any scrutiny and force them to hand over royalties for their fairly brazen appropriation of such a popular song.

That being said though you can’t really go wrong with such a solid source and considering that among the big name acts who scored with it back in 1942 (along with Artie Shaw, Big Joe Turner and Cab Calloway) was none other than Jimmie Lunceford for whom Joe Thomas was the featured musician in the band, and so you can see how natural it was for him to “borrow” from it.

No matter your ethical views on this form of appropriation let it be said that it’s not a straight rip-off by any means and could even be called somewhat clever for the way in which it was adapted by speeding up the pace, thereby disguising the most memorable refrain, though the tag line for both renditions makes it pretty hard to miss since the title phrases different only in their wording, not their tonal structure.

The track here is dominated by a piano carrying the primary rhythm and adding the treble fills to give it color, while Thomas takes the solo two-thirds of the way through, a modestly effective job, playing with great tone while lagging just behind the beat most of the time. It’s nothing revelatory but it gets the job done and at the very least provides the right kind of mood for Harris to deliver the goods vocally.

Your Heart Will Pound With All Its Might
On all of her records thus far, Erline Harris has stood out no matter who was backing her, no matter how good the compositions themselves were (and most were damn good, proving she was as skilled a writer as she was a singer) and no matter what basic approach was being used.

Here we might have to dock her a bit in the former department for cribbing another song, but her lyrical overhaul certainly isn’t bad, smartly altering the entire perspective from downbeat and morose to upbeat and optimistic. One can quibble why she didn’t change the first word of the title and chorus from Blues At First Sight to “Love”, which would’ve made more sense for their approach as well as to further obscure its origins, but maybe they didn’t want to make the connection TOO hard to decipher and so they kept the blues as the rather confusing description for what follows.

The rest of the song however refutes that mindset pretty emphatically as Harris talks about how excited she was the first time she saw the guy who’d win her heart, her memories being emotionally descriptive but brief and to the point, relying on her yearning delivery to get across the finer points left out of the lines themselves.

As always her voice is incredibly expressive, moaning convincingly, building tension and then releasing it with a soaring vivacity… pushing herself to the edge of rapture but staying firmly under control in the process.

Despite the veteran band and the familiar song structure, Harris is the one guiding this ship and she does so with a steady hand and a firm sense of direction, pushing the pace when it needs to add to the urgency yet deftly pulling back once she’d made her point.

Only the bridge reveals the limitations of trying to squeeze a song into someone else’s pants, as they all struggle somewhat to find a smooth way to transition from one section to the next as the more stately melody being used here is not nearly as comfortable, or enjoyable, for the normally effervescent Harris.

Even so Harris manages to come up with some halfway decent lyrics for this section – her use of the word “suddenly” for “mockingbird” is a particularly good save that wasn’t so obvious – and by the end she lets her voice go as she clearly can’t wait to jump back into a more rhythmic style and she closes it out with class and confidence, showing that in almost any situation she was going to bring something worth your time and attention to the table.

First Love Is Really The Best
Though obviously a record like this was nothing to get really excited about, certainly not anything that was going to advance Erline Harris’s career, it wound up being the last release where you could rightly claim she still had the potential to climb up rock’s ladder.

When DeLuxe didn’t renew her deal after Blues At First Sight, (reportedly shelving half of her sessions, depriving us of another three singles), she bounced around picking up club work, first in Chicago where she managed to cut one record for Chess the next year, before landing in Atlanta without getting more offers to record before settling down to raise a family by 1953.

So once again we need to call into question the utter lack of vision those on the business end of the record industry showed with such a formidable talent. At a time when rock ‘n’ roll was still largely male dominated here was a woman who could hold her own with any of the fellas, yet like Albennie Jones before her – and for a time Big Maybelle who was currently sitting on the sidelines waiting for another chance – the men running the companies all but silenced her before her time was up.

This record obviously isn’t where you should start with Erline Harris, but it definitely shouldn’t have been where DeLuxe Records chose to end their association with her either. Like so many other female acts of the time she truly deserved better than she got.


(Visit the Artist page of Erline “Rock And Roll” Harris for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)