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FREEDOM 1536; APRIL 1950

 
 

 

One year.

That’s how long teenaged singer, songwriter and guitarist Goree Carter has been a professional recording artist and in that time arguably nobody in rock ‘n’ roll was better than he was.

All he has to show for it is… nothing.

No hits. No money. No name recognition. No lasting notoriety. No bright future to look forward to.

This release marks the end of his stint with star-crossed Freedom Records and after a year of pondering how someone so talented could have so little come of it we still don’t have any answers… only more questions.
 

 

Please Don’t Drown Me Out
A year ago this very month, in April 1949, we met then-18 year old Goree Carter on a revelatory record, the groundbreaking and massively influential Rock Awhile, a self-written ode to the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll featuring a distorted guitar workout that laid the foundation for virtually every wanna-be guitar-slinger in rock forever after.

If anything should’ve put Carter on the musical map at the time that explosive record was surely it, but surely due to the fact that Freedom Records had been in business less than a month at that point, and were owned by a complete novice in the industry no less, it failed to get the distribution and promotion necessary to make even regional charts.

But as a personal statement as to what Carter was capable of it couldn’t be beat and if nothing else should’ve tipped off music insiders that there was a new sound being heralded by a kid barely old enough to shave that was worth pursuing… not to mention pursuing the kid himself and trying to pry him away from a start-up company that didn’t have their act together yet.

Over the ensuing twelve months, though he never bested that initial showing, Carter has been – at least according to our subjective scoring, for whatever that’s worth – the most impressive rock act on record and yet he’s still no better off than where he started as he keeps looking for that breakout hit to get some traction in his career.

Come On Let’s Boogie should’ve been the record to do that… as you could say about his last record and the one before that and the one before that as well… for this too is head and shoulders above most any record coming out on any label by any artist anywhere in America.

But as we know lady luck not only never smiled on Goree Carter, she never even looked his way.
 


 

You Can Scream Like You Wanna
Though Carter would actually sign an extension with the record label around this time, one that in turn was dissolved when outside events interceded, you almost get the sense he’s aware this is a last shot of sorts because he’s giving us everything he’s been about these past twelve months distilled into one all out attack on our senses, hoping that maybe this time the public will be paying attention.

The intro for Come On, Let’s Boogie naturally features his guitar, utilizing a good stop-time technique and blaring with sonic dissonance thanks to an amplifier that was surely afraid for its life. Because of that it almost takes on the tonal qualities of a horn, which is a neat trick to pull especially when the actual horns come in after it to let you know they had nothing to do with that lead-in after all.

Of course with The Hep-Cats riding shotgun you knew he wasn’t handling this one alone and from the thwacking drum fills to the cartoon-like ominous prancing of those horns as they creep into the frame, you’re already captivated by the sounds they’re making – spooky, slightly disturbing, a little surprising yet beckoning to you to fall in line all the same.

Once they get their bearings however they, or should I say the horns, ease off that tense vibe they were giving off and settle into something a little more theatrical with the trumpet calling your attention to center stage as the curtain rises on the production.

As soon as Carter steps out of the wings he’s already up to speed, almost as if he’s calling a congregation to their feet at some holy roller festival, shouting his vocals with an exuberant infectious spirit that let’s you know right away that this a party, not a recital and everybody is encouraged to join in.

That being the case you probably wish the horns weren’t invited… well, at least these horns… the dainty upper crust horns from the high country rather than the lowbrow tenors and baritones from the other side of the tracks… and while they’re suitably boisterous it gives off a conflicting vibe. Carter sounds as if he’s ready to drop his pants and screw the first girl in sight while the horns sound as if they’re asking one another whether they know if their parking will be validated by the time they leave.

Oh well, it takes all kinds I suppose and a party is a party is a party and in these cases it’s best to take the cues from your host not your guests and in this shindig Goree Carter is more than ready to live it up.
 

No Standing In The Corner
Like most any really good party worth its reputation as a degenerate feast of the senses, there’s no real theme or structure to this bash. The lyrics are tasked with doing little more than simply setting the scene in fairly broad but universal themes, surely realizing that if you’re a rock fan you don’t need much instruction in this area.

Carter’s enthusiasm is evident and if his voice is a little too nasal to compete with the likes of Roy Brown or Wynonie Harris, the two most prominent party-throwers in rock circles to date, you can’t very well complain once he breaks out his guitar and shows he’s more than capable of raising enough of a ruckus with that to make up for any deficiency that can be laid elsewhere.

In many ways Come On Let’s Boogie the vocals are merely a framework for an instrumental record in disguise. Unlike most records of this sort which might have one extended solo for guitar or tenor sax, or perhaps two shorter solos for each lead instrument, this one features a prolonged break in which everybody gets in on the action with Carter kicking things off in righteous fashion by slicing off some wicked licks on his guitar.

The first half of his solo is given over the fiercer playing, a fuller tone and a more venomous mood. It’s not a lethal dose of it by any means, he’s gone much further on other records in the past, but it’s a reminder of just how powerful he can be without appearing to strain himself in the effort. When he downshifts to a more melodic drawn out conclusion to his standalone spot you’ve stopped recoiling from the shock and are now drawn into him, edging closer to hear each and every twist of the notes as he the squeezes life out of… or perhaps into… everything he plays.

Though Carter steps aside he’s handing over the reins to Sam Williams on tenor to try and match him. Williams doesn’t take the bait, wisely perhaps, choosing instead to ground the song with a series of melodic runs, the first of which features a nice full rich tone with plenty of resonance before the other horns jump in for a transition to allow Williams to change his approach for his second riff.

This one is a little more whimsical, getting close to flying off the rails for a second before he winds it back in. Another trumpet led interlude follows (and notice the slurring and ringing notes Carter adds during these to give it even more character) before Williams comes back for his third brief solo, one that is probably not going add anything really over-the-top by this point, but shows just how committed they were to giving the band its due and keeping listeners from having any respite from the excitement.
 


 

Pick Up On The Jive I’m Putting Down
Just to show how potent a performer Goree Carter had been, a record like this, vibrant and bristling with energy, is still a half degree below the best sides he’s put out in the past year. You can’t blame bad luck for that, blame the massed horns that play slightly too big a role, but even with that holding it back somewhat this is still top shelf material and further proof of Carter’s unwavering devotion to rock ‘n’ roll anarchy.

By this point you can’t even say that Freedom Records was entirely to blame, for despite having cut consistently better records by a wide array of artists than any other label with far less to show for it than even the most inept company had gotten during this time, they recently managed to score a huge regional hit with Big Joe Turner’s Adam Bit The Apple (which not coincidentally he wrote while hanging out with Carter who subsequently brought him to Freedom to cut it), so they clearly weren’t being black-balled by distributors or anything.

So why then didn’t Come On Let’s Boogie make any noise of its own? It’s the right sound in the right era for the right audience. It was written and recorded for the right reasons – artistic ambition rather than commercial pandering – and it’s not as if by the spring of 1950 rock ‘n’ roll itself was having any trouble being heard or taken seriously by jukebox ops, retail distributors or even some renegade radio outlets.

Maybe it was just bad luck after all. Or maybe it was a case of two guys, Saul Kahl, who owned Freedom Records, and Goree Carter, his star talent, being just a little too passive for their own good. Rather than hustle and cajole and force their way into the picture and making their own luck, they felt talent would be enough. Maybe in the end all they really required was a different mindset.

We don’t know the reason for their troubles in getting heard and likely never will, but in the final analysis the reason itself doesn’t even matter, only the outcome. With the failure of this one last great record to change their fortunes that outcome was now clear: Goree Carter’s luck had just run out.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Goree Carter for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)