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In boxing there’s a widely known saying: Styles make fights.

What that means is two undisciplined punchers swinging wildly at one another for a few rounds is bound to be an exciting fight, whereas two defensive minded and more technically skilled boxers will put you to sleep with their cautious approach.

Musically the same is true, for while Goree Carter is at his best on uptempo rockers, the band he’s paired with here were ill-equipped to match him on the top side, turning an otherwise really good song into something slightly underwhelming.

Here though, faced with a lesser tune on paper and one that doesn’t take advantage of Carter’s greatest strength as a singer, we find he and the band on the same page throughout, making this arguably a more suitable pairing for the two “combatants”.


If You Wish To Enjoy It
As much as we gravitate towards the high octane performances of rock’s best acts, what tends to elevate them in the big scheme of things is their ability – or just their willingness – to switch things up and bring a different approach to the table from time to time.

The same tactics repeated ad nauseum get old after awhile no matter how good somebody is at them… just ask The Orioles who churn out the same basic songs with identical arrangements all the time which drives us crazy when they’re clearly capable of so much more.

By throwing something different into the mix it forces listeners to stay alert, to actually take the time to listen to each new release with an open mind rather than let pre-existing impressions taint their views, and it of course also provides artists and record companies alike with a slightly greater chance to attract a new audience, or at least to expand the audience they’ve already gotten.

Goree Carter always kept this in mind and while it’s his barn-burning tracks like Rock Awhile and She’s Just Old Fashioned which ensured his legacy, the fact he had some quality ballads and more experimental sides scattered among them is what gives his broader catalog added character and depth.

Everybody’s Love Crazy has a title that might’ve made for a good uptempo song, but instead it’s an introspective ballad that takes full advantage of the slightly under-powered studio band he’s forced to adapt to now that he’s recording on a new label, shorn of the aggressive Hep-Cats who backed him on Freedom Records.

In fact, the band who we criticized, cringed at and cursed for their over-reliance on the high end horns on Let’s Rock yesterday are more than holding their own with Carter here and at times adding enough solid attributes of their own to rebound nicely with this more modest offering.

Nothin’ But A Heart Pain
All of the time spent on these pages bemoaning the crying trumpets and droning high pitched saxes on past reviews we kept insisting that it was nothing personal. It wasn’t a vendetta against the instruments, the musicians or the abilities they showed on those many desultory sides, but rather it was a case of knowing what works where… and why.

Go back to the adage that opened this review. Styles make fights… just as instruments are suited for certain styles that compliment an artist when he wants to fight… or something like that.

In other words, trumpets work great in jazz, not so great in rock, just like accordions might be the cornerstone of polka and zydeco but have to be used sparingly in rock because it doesn’t fit the general motif.

But when any of those are used properly and in smaller doses they can become a valuable asset, as is shown here on Everybody’s Love Crazy where the alto sax of that opens this sets the proper despondent mood which is then picked up on subtly by the trumpet that discreetly backs Carter during the vocals alongside a sluggish piano and a few surprisingly vibrant accent notes by his own guitar.

The pace is achingly slow, the rhythm all but non-existent, the instrumental flourishes brief and decidedly limited in their scope, and yet it all fits perfectly with the downcast story and Carter’s world-weary delivery warning us about the pitfalls of love from somebody who’s obviously been burned in the past.

Though we might have a tendency to dismiss his warnings knowing that he’s only saying it because he was hurt in a recent relationship and thus his trashing the entire concept of romantic bliss is an understandable overreaction, the points he’s making aren’t bitter and small-minded, but rather pretty accurate broad observations about how “Love will make you jealous and it will make you act the fool”.

He’s not painting this as the be-all and end-all of relationship advice, but rather showing one specific side of it coming from a position of hurt and so it never fails to ring true if looked at from that perspective, his voice dripping with internal anguish that he’s trying to expel from his soul by the mere act of voicing these feelings aloud in the hopes that by doing so he’ll work his way free again and can promptly chase after the first good looking girl who crosses his path.


Things They Wouldn’t Do
Before he gets to that inevitable juncture however he’s got the band’s collective shoulders to cry on and here’s where they redeem themselves for the poor decision to let their leader, Henry Hayes on alto, handle the bulk of the action on the rave-up side when they had Ed Wiley’s tenor collecting dust playing in consequential filler notes in the background.

On Everybody’s Love Crazy the alto is just what the doctor – or producer – called for, lending this a mournful tone, one that can’t help but cast a pall over the record that Carter requires if he’s going to wallow in his misery.

If instead Wiley took the lead on this it’d have thrown the balance off entirely, giving it too much energy and bravado to match Goree’s mood. But Hayes’s alto strikes the right chord, more suited for the slower pace as well as the dejected outlook.

Then there’s the much maligned trumpet which is built for just such an endeavor. It’s not surprising that’s the instrument which is called on top play “Taps” at funerals and while it barely pokes its bell out of the shadows during this, you never fail to pick up on the almost morbid atmosphere it brings to the table.

Finally we have Carter himself, a guitarist whose fleet fingers, harsh chording and at times almost uncontrollable energy make him a natural fit on the explosive rockers he made his reputation on, but whose versatility on the instrument shouldn’t be undersold.

Here he tosses in a few more dynamic moments but never in a way that overwhelms the aura the others create. Instead he’s using his guitar for momentary color, something to replicate the razor’s edge his character is walking during this gut-wrenching self-examination and it works really well even without giving us the kind of extended workout that we’ve come to eagerly anticipate on his best sides.

Get Love Out Of Your Mind
Is this one of those “best sides”? No, it’s not, but is it a serviceable one for him and the band, something which shows off his lesser acclaimed attributes fairly well?

Yeah, that it is.

Now even so there’s no way that a well-judged ballad like Everybody’s Love Crazy that succeeds largely because it isn’t trying to do too much is going to surpass a somewhat poorly judged arrangement on a more appropriate musical prototype for Carter’s skill set.

But whereas the flaws of Let’s Rock became glaring because we knew what it should’ve been if they had a better game plan, with this side we can appreciate the merits of a well-conceived plan of attack, even one that’s less ambitious and explosive by design.

Styles make fights and while this isn’t the slug-fest we’d want to see Goree Carter engaged in if given a choice, it’s also not one that’s going to leave you frustrated or let-down if you take it simply for what it is. In that sense you might understand why when the final bell rang this one was called a draw.


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