No tags :(

Share it

MGM 11263; JUNE 1952



Time has a way of changing impressions… for good and for bad.

In the case of Ivory Joe Hunter we appreciated his willingness to try a wide array of different approaches, even though many of them frustrated us, but at his best we celebrated his way with a melody and his penchant for poignant lyrics.

When he left King Records for MGM at the end of the decade he launched that stage of his career with three hits, two of which went to #1, and he seemed poised to be rock’s preeminent star, maybe even with the ability to cross over into mainstream American consciousness.

But since then his career trajectory has nosedived as he’s released bad to middling records with exceedingly tame stylistic aims suitable to MGM’s overall worldview. The problem is they aren’t selling anymore and so the label stopped promoting him altogether, dragging his once bright star to the dark side of the moon.

We know his career resurgence is imminent but as of the spring of 1952 that hope was more like a pipe dream and so we’re left to look for signs of creative life amidst tracks rock fans otherwise would probably avoid.


Tired Of Being All Alone
Normally when a rock artist finds success on an independent label and then jumps to a major label, even a junior grade major like MGM, it’s not hard to see the company meddling with the artist’s proven formula as they try and smooth over the rough edges and make their newest signee acceptable to their board of directors and the intended buttoned-down audience they usually cater to.

We’ve seen it when The Blenders landed at Decca and their mentors The Ravens went to Columbia and then Mercury. Columbia also dialed down the early promise shown by The Five Scamps and you can argue that RCA would do the same (though get away with it) when they signed Elvis Presley a few years down the road.

So the idea that MGM was going to get Ivory Joe Hunter to conform to a mannered musical approach was hardly unexpected… hell, MGM themselves had every intention of doing it I’m sure… but Hunter beat them to it on his own because he was constantly throwing hints that he might envision himself as another Nat Cole or something.

Before long though he’d usually change his mind and give us more appropriate fare every now and then to keep us from turning our backs on him altogether.

The top side of this, I Thought I Had Loved (Until I Met You), however looks like capitulation to the pop aesthetic in every conceivable way. It’s a song that would have most rock fans of 1952 who wandered in out of the mist scratching their head that THIS guy was ever considered a rock act, let alone had more hits in the field than any other artist of the late 1940’s! About the only thing that makes it notable is how it features an… interesting?… spoken intro which sort of compels you to keep listening long after you might otherwise give up to go outside and play in traffic, but for beyond that it might be the nadir of his MGM stint.

The same isn’t true of I Get That Lonesome Feeling however.

Don’t get excited, it’s a long, LONG ways off from his best sides for the company, but at least the performance features something resembling a pulse which means – if my twelve and a half minutes of medical training was legitimate – that Ivory Joe Hunter, rock ‘n’ roller, might still be among the living.

Barely breathing maybe, but not quite ready for the pine box just yet.

My Heart’s In So Much Misery
The horns… the good and the bad rolled into one to kick this off.

We get a saxophone playing a deeper somewhat gaseous riff which at least has its foot in rock ‘n’ roll conceivably, only to then be answered by the other horns who have likely never heard of, listened to, or acknowledged rock ‘n’ roll’s existence.

Welcome to an Ivory Joe Hunter session, which is kind of like playing matchmaker for opposing political party members in 2023.

The good ones, by which I mean the woke sax player, are willing to dance and show a little skin. The pious judgmental brass section with their reeds up their butt are scolding them with a sour look on their face.

Hunter, to his credit, sides with the better half of the spectrum, although tries not to piss of the other group too much in the process. His singing is fairly placid by any measure, but you don’t have to strain very hard to hear some genuine yearning in his voice and… dare I suggest… some faint rhythm in his delivery.

Now all of you who think this suggests he must be a heathen under those glasses, don’t worry, this is not going to evolve into a drunken orgy with Ivory Joe holding up a topless secretary by the ankles to do a keg stand, but at the very least there just might be something slipped in that fruit punch besides melon balls and sherbet.

The melody is good, the lyrics are an accurate description of someone claiming I Get That Lonesome Feeling, even as it becomes a little too rote in the second half, and Hunter’s definitely embodying the character mindset, even showing a good deal of life down the stretch for a change.

Maybe the one disappointment we have is that it wasn’t written by him, but rather Adam Vance, though you could see Ivory Joe coming up with something similar in nature. On one hand I suppose that’s good in that it fits in with the image of Hunter we have based on our long history with him… but then again you’d hope if they were accepting outside contributions it might be to get material that would shake up his contented outlook.

Instead it’s more of the same… tolerable enough, even if it’s not going to be something you’ll come back to very willingly after it ends.

How’s that for a recommendation that better things are on the horizon?


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