Most people in life want to look good but they don’t want to work out, eat right or get rid of the bad habits that are taking a toll on their appearance.

Exercising can be difficult, it is really boring, and the benefits you get from it are rarely apparent right away. It takes time… a daily investment that only gradually pays off.

It’s the same with music.

This record is a musical workout of sorts. It’s little more than a top flight band honing their craft on a simple but effective song that gives each of them the chance to flex their muscles some. It’s not designed to be impressive, only to keep them in shape.

Yet it winds up being impressive all the same because this isn’t the winded flabby novice just finishing up their first day lifting weights, but rather these are musicians who’ve been hitting the gym regularly for years and are already in the best shape of their lives.


Lather, Rinse, Repeat
When Frank Culley signed with Atlantic Records in 1949 it was the peak of the tenor sax revolution in rock and he was their first headliner who fell under that designation. The label had two other stars in that department, Red Prysock and Johnny Griffin, but they were merely in the bands of Tiny Grimes and Joe Morris respectively and it was those names who got the credit when the songs featuring them scored big.

A lot has changed in a year’s time however as Grimes and Morris both left Atlantic for greener pastures. Morris returned to the fold fairly quickly but did so without Griffin in tow and consequently he upon his return he began featuring a female vocalist which took him out of the instrumental sweepstakes, leaving the field wide open for Culley.

But sax instrumentals, while still popular enough to draw interest, weren’t notching a lot of huge hits anymore and Culley was now finding himself struggling to come up with something that would keep him viable as the rock landscape changed around him.

Not surprisingly he did what a lot of artists in the same situation have done, and will continue to do, when faced with diminished sales… they revisit an older hit.

For Culley that hit was After Hour Session, an atmospheric mood piece that would’ve been a lot better had they dropped the convoluted hep-cat vocalizing behind the music. Even with that dragging it down the record was still halfway decent and Culley and pianist Van Walls were both exemplary in their roles.

So for Gone After Hours, which was such a thinly veiled attempt to recapture the best aspects of their hit that the session logs wrote in parenthesis After Hours Session Number Two, they made the wise decision to eliminate the flaws of that big selling record and focus on spotlighting the best aspects of it instead.

Naturally it didn’t sell nearly as well… but that doesn’t mean it was a bad decision by any means, at least if you care about the sounds coming out of the speakers more than the coins people drop into the jukebox to hear it played.


Take It Fast, Take It Slow
Let’s start by reassuring people that the two records sharing a similar title by Culley are by no means identical, even without the annoying spoken ad-libs that marred the last one. That said however the basic concept is indeed the same – a lazy late night jam with a contemplative mood and that’s definitely a good thing since that’s what worked so well the first time around.

The changes they make to Gone After Hours however are what elevate it considerably, starting with the fact this has far more of a traditional structure to it. Whereas on “After Hours” you had Van Walls basically spending the first half of the record searching for a melody, almost sketching out his part in real time which gave it a unique feel but more from a fly-on-the-wall perspective, this time around he’s got his part worked out in advance and so it actually comes across as a performance rather than a form of halting improvisation.

The pace is still slow, his left hand inching along slowly establishing the methodical bass pattern while his right keeps things lively with a lot of skittering arpeggios and other showy techniques that give you something new to focus on while the bassline works its way into your subconscious.

The first transition from piano lead to saxophone lead is only temporary but remarkably effective as Culley eases in during a more intense section only to pull back and hand things back to Walls who closes that part out before once again receding to the background to let Culley have the spotlight to himself for the next stretch.

Like his partner Culley is taking things at a moderate pace for the most part and as long as the piano keeps that hypnotic drug-like pull of the simple bass pattern from lagging then it almost doesn’t matter what else is played because you can’t break free of it.

But Culley didn’t get the nickname “Floorshow” for being a wallflower and as he goes on he starts to mimic the frantic right hand of Walls by using a stuttering technique on his horn to create some excitement. He never resorts to outright squealing to draw attention to himself but he comes pretty close to it while still keeping it grounded just enough to prevent it from being exploitative.

Lights Out
For a song that still is pretty mellow, this has a lot more going on within that framework than you’d expect to find which means it’s never a dull listen and while you can understand how it wasn’t dynamic enough to become a hit, it’s not something that would ever be cast aside once it started playing.

Maybe the best advertisement for it is to say that if you want an easy to understand example of polyrhythm this is definitely your record. The rhythmic underpinning of the song is what holds your interest while the various soloing runs on both Culley’s sax and the piano of Van Walls is designed to draw your attention away from it. One pulls, the other pushes.

None of this is very difficult maybe but it doesn’t have to be. Gone After Hours keeps you satisfied with a minimum of effort providing a perfect late night backdrop for almost anything you might be involved in.

Whether the excitement of some illicit rendezvous in the dark or navigating the bed spins as you wait to pass out from a night of serious drinking, this will take you by the hand and lead you wherever you want to go.


(Visit the Artist page of Frank Culley for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)