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MGM 10899; JANUARY 1951

 
 

 

A tale of two mindsets…

Here’s what to do if you’re an artist seeking transient popularity and at the same time looking to appease your record label’s constant striving for mainstream pop approval.

Conversely here’s what NOT to do if you care at all about artistic integrity and solidifying your standing with the core rock fan-base who propelled you to these heights to begin with.

The actions in both cases are identical, the results in the marketplace may even be the same, but how you are being perceived when releasing such a record couldn’t be more different.
 

 

This Time It’s Different… No, Actually It’s Not And That’s The Problem
As stated countless times before, record companies could care less about music. To them it’s merely a product, like green beans or floor wax… something to be mass produced and sold with as little fuss as possible.

Unfortunately for them consumers don’t merely grab a a record off the store shelves like the would canned beans and don’t simply take a look at the dirty kitchen and realize they need to go buy some wax to get it looking good again.

In other words record buyers actually do care about the music contained within, something that continually thwarts the company’s shallow attempts to manufacture it without any real creative effort.

But that doesn’t stop them from trying to cut corners such as essentially remaking a previous hit, thus forcing artists, even artists like Ivory Joe Hunter who generally speaking has far too many ideas rolling around his brain to get all of them out of his head and onto wax, to push those aside to make room for a desperate artistic compromise like I Found My Baby in the name of commercial pandering.

We obviously don’t condone this kind of shameless behavior but out of respect for a pretty humble and dignified artist we’ll try and keep the rebuke as brief as possible and assure him that it’ll probably hurt us as much as it does him.
 


 
 

I Know Just Who I Meet
Let’s be as generous as we can to Hunter’s approach to this forced servitude and say that he’s structuring this as an obvious sequel to I Almost Lost My Mind rather than trying to disguise his intent under the auspices of something altogether new, but while that gets him off the hook ever so slightly when it comes to charges of deception, it does not absolve him from the more serious charges of repetition.

Basically if you want to cut a sequel – and we’d have to ask, why on earth WOULD you, these are three minute songs, not two hour films – you still need to deviate more from the melodic path the first record traveled.

You can hint at a certain passage or two but you can’t just replicate it down the line and call it a day.

Hunter tries to sidestep that charge momentarily on I Found My Baby by leading it off differently enough that for a few seconds you aren’t sure what’s coming, but obviously he can’t keep that up and still satisfy the company’s needs for a duplication of a widely known melody so he reverts back to it within seconds and from there your hopes fall.

Of course the melody itself remains as appealing as ever but if we want to hear it again we’d just play the older record because that one had original inspiration seeping from its grooves. This one on the other hand has crass exploitation creating a foul stench as it plays that not even Hunter’s dexterous abilities can fully mask.

Maybe we should actually give him credit for putting so little effort into this song, as he merely takes the lyrics of the first song and flips the outcome to show that the girl he was in love with back then has responded well to his initial plea.

Wonderful. We’ll be sure to send them a nice housewarming gift… like maybe a record we bought that turned out to be nothing more than a recycled hit we’ve already had our fill of.

Mmm, then again I’m not sure they’d appreciate the irony.

But then again again, I don’t appreciate the lack of a new song for my seventy nine cents so I guess that would make us even.
 

Don’t Need No Gypsy… Just A More Appropriate Band
The one change that Hunter does make on this still mildly pleasant sounding debacle is the shift to a more pop oriented arrangement. It’s not as if he was necessarily slumming in the alleys the first time around however as with that one he’d reduced the primary accompaniment to a lone trumpet to create an eerily stark mood that perfectly reflected his despair.

Here, because as he tells us, I Found My Baby, he’s got to be in a better mood and yet rather than make this rock harder, throwing in some riffing saxes, a more prominent bass line and some frantic fills on his piano to reflect that happiness which at least would’ve shown he wasn’t averse to taking a risk, he instead wants to show… I guess we’ll call it “domestic bliss”, or as a cynic might say instead, “a life of boring contentment”.

To this end he employs a fuller horn section but one reliant on the classier instruments – trumpet, trombone and alto along with a fairly mild tenor sax – and has them play overlapping charts, that is the horns are split up on two corresponding parts that mesh together by the end of a lot of the lines, a typical pop approach that suggests melodic tranquility.

None of them are blowing hard, none of them have an eye on creating any rhythm, none of them are looking to be stirring up any excitement. This is music for a Sunday evening, not a Saturday night.

Or to put it another way, this is music that is easily forgotten and will never be missed.
 


 

It Was All A Big Mistake
We didn’t need to know the fate of Hunter’s character after last winter’s aching confessional, in fact it was more poignant if we didn’t.

Stories with sad or ambiguous endings show a confidence in their audience that these artificially upbeat – though sadly not uptempo – sequels do not.

Instead songs like I Found My Baby are for the simpleminded peasants who apparently need to be spoon fed drivel to feel better about the non-existent love lives of musicians.

The odd thing is this record was cut in May of 1950 at a time when two other of his songs had soared up the charts, the best of which, I Need You So, was just days away from residing at #1 itself. All three of these initial successes were original ideas with unique melodies and different enough from one another to show that Ivory Joe Hunter didn’t need to resort to this kind of chicanery to sustain a hit-making career.

Too bad nobody at MGM was listening. More pointedly though it’s good for us that nobody listened to this warmed over stew when it finally came out, thus sparing us more of the same from somebody who had plenty of other musical itches to scratch and didn’t need to waste his time – and ours – on revisiting something we’d already digested.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Ivory Joe Hunter for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)