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RPM 376; DECEMBER 1952



One of the drawbacks to being an aspiring rock artist in Los Angeles in the early 1950’s was also one of the benefits.

There were a lot of local record companies catering to this audience which meant that while there was always a pool of inexperienced acts to draw from and replace you if your first efforts didn’t pay off for them, you in turn had the opportunity to try any one of the other labels doing business around town who’d be happy to give you a shot.

So it was for Gene Forrest whose first release on Recorded In Hollywood last fall did good business, but they soon divested themselves of him, presumably to focus on more promising artists, which meant he was back on the streets looking for a home.

But not for long because the notorious Bihari Brothers had two labels whose release rolls needed filling.

If Forrest thought John Dolphin had ripped him off at his last stop, now he was really entering the big leagues when it came to nefarious criminal enterprises preying on hopeful young artists.


You Took My Love And Broke My Heart
Just so nobody thinks I’m taking undue pleasure in ripping the Biharis unnecessarily – which I gladly would – when they see that Gene Forrest is the only name listed as songwriter on the label, keep in mind that that’s only what the company chooses to print. In reality they listed it under Forrest and Taub when submitting it for copyright, meaning Jules Bihari stole his usual half of someone else’s composition… business as usual for this gang of thieves.

It’s not often we say that someone was lucky for not getting a hit with a deserving record, but maybe in this case we will because not only would Forrest have lost more money, but who knows how the Biharis would’ve tried to tie him up with a lifetime contract if he’d succeeded right out of the gate.

Of course considering he faced the same fate with ANOTHER of the Los Angeles companies down the road, maybe he was just putting off the inevitable… all of which is to say that if you had musical talent in the Nineteen Fifties you probably would’ve been better off keeping it to yourself.

But I digress.

The good news about his indentured servitude with RPM Records is that Aching And Crying provided Forrest with the opportunity to get some more experience in a studio, a little more exposure around town, as well as to be reminded of the slimy nature of the business as the record was cut in summer but not released until right before Christmas.

It never charted, not even locally, but that’s not for a lack of quality, for while this might not be the stuff of a national hit, there’s definite signs here that he’s got it in him to come with one or two (or three) down the road with a little more work.

Crying For You Baby ‘Cause I’m In Love With You
Right away, if you’re any kind of rock fan at all, you’ll notice a distinct melodic similarity to countless other songs. Some more well known, others less, some taken a bit faster, others slower, but all sharing the same loping progression that Gene Forrest uses here.

It’s one of those common frameworks, kind of like musical knock-knock jokes where you can insert all sorts of set-ups and punchlines without necessarily ripping somebody else off because you’ve borrowed the same basic construction.

The key of course is writing a good story to fit whatever arrangement you give it and that’s what Forrest does here, using rather simple tools but wielding them with precision while telling us of his own heartbreak.

With just that little teaser you probably could guess the entire storyline, and anything you were uncertain about could be figured out by looking at the Aching And Crying title he affixes to this. But while the basic outline is familiar to anyone who’s heard just a few dozen songs in their lives, and most of what he uses to illustrate his sorrow are stock examples of breakup songs, he strings them together with a deft touch, understanding the narrative still needs to unfold naturally rather than just be a series of grievances with the same feeling of hurt and betrayal at their core.

Instead Forrest offers up a solid game plan starting out by establishing his naivety with relationships leading to his high hopes and general happiness that all came crashing down and left him not just hurt, but incredulous over how it fell apart.

The individual lines may not be poetry but they’re all efficient explanations that perfectly suit the song, giving us the required information while maintaining the easy-going vocal flow it needs to remain appealing.

At the start you think it’s possible he’s still got a chance with her, maybe just because he’s keeping his emotions in check, but as he goes along his composure begins to unravel and though he never breaks down, he’s clearly singing this as a form of cathartic release.

Even with that sturdy architecture the strong support of the band is key in making you feel some sympathy for him. In giving Aching And Crying a constantly rolling backing, from the slow boogie piano that opens it to the gently riffing horns, including a laid back sax solo, and topped by some nice cracking drums in the turnarounds, you get the sense you’re always on solid ground and they’re not going to unnerve you with bad choices.

None of this would qualify as ambitious of course, but none of it ever steps wrong either. There’s a casual self-assurance here that is disarming, especially for a sad-hearted song about rejection. While they might not be breaking any new ground, it’s refreshing to see they’re treading so confidently along a well-worn, but still wide open, path.


Oh Why Did You Let Me Go
This is the kind of single that all rock-oriented record companies should covet.

Not that any of them would get rich because of it, certainly not the artists with owners like the Biharis writing the bouncing checks, but if you have a string of releases that consistently reach this level of… what? Competence? Quality? Efficacy? Take your pick… you’ll probably be in business a long time.

The reason being is that as a consumer you’ll know you’ve got a good chance of getting something of value without even having to take it for a test drive first. RPM won’t meet that goal obviously, nor will many companies actually, at least until peak-period Motown, but this is the type of record that makes for a good baseline for operations.

No, Aching And Crying isn’t some great lost should’ve been hit, but it’s clearly better than average and that’s always the realistic goal for artists and labels to aim for.

Sure, Gene Forrest probably isn’t dynamic enough to be a solo star, but he’s got obvious talent and though admittedly we’ve peaked ahead to know how he’ll come into his own, which is something record labels had no way of doing, listening to this you still had to be able to tell that he was somebody worth keeping around in the hopes he would continue to develop with more experience under his belt.

But here, though that development isn’t complete, the strides he’s making are enough to keep you satisfied… unless of course you’re a record company who thinks these artists are interchangeable and thus expendable, in which case means there’s always another stop or two to make for someone of his ilk around the corner.


(Visit the Artist page of Gene Forrest for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)