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IMPERIAL 5145; SEPTEMBER 1951

 
 

 

Much of the subtext of Fats Domino’s up and down 1951, call it a sophomore slump if you must, has centered around the loss of Dave Bartholomew as his co-writer and producer, not to mention the loss of the first rate studio band that he led.

Left to mostly fend for himself Domino’s solo compositions have still shown good ideas but are often lacking the depth and nuance Bartholomew brought to the arrangements.

As this situation won’t resolve itself for quite awhile, it’s understandable if these one-sided critiques can grow tedious. After all, it wasn’t as if every release the two of them worked on together in 1950 had been free of any defects.

But here we do get a chance to take a step back and hear the two of them back together in a song taken from their last session in the fall of 1950. It’s not an original song by any means, so what they try and do with it to make it come across in a fashion unique to Domino’s musical persona will be all the more crucial if they want it to work.
 

 

It Made Me Roam
As songs go this one has plenty of mileage.

We’ve already seen a few examples of it being adapted for rock in the past when The Four Tunes and The Ravens both tackled it in 1949, and before rock ‘n’ roll came about Big Joe Turner cut it a few times, but for all of its enduring popularity, there’d be comparatively few rock acts trying it down the road.

Part of this of course is the increasing reliance on original material and naturally the further we get away from a time when it was popular in some other style the less familiar each generation will be with it as a song.

But in New Orleans Careless Love has had a slightly longer life because of its Dixieland origins so it’s hardly surprising that Dave Bartholomew would want to see what he and Domino could do with it in a rock setting.

The danger is that they’ll stick too close to a traditional approach, thereby simply superimposing Fats’ vocals over an old-fashioned backdrop. If they decided instead to radically update it they might make it all but unrecognizable, thereby diluting the simple grace of the unfettered song.

But if anyone can achieve a balance between the two extremes, these are the guys you’d bet on to do it.
 


 
 

You Said That You Loved Me
As written, the song is an exercise in contradictions.

It’s inordinately sad with a story about being taken for granted in a relationship yet is mostly played at a quicker pace which runs counter to that image. Even when it is slowed down by certain artists to match the downcast mood there’s always a bouncy feel to the way the notes fall, almost as if the music were mocking the singer for feeling blue.

Then there are the instruments that are frequently used in the arrangements with clarinets or trumpets as the primary responding voice which add to this impression. While trumpets CAN be played mournfully – “Taps” being its signature number after all – they rarely used them in that way when performing this song, as instead their higher, brighter tones further contribute to a sense of disconnect from the singer.

Because it was conceived this way however, Careless Love uses that rift to its advantage, in essence forcing the singer to deal vocally with something that mirrors the attitude of their significant other who could care less about their feelings.

Domino is usually someone who projects this kind of internal pain and sadness well, able to sound hurt without seeking pity, yet he’s just a little bit off here, never so much that it throws the entire song out of whack, but at times he sounds a bit rushed, not allowing himself to wallow in his misery enough to make it really hit home.

Though the evergreen lyrics are among the most familiar of the first half of the Twentieth Century songbook, the stanzas here seem bunched together, piling on top of one another. Most interpretations of this song not only have more space between the lines themselves, but they further give each stanza room to breathe by including more instrumental passages to balance things out.

In that regard this could have used another thirty seconds at least to focus more on the best aspects of it, which is the musical accompaniment. We might not get quite enough of that to suit our tastes, but what’s here is really good, particularly Domino’s opening piano which is catchy enough on its own to wish they cut it both as a vocal record and an instrumental for the flip side.

Some sources say this extended intro was cut from the single but the time on the original label matches the time of the track, although if there WAS more, by all means it deserved airing because Fats is magnificent here, playing with such precision early on that it almost gives the impression of it being a player piano roll until he starts throwing in trills and begins to improvise. He never lets up behind his singing and you can easily focus on just that and be satisfied.

The other highlight is Bartholomew’s own trumpet which takes the extended coda playing a muted solo which clearly he’d been itching to do and he doesn’t disappoint. His earlier efforts trying to incorporate that instrument into rock arrangements, particularly on some Domino records, has been much more awkward, but here – largely because he’s got fifty years of precedence to draw from with this song – he turns in a stellar subdued performance.

The problem is he – and the record itself – sound as if they’re unceremoniously cut off… not crudely in a engineering sense per say, but rather they seemed far too conscious of time and so the record doesn’t allow them the chance to bring this to a proper conclusion.
 

Tied Me To Your Apron Strings
With so many versions of this song to choose from you’re always bound to hear something a little different. Whether you want to go back to Bessie Smith’s famous release from 1925 or Dinah Washington’s tribute to Smith from 1958. Lena Horne’s rendition from 1941 sounds far different than Big Joe Turner’s take on it from the same year while backed by Willie “The Lion” Smith.

Lonnie Johnson’s haunting 1928 blues of it is defined by his high pitched vocal whine, while fellow bluesman Brownie McGhee in 1955 also focuses primarily on connecting with his vocal delivery, yet it’s about as far away from the former as can be.

Nat Cole’s typically classy – and brassy – ornate version from his soundtrack to St. Louis Blues, the film he starred in as the song’s supposed composer W.C Handy, brings the tune to the penthouse, while Connie Francis a few years later turns it into a pop lament.

What Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew do to Careless Love is treat it with respect, but not reverence. It’s not all it could be… and I’m guessing it’s not all it actually was in the full unexpurgated version they more than likely worked up… and it’s not even the best rock version to date (and there will be an even better one still to come) but it’s still a worthy contribution to the song’s history and further evidence of how well the duo complimented each other.

All in all though, you can’t go wrong with almost any version of the song, though for me I’d still take the 1945 Kid Ory Band instrumental if forced to choose just one rendition to wile away the days with.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNCY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Fats Domino for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)
 
 
 

 
Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
 
The Four Tunes (June, 1949)
 
The Ravens (July, 1949)