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ALADDIN 3101; JULY 1951



Just as there are a lot of different ways songs can succeed, there are different levels of failure.

Most subpar songs are lacking in fairly obvious ways – bad melody, poor story, awful singing or playing, shoddy producing or stagnant ideas.

But there are other songs that fall short simply because the artist’s specific skill set can’t carry out the rather ambitious aims they set for themselves.

Unlike most songs which miss their mark, the ones that try to do more than they’re capable of pulling off are something to be celebrated because it shows that creativity is alive and well in rock ‘n’ roll.


I’ll Haunt You
Once you get to know artists by listening to each of their releases as they come along – or in retrospect in this case – you begin to have certain expectations for them each time out.

In other words you know what they’re capable of at their best and what they’ll tend to settle for at their worst. You know if they aspire to move beyond what they’ve already achieved or if they’re content to keep playing the same hand. You even know if the record company is exerting an undue influence on their material in hopes of duplicating past sales by repeating formulas.

When an artist you think you have fairly well-pegged like Floyd Dixon, a decent songwriter, good pianist and competent but fatally flawed singer with a bad sinus condition and a tendency to stick with the slower tunes that draw attention to his problems rather than conceal them, suddenly does something that seems to have come completely out of the blue it makes you do a double take.

Dixon is someone who’s shown stylistic adaptability in the past, but those have largely been by degrees and generally rotated between three widely accepted and consistently popular genres – rock ‘n’ roll (and mostly ballads at that), cocktail blues and country blues. Occasionally he’s deviated from those areas and frequently his work blends two or more of those styles together which further hurts his cause, but you more or less know what to expect out of him when you cue up another record.

Which is why Do I Love You catches you completely off guard, for while it does play up his vocal weaknesses by sticking with a slow melody and also fits comfortably into his usual unassertive lyrical perspective that treats sadness as his fate rather than anything he has the ability to change, the way this song is framed is unlike anything we’ve come to expect out of Floyd Dixon.

He may not be capable of fully making it work, but damn if it’s not interesting to watch him try.


Come Running In A Hurry
The most picturesque way to describe this record is to imagine that sometime over the past year Floyd Dixon crossed the border from either California (where he lived now) or Texas (where he was originally from) and wandered around Mexico for a few weeks and came back with the local music flowing through his veins.

Even if that’s not the case Do I Love You is one of rock’s first cultural appropriations thanks to guitarist Oscar Moore’s flamenco inspired playing. Technically speaking it’s not quite a straight lift (he’s almost certainly not using nylon strings here for one), more like an Americanized interpretation, but the effect is strong enough that you’re immediately struck by the unique sound compared to… well, compared to virtually any track in rock at the time.

Its effect is to set an alternate musical space separate from what Dixon is doing, yet interacting with him in how they trade off. It’s almost like Floyd is talking and Moore is translating it to another musical language, a call and response that keeps you invested even if you can’t necessarily understand the technique behind it.

It’s Moore’s presence here which makes this record work as well as it does because while Dixon is really putting forth the effort to be exotic and mysterious in a way to match the guitar, he’s just not capable of pulling it off.

For one thing there’s his perpetually nasal vocal tone which undercuts everything he sings, risking having his sincerity be seen as more of a joke than anything. The other problem is in trying to impart some gravity to the story he’s relying on vague thoughts rather than more concrete lyrics and you get the sense that he doesn’t really have a point to what he’s saying.

Ostensibly he’s trying to convince a girl of his devotion, but what he’s expressing is too random to connect. Maybe with a better singer it’d come across alright, but some fine tuning and a more focused plot would’ve done wonders for this.


I Still Love You As You Are
Still, it’s hard NOT to be impressed by the effort alone. Just the thought that Floyd Dixon of all people, someone who seemed to be led around by a leash creatively, giving record companies whatever they wanted in a few simple motifs, would venture this far outside the accepted commercial avenues is downright shocking.

Of course Do I Love You might not have much right to be called rock ‘n’ roll, but it also doesn’t have any place in jazz, blues (cocktail or otherwise), pop or anything else that currently was in vogue in America.

Because of that it’s hard to defend this as an “average” rock record for 1951… or any other year for that matter. Thanks to Dixon’s own eternal shortcomings vocally it’s also flawed enough to make giving the record even that modest a grade a conflicted decision.

But sometimes rules – such as they are with anything ostensibly subjective – are made to be broken and if in doing so you’re rewarding a legitimately creative effort that can never be a bad thing.

After all, even if this had been kept with its head just below water it still would have been something to seek out and admire. Not necessarily for the end result (though Oscar Moore’s performance is certainly worthy of that by itself), but rather for an artist who we’d more or less confined to a narrow stylistic plot of ground in the otherwise expansive rock landscape, suddenly picking up his stakes and heading somewhere no one else had thought to venture before.

No, it’s not going to change the course of rock ‘n’ roll in the least, not musically anyway, but if it signals the unwillingness for any artist to be tied down by unchanging expectations, then there’s no way not to consider this record a success.


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