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Just as every artist has their sweet spot when it comes to what styles and approaches they gravitate towards, so too do they have an expected range of outcomes for those records.

Though the scores given out here are always done with a fixed definition as to their place in the larger rock universe at the time of their release, no sliding scale is applied in other words, there’s naturally different expectations for each artist based on their abilities.

Truly great artists are naturally going to have a higher ceiling and for them an average record (5) will be seen as a let down, one of their lesser singles by most estimations. By contrast those artists lacking any noteworthy talent will rejoice if they manage to release a record deemed average in the big scheme of things.

For Floyd Dixon, an artist balancing some discernible talent with rather consistent deficiencies, he made his living in the average range of the scores and so when he surpasses that, even just a little, it means he’s finally maximizing his abilities even if the end result at a glance might seem as if its just a minor improvement.

Keep that in mind…


Please Don’t Go
Yes, this is one of Floyd Dixon’s better releases to date and no it’s still not quite good enough to hit the green numbers – sorry for the spoiler – which tells you what a narrow range he’s limited to thanks to being cruelly denied a better voice with which to tell some good stories amidst some really stellar playing.

But just like a basketball player with a lousy jump shot there are still ways for him to make a positive impact on a team even if he can never be star. In Dixon’s case that means he has to do all of the little things right and on Baby Come Home he does just that, starting with some of his best work on the piano. This provides the song with a stately melodic bed that has countless ear-catching little hooks thrown into the basic progressions that form the bedrock of the song.

As mentioned yesterday on the flip side of this, Play Boy Blues, Dixon’s piano skills were always a bit underrated because he wasn’t someone given to wild displays, pounding the ivories into submission while making frantic runs up and down the keyboard. He was more of a stylist by nature, albeit without the daintiness or delicacy that term frequently conjures up.

Here Dixon combines a good melodic sensibility with a solid rhythmic feel and expert judgement, something seen by just how much space he uses between certain notes and hooks to build anticipation. He’s comfortable to let a key musical phrase linger in your mind which prevents what he’s playing to become mere background noise, indistinguishable from everything going on around it.

He’s aided in this regard by the continued top-shelf interplay with guitarist Chuck Norris as the two of them trade off with their usual dexterity, finishing each other’s thoughts, or responding to one another with understated grace. Norris’s slow as molasses solo in the break is a master class of drawing out tension while Dixon’s response to it wisely steps up the pace with its jittery work on the high notes to offset what Norris just laid down – a push/pull dynamic that delivers nicely.

But whereas their byplay was the clear highlight of the top side of this single, on this side it shares that honor with Dixon’s surprisingly strong reading of a rather predictable theme, showing that while his technical ability as a vocalist could always be called into question, his instincts on how to best bring out the emotional qualities of a song were sometimes spot on.


You Had Me In Misery
Though for the most part Floyd Dixon was a pretty good songwriter with a nice eye for detail, he definitely had his go-to subjects and viewpoints – often morose to suit his voice – and as such there was only so many ways to tell the same basic story of a broken relationship that the narrator was hoping to glue back together somehow.

In fact, Dixon would record a song on Aladdin Records down the road entitled Come Back Baby, which are the first words sung on THIS – totally different – record for Modern, showing that he wasn’t above recycling themes, phrases and subjects when the need arose.

But Baby Come Home is the best version of this topic he had in him even if the composition itself is made up of mostly stock sentiments about sadness and remorse over the frayed love affair while expressing confusion over how it got to this point all while asking for forgiveness for whatever his role was in how it ended.

Where it stands out, at least in comparison to similar topics he’s frequently delved into, is how he sells these basic lines with a poignancy that sounds totally genuine. It’s not just the soft tone he employs but also the halting delivery and the way in which he seems to not be merely reciting the lyrics but singing them as they come to him in real time. He’s doing his best to convey a sincerity that will help his cause in getting her back but which also makes the lines more convincing to us as well.

In spite of this well-conceived game plan this IS still Floyd Dixon we’re talking about, someone whose best intentions are often done in by his underwhelming vocal abilities that give preference to his nasal passages rather than his larynx when trying to sing.

This is most evident here when he raises the volume and intensity when asking “What did I do to make you leave” and finds that his voice simply doesn’t have the resonance to impart the kind of power and anguish he’s hoping for causing it to fall a little flat. Yet when he immediately shifts back down to conclude that thought with the “Come back ple-ease” tagline you can see how effective it had a chance to be had someone with better pipes been on the microphone instead.

But that might not be giving Dixon enough credit for why the record works as well as it does, for it’s that very weakness in projection at other times that sells the pathos best, as he seems physically drained by the ordeal which might not be as easy to convince you of had he been blessed with a stronger voice to begin with.

You Should Come Back…
Nothing defines the dilemma of a compromised artist more than delivering something that manages to stand out in their own catalog yet which still can’t stand out in the larger rock landscape they’re competing in.

Baby Come Home is a really solid, professional job all around, certainly one of the sides that Dixon had to be proudest of aesthetically because of how well it’s crafted.

But it’s also held back slightly by the very artist responsible for all that. It’s not because he did anything wrong in this case, but rather because it was his curse to be deficient in the one area he couldn’t sub-contract out to somebody else.

A great singer can always have someone else write their songs, create the arrangements, lead the band and play the instruments and if they perform their primary task well, they’ll inevitably be credited for the sum total of the work everybody else contributed in addition to their own starring role on the microphone.

But somebody like Dixon who handled those other jobs with class, his vocal shortcomings were going to negatively impact the impression he made on you, even in the best of circumstances such as this record.

A tough break for sure, but even so this is still a better than average record for any artist, not just those singing out of their noses.


(Visit the Artist page of Floyd Dixon for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)