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MODERN 20-744; APRIL 1950



Certain artists have skills that are so abundantly clear from the moment they open their mouths or strike their instrument that it’s downright shocking if they don’t succeed as much as their talents would suggest was their due.

Then there are other artists who have long successful careers in spite of shortcomings that are so obvious at first listen that you wonder how anybody gave them a second chance to try and overcome those glaring deficiencies.

Floyd Dixon falls into the latter category and while he’s delivered some songs that make the most out of what he has to work with, there are other songs… like say this one… where all of his artistic weaknesses are on full display.


Why Should You Leave Me?
Let me start off by admitting I’m not actually reviewing the released single, if only because it’s not readily available. Instead this is an alternate take that was included on an Ace Records collection of Dixon’s work.

Assuming that somebody there felt it was actually worthy of being heard, maybe even more so than the original cut, we’ll add this disclaimer to inform one and all that it’s entirely possible that we’re being TOO generous in eviscerating this cut if the released version was deemed inferior.

You know you’re in for some trouble when a record features its best component in its title. People Like Me are three rather insignificant words that may not seem that special but they at least stir a little curiosity in someone who comes across it for there are all sorts of intriguing possibilities as to what he may be talking about.

Are people like him somehow special, maybe kind, considerate and trusting, or are those traits the cause of his heartbreak if someone takes advantage of them? On the other hand perhaps people like him are devious liars and cheaters and he’s explaining his lack of guilt over his misdeeds in life to his cellmate or a parole board. Or it could be that people like him are the kind who know they’re not very blessed in life with natural gifts like looks, intelligence, charm or talent but they make the best out of it and are generally happy with the results.

When it comes to assessing the latter possibility Dixon wasn’t a bad looking cat, and based on interviews about his career he was gullible for sure when starting out but certainly not dumb and he seemed to be well liked by those he encountered… which leaves the “talent” department which is where he sometimes falters.

It’s strange to say this because he was consistently successful in a wide range of styles, from cocktail blues to rock ‘n’ roll, but while he was a good pianist and a pretty decent songwriter he tended to have a nose for melodies… as in he sang THROUGH that nose which often distorted the melodies leaving the songs with far too much to overcome.

Weren’t You Happy?
This song is the perfect example of Dixon’s flaws overwhelming his strengths, rendering the solid backing and somewhat interesting perspective all but irrelevant because you can’t get past that nasal tone. It’s so distracting, so unappealing, so sickly sounding that you’re afraid to get too close to the record for fear of catching the cold he must be battling.

But then you remember that Dixon sounds this way all the time and so it isn’t a case of him not having a good decongestant or some more potent allergy medication to take, but rather he’s got to find songs where that tendency for his voice to ricochet off his septum on its way out of his body can be minimized either by speeding up the pace or by giving him more of a catchy tune to obscure this unfortunate malady.

In that regard People Like Me is just the wrong song for the job, its melody is so sparse that it requires life support and is so slowly paced that you have no choice but to focus on his singing, which as you’ll no doubt soon notice leads you to also discover his alarming inability to remain in key.

These technical failings are usually the kind of thing that prevents people like him (to use his own words against him) from becoming singers in the first place.

As for WHAT he’s singing, well let’s just say that thematically it’s alright, if a little simplistic, as he’s making a pitch to a girl by demurely expounding on his modest virtues, but there’s not nearly enough clever lines to make it noteworthy enough to overlook the way in which it’s being delivered.


Please Try To Understand
Sadly though, this actually had the potential to be a pretty good song in the right hands… if say a vocal group had done it in the next couple of years where they’d have four voices backing up an emotive lead by playing up, rather than downplaying, the melody, adding all sorts of embellishments from floating tenors to an exaggerated bass to give the song more body.

In fact this has some fleeting similarities to – in pace and structure – to songs like The Vocaleers’ Is It A Dream, which ironically also features a nasal lead, as well as the song simply titled I by The Velvets. Or if you wanted to increase the tempo it’s even possible to envision being done like The Channels’ The Closer You Are, and by utilizing that type of fuller arrangement you can see how it could be made to work pretty well in that setting.

As it is though People Like Me has little to rescue it from oblivion and that’s even with Chuck Norris contributing a few sweet licks on his guitar. But even these are often in conflict with Dixon’s vocals, at least when he’s playing behind him rather than playing fills between each line which work far better.

As for Dixon’s playing, as usual he acquits himself fairly well on piano, giving this its only real melodic thread to follow, intermittent though it may be. His turnarounds are nice enough and if they let him go more you might have convinced me to be a little less harsh on the rest of the components… but only a little.

Find You Another Man
In the end there’s not much to recommend here. Essentially if you were to put Floyd Dixon’s musical attributes in two columns, one for the good and one for the bad, those he puts on display here all come from the latter column which makes People Like Me a poor choice for a single.

Then again Allmusic actually taps this as one of the high points of his time with Modern Records, which only goes to prove we all hear music differently I guess. As always, it’s not what someone else tells you that matters, myself included, it’s whatever you get out of a record for yourself.

But in spite of my criticism of him this time out Dixon has proven himself to be resilient in the past and because he’s so prolific at this stage of his career there’ll be plenty of other opportunities to redeem himself around here. Though this effort may give a pretty uncompromising view of his negative traits, he’s usually got more than enough positive qualities in his bag of tricks to give us hope that he’ll turn things around his next time on the docket.


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