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MACY’S 5010; AUGUST 1950



When you come home, be it from school, work or rambling around aimlessly, and are asked by whoever greets you at the door how your day went there’s a tendency, whether good or bad, to not really delve into too much detail unless something particularly noteworthy happened.

You might offer a chipper sounding “Good” and certainly if you grumble a melancholy, “Terrible” there will be some explanation that goes with it, but the majority of people on the majority of days probably just answer with a noncommittal “Eh”.

Neither good nor bad, certainly not memorable, the days most human beings endure tend to blend into one another… a not dissimilar fate as the reaction to records being released at any given time.


What Must I Do
A singer like Hubert Robinson is an easy target if you want to be cruel. Armed with a nondescript voice, slightly nasal at times to boot, and no strong personality that came across on record, he was largely beholden to the material as well as the backing band and their arranging choices if he wanted to make any headway in his career.

Here he’s batting oh for three in those departments.

Kicking off with a concise and fairly pleasant saxophone and piano to set a mid-tempo groove the song quickly loses that musical focus in a matter of seconds once Robinson comes in, slightly out of sync with the now dreadfully wandering instruments we just modestly complimented.

The piano is the first offender you’ll notice, hammering away without any idea of why. Is he trying to establish a rhythm? If so he’d be smarter to try and stick closer to Robinson’s cadences than happens here, as his triplets are too quick and too drunken sounding to deliver anything other than a racket which distracts you from paying closer attention to the story.

But the pianist is quickly usurped by the saxman who seems to forget what song he’s playing and promptly stumbles around in the dark trying to find the light switch. He’s bumping into furniture, banging into door frames and tripping over the rug and yet he still keeps blowing away, thinking I suppose that eventually he might accidentally hit the right note.

He never does and because of them you can see why they named this Bad Luck And Trouble after the two aimless musicians.

The good thing though, if you can call it that, is they never try and overstep their parts and think they’re the focal point of the record and so as clumsy and unwieldy as it might be at times, it just sort of passes by without much notice unless you’re specifically tasked with analyzing it second by second.

But since that’s our job here we can’t help but notice and point it out, much to their eternal chagrin.


Now Here Comes The Blues
Which brings us to Hubert Robinson himself, a man who if he’s smart should WANT us to focus more on the musicians adding little of note to the proceedings here because the more we criticize them the less time we’ll have to find fault with his own performance which is just as shaky as the band.

The difference though is the band can largely escape under cover of anonymity whereas Robinson’s name is plastered on the label leaving him no way to duck responsibility for the record’s shortcomings.

To be fair Bad Luck And Trouble has a few glimmers of creativity buried under the sloppy effort in front of the microphones. For starters while the plot itself is pretty standard issue – a guy bemoaning his lot in life – there are ways to express this which can reveal creativity.

By the sounds of it Robinson had some good ideas in this regard but tripped up in the execution of it, both on the floor while singing but also in the polishing stage where he should’ve worked out the ideas better.

The most egregious example of this is when he adds extra words in the bit about bad luck and trouble holding hands completely ruining the lyrical scansion which causes an otherwise good line to fall flat. What we get is an awkward sounding “holding hand in hand” rather than keeping it a more succinct and sensible “holding hands” because he surely thought the use of the plural in hands would clash with the singular woman when the real problem was his delivery on the latter which makes it sound forced.

But that’s indicative of the entire record because it’s also just not a smooth performance. He sounds unsteady, as if the sluggish pace of the band was hampering him. But that’s what Take Two is for, either getting them to speed things up to let him coast on the rhythm better, or after hearing how they were approaching it at a slower tempo then he could downshift his reading to match them. Instead they trip each other up and Robinson sounds as inebriated as the pianist had earlier in the record.

Doubtful that was the case, not because either one of them was necessarily opposed to liquor, but rather because if you’d taken a few snorts before the tapes rolled you’d sound as if you were having a lot more fun than Robinson does here.


Hear Me Crying
Naturally a B-side to a single that didn’t sell much delivered by a non-essential artist on a minor label that wasn’t long for this world doesn’t mean much in the big scheme of things, but it was indicative of the shot in the dark mentality of the recording scene that produced rock ‘n’ roll in the first place.

Clearly Macy’s Recordings couldn’t have had very high hopes for Hubert Robinson to begin with but they could’ve worked better to ensure his releases had a bit more polish than Bad Luck And Trouble, which frankly sounds more like a rejected outtake than a commercially available product they’d want to promote.

Robinson himself, though not in possession of an abundance of skills, was at least competent enough as a songwriter and singer to take a little more care in his performance than he shows here, and the same goes for the studio musicians who should’ve taken ten minutes to talk over what they were going to play and run through it once or twice so it could be tightened up.

Instead this has all the hallmarks of a rush job. A way for a company to get a record on the market and simply hope for the best, as if some magic musical fairy will grant them a hit they were undeserving of for something this haphazard.

But more often than not as consumer that’s what you can expect. Maybe not sounding this off-kilter but for the most part the records you heard – provided you heard them all – would do nothing for you. They’d be white noise in the background, their overall instrumental sound, the lyrical tidbits you heard floating by and the general mood of the singer all doing just enough to let you know what it was but not making you care enough to be interested beyond that.

So when you came home from wherever it was you encountered this one and your Mom or your spouse or your inquisitive pet turtle asked how your record spinning went that day, chances are the answer would be a simple “Eh” which tells you nothing of note, but in a way also kinda says it all.


(Visit the Artist page of Hubert Robinson for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)