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One of the ways in which this project differs from the way most of us consume music in normal circumstances is how in everyday life you can pick and choose what you want to listen to, whereas here we’re committed to listening to and writing about every single release as it comes along.

The benefit of this is that it forces you to actually have to deal with each record on their own terms, but invariably when faced with artists who continually fall short of expectations you start treating the task of writing about their output as merely fulfilling an obligation rather than welcoming the opportunity to explore each facet of their artistry again and again.

One of the names who has you dreading their next appearance on the docket has been Floyd Dixon who never seems to shore up his weaknesses enough to live up to his potential no matter how many chances he gets. But today’s record shows why sometimes it pays to be patient as he not only meets our best expectations, but surpasses them just when it seemed we’d never get the kind of payoff we were hoping for.


Let’s Keep It Clean
In sports there’s always those players whose upside entices plenty of teams to take chances on them only to find when they’re on their own roster that their limitations define them just as much as their strengths.

As a result they bounce from team to team, getting regular playing time, even contributing some highlights along the way, but often resulting in far more frustration than elation for the team and their fans until they too send him packing.

In rock ‘n’ roll circles that description perfectly defined Floyd Dixon, a singer, pianist and songwriter who performed ably in all three of those roles, yet who never seemed to put it all together for an extended stretch to become a consistent all-star instead of a perennial underachiever. As a result he’s on the move again, this time landing on Aladdin Records where he was paired with a group who had nothing whatsoever to do with rock ‘n’ roll.

One of the preeminent cocktail blues trios of the era, Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers even manage to get a secondary label credit here which would seem to indicate that the parties involved decided that the best course of action to take with Dixon would be to shift him to another genre entirely and see if maybe he was better suited to cutting some less stressful music for a change.

Instead they went in the opposite direction as Girl Fifteen is anything but a tranquil easy-going record. In fact it contains everything that rock ‘n roll was so notorious for and does so in a way that was sure to shock and offend.


Love Ya And Thrill Ya
The record kicks off with a slow, drawn out sax stretching its notes like saltwater taffy and pulling you in while they build anticipation. Johnny Moore chips in with some accent notes on guitar before Dixon hops on board, vocally and on piano, picking up the pace while expressing his desire for young girls with sexual experience… a topic that, as R. Kelly’s imminent prison sentence for such crimes attests, is not recommended to anyone outside the confines of a song.

Luckily we get HER take on the subject too and she’s egging Floyd on, telling him she’s “old enough” and wants him as much as he wants her. That’s not going to fly in a court of law of course, the age of consent still at least a year away in most communities, not to mention the age of not being creepy even if technically legal is even further ahead than that. But as song topics go this is rock ‘n’ roll and so Girl Fifteen almost kinda skates by.

If you are going to give him a pass because it’s fiction and he’s got a perfectly willing underage accomplice in an uncredited Mari Jones, who truthfully was cute enough to almost risk societal scorn and imprisonment for, then you’ll be rewarded because Dixon’s delivery is perfect. Not only does the quicker tempo force him to use his mouth rather than his nose to sing, but he’s showing the ethical conflict his character is feeling during all of this, not only expressing that it’s wrong lyrically – even admitting he’ll be taken away by the law if he follows through on this – but his voice also tempers his arousal with the offsetting morality he’s resigned to acknowledge via his delivery.

It’s a tricky balancing act, but one he manages to pull off quite well. It obviously helps that there’s a lot of good lines here that add enough humor to the proceedings to make it more palatable, but the whole thing just rolls along with such smooth confidence that it’s hard to resist.

They’ll Have To Take Me Too
It’s one thing for a band operating outside of their natural element to be capable of holding their own in rock ‘n’ roll by keeping things relatively simple, but it’s another thing altogether if they’re able to add something distinctive to what they’re bringing to the table.

Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers accomplish both, their work behind Dixon during the bulk of Girl Fifteen has an elastic swing to what they’re playing, establishing a comfortable groove and holding it with reasonable self-assurance.

A lot of this is centered on Dixon’s own piano work of course, but the discreet rhythm laid down by the others is consistent and the tenor sax answering each line adds tremendous color to the song.

But it’s the instrumental break where they step out and show they can rock pretty well. Of course even here we have to point out that it’s NOT one of The Three Blazers who is responsible for the primary appeal, but rather producer Maxwell Davis whose saxophone is the centerpiece of the arrangement blowing some impeccable lines, soulful and melodic, alternately stuttering and drawing them out until you’re wrapped around his finger.

He’s not alone here though, as Moore plays some notes that are the definition of “stinging”, sounding almost as if he’s using a blow dart with poison arrows to pierce the speakers and your ears as drummer Ellis “Slow” Walsh, who’d played with Dixon in The Brown Buddies – an off-shoot of The Three Blazers you surely remember – keeps a steady beat behind them.

Again, it’s mostly Davis’s handiwork here that shapes this but Moore and company are hardly incidental to the success of the arrangement and while you could argue that their receiving credit on the label was more a contractual obligation or an olive branch by Aladdin to keep them happy, they earn the kudos with the performance they deliver.


I Know I’ll Have To Go
The pairing of Dixon and Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers was one that probably benefited the latter more than anything because while Dixon is certainly helped by playing with such a tight group for once, it was Moore who was still looking to replace Charles Brown, the vocal star and pianist in the group’s original formation that brought them their greatest acclaim and biggest sales. Dixon was able to fit the bill and brought with him his own name recognition which helped record sales and ticket sales at live venues.

The kicker to Girl Fifteen is that the underaged Jones (though not quite as young as the character she was portraying) did in fact wind up pregnant… by Moore, which tended to cast aspersions on the record which already was facing heat for its thematic suggestiveness.

But far removed from the moral implications it posed, the record itself was validation for Floyd Dixon as well as for those of us who continued to hope he’d live up to that early promise. While this might not be quite to the level of his highest point yet reached, it’s not that far off and further evidence that sometimes you just have to land in the right place, surrounded by the right people – some young, some old – at the right time in order to realize your potential.


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