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CORAL 65058; JULY 1951

 
 

 

Talk about a poignant, heartbreaking title for an artist who has already seen his best shot at stardom come and go in the blink of an eye.

Though this opportunity to cut for the rock-leaning subsidiary of a major record label (Decca) should be one that could get him the acclaim he’s long deserved, it too will end without any commercial headway being made as he found himself cut loose after just one session.

More and more it appeared that the chances he asked for so earnestly were now beginning to run out.
 

 

Make Up For Our Lost Romance
Oh what it must’ve been like for major record companies in the mid-Twentieth Century who were used to putting on airs to have to face the increasingly obvious truth that their buttoned-down existence was no longer going to be enough to dominate the market.

Certainly none of them expected the complete upheaval coming, but by 1951 they sensed that the demographics they’d roundly ignored or only paid patronizing attention to for years were growing more commercially powerful as new independent record labels were springing up by the day and scoring sizable hits with rock ‘n’ roll since as far back as 1947.

When the majors reluctantly tried to make overtures to rock audiences they did so with older acts who would be easier to conform to their standards which in turn meant they were rarely palatable for rock fans, so as of late they’ve turned to creating subsidiary labels to handle this outlet. Columbia just re-started the OKeh label and Decca was ramping up their Coral imprint.

On the surface this was a good idea… it’d take away the stigma of the major’s reputation when it came to the target demographic who avoided those because they’d been so poorly served by their offerings in the past, and theoretically the subsidiaries would be allowed to break from the parent label’s outdated ideas regarding acceptable content.

Yet those tentacles proved much stickier and harder to escape than you’d think as Coral had assembled a series of poorly qualified cast-offs up until now that had virtually no chance of establishing them as players in this field. Goree Carter though should’ve been different. Just twenty years old and already a studio veteran playing behind countless other artists from Big Joe Turner to local also-rans, as well as heading up his own sessions, he was an artist they conceivably could build the label’s image around.

Instead they had him in for only one session of which Tell Me Is There Still A Chance was clearly B-side material, but in letting him show off a different approach from the A-side, a slower more contemplative side with bluesier elements woven in – he’s giving Coral alternative directions to consider going forward.

Though this isn’t the one we’d choose when trying to market him, I suppose at this stage of the game for him it never hurts to have options.
 


 
 

Things Don’t Seem The Same
The hesitant guitar that opens this obviously sets a much different mood than we got on the top side and with that deliberate pace comes a morose vocal which unfortunately accentuates Goree Carter’s weakest attributes.

Like many nasal voiced singers the effect is heightened the slower he draws out each line and although it’s fairly obvious that he’s using that technical shortcoming as a plot device, as Tell Me Is There Still A Chance is written in a way to project his misery, as a purely aural experience it’s a lot harder to get into as a result of his vocal stuffiness.

The lyrical perspective however isn’t bad and in someone else’s hands I think the way he approaches this would be better appreciated, allowing us to savor the lines a little more, but then again with a more vibrant voice the effect he’s going for would be lost which sort of cancels those prospective gains out.

Because he’s sticking to such a crawling pace it also becomes more about establishing mood rather than revealing details, not only because the sorrow he feels is omnipresent thanks to his delivery, but also because there’s fewer lines he’s got to work with in order to flesh out the story some more.

The musical side doesn’t have these inherent conflicts working against it and consequently comes off a little better, specifically the judicious way he utilizes his guitar, adding to the meditative qualities of the record.

As soul crushing as all of this this might be on the surface there are a few elements that lighten the weight of it all, from the tenor sax popping up to offer some more bouyant sounds and the spry piano filling in the cracks to add a brighter contrast to the downbeat nature of it all. Even Carter chips in with a few shimmering lines on guitar – one midway through is really nice – which helps to keep the song from becoming too oppressive sonically.

Still, it’s largely trying to get you to share in his dejected mood, not escape from it, so the blues-touches are ramped up during the guitar solo, the downcast vocals don’t slack off and the resolution of the story finds him begging for a mercy that he’s likely never receive.
 


 

Mistreat You I Would Never Dare
Though there’s nothing wrong with the idea here – diversifying your output is highly recommended in general – and the song is fairly well written and performed, the drawbacks to this from a rock fan’s perspective are pretty clear.

By emphasizing his least attractive vocal persona and by leaning more heavily towards the blues idiom in how it’s structured, Tell Me Is There Still A Chance is something of a Catch-22 for Carter’s prospects.

It’s not exciting enough – musically or vocally – to appeal to rock audiences and while his playing is fine, it’s not anything that is going to get someone to sit up and take notice of his most distinguished feature as a performer, so it would appear to be a side that was destined to be stillborn in the marketplace.

But on the rare chance that it DID find a receptive ear, it would invariably send him down an entirely different stylistic path to capitalize on this approach in the future, and while we couldn’t begrudge him any success, the fact that he’d long rejected bluesier material in favor of rock, even when his old company started off by asking him to basically focus on blues instead, was one of his more admirable traits.

To have him forced to admit he’d been wrong should this break through for him would be a bitter pill to swallow.

Obviously that didn’t happen and so this was a moot point, but while we can say that this type of song wasn’t what he did best, the fact he still had it as a hole card to play was probably to his advantage, especially now that his landing spots for cutting records seemed to be shrinking by the day.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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