No tags :(

Share it

MGM 10995; JUNE 1951



Whenever anyone says they’re cutting somebody some slack… look out.

These attempts may be well-intentioned but rarely are those being given the benefit of the doubt worthy of such leniency. More often than not it comes down to a personal relationship someone may have cultivated with the person in question, or maybe a professional courtesy that would never be granted to a slightly more deserving figure from outside their narrow vocation.

Yet while these incidences are fairly common in all walks of life there’s hardly ever a time when those granted some reprieve are actually grateful for such an act, determined to do better in the future and live up to the trust placed in them along the way.

So that is why when we tell you that we’re cutting Ivory Joe Hunter some slack by reviewing this warmed over pop-leaning reworking of his biggest hit, you should quickly turn the page and read something else that’s actually worth your time and attention.


I Also Lost My Way
Despite what you may have come to believe reading some of the reviews on these pages, pop music is not a dirty word. It’s perfectly fine for what it is musically and a necessary benchmark with which to measure the comparative radicalism of rock ‘n’ roll.

But that doesn’t mean the two can peacefully coexist in the same artist and certainly not in the same record.

Ivory Joe Hunter was one rock figure who continually tried to test that theory, much to our consternation. Thirty years down the road he may have been allowed to become a respected pop star but in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s black male singers who had done so were few and far between. The bar of acceptance he frequently tried to reach was that of Nat Cole, another piano playing crooner, but American society was sure to resist having TWO of them infiltrating their airwaves and so Hunter was resigned to fitting into rock ‘n’ roll, however awkwardly at times that fit may have been.

At his best he was a welcome presence… a great songwriter with introspective lyrics and a warm slightly soulful voice. At other times his predilection for mellow pop, not to mention light jazz and mild country music, made him stick out like a sore thumb.

Following a relative downturn in his commercial fortunes after a string of huge hits in the black community had gotten him no closer to crossover stardom When I Lost You was a concerted effort to do a few different things.

Using the melodic framework of his most enduring record he was clearly trying to capture lightning in a bottle a second time and get another hit out of it in the hopes of remaining commercially relevant in his own field. But at the same time in lightening up that sound with a more sophisticated arrangement and easing off on the urgency in his vocal which risked being taken the wrong way, he was also hoping to reach the pop audience who hadn’t been receptive to the original song the first time around.

Oh yeah, he was also surely trying to frustrate the hell out of us in the rock world in the process.


Oh, How You Hurt My Heart
When you hear the trumpet scaling the walls of the pop-jazz neighborhood like a thief in the night out to steal our souls you wonder why we’d bother to cut Hunter any slack if this is how he’s going to repay us.

But then the faint recognition of a familiar melody creeps into your consciousness and you give yourself a few moments to get acclimated to see where this might lead.

Though nowhere near as compelling as I Almost Lost My Mind where it originated, there’s still plenty of mileage in this gently swaying tune and, maybe against your better judgement, you let him stay, keeping a close eye on him the whole time, but gradually letting your guard down.

Of course the story isn’t going to help his cause any as When I Lost You removes the sneakily resilient spirit he’d shown in that previous #1 hit and in its place is a morose recounting of a similar theme absent the lighter touches and catchier hooks.

That’s the odd thing about this record, the basic melody is the same, almost enough for this to qualify as a sequel, yet the ways in which he twists it to avoid the charge of straight musical regurgitation all make this much worse in the process. He goes down rather than up at the end of certain lines robbing it of its buoyancy even though that change fits lyrically and then he sees to it that the tag-lines become stilted and unengaging.

Naturally in Hunter’s effort to recapture the same basic vibe of that earlier song he’s not straying far from the plot either, going so far as to make sure the word “lost” is prominently featured so there’s no missing the connection. But here too his efforts are clunkier, coming up with a generic and vapid narrative in which he recounts his supposed love with this anonymous woman that failed because she’s seeing someone else.

Gee, I wonder why.

We don’t ever feel sorry for him, which is all but a mandatory requirement if we’re going to find this tripe acceptable and because even the rhyme schemes are awkward we can’t simply lose ourselves in his still pleasant voice bobbing up and down like a cork in the water.

Instead all we want to do is let that water along with Hunter’s stale ideas and lack of ambition swirl down the drain together.

Someday I’ll Find A Love That’s Really True
The one silver lining to this debacle is that it may dissuade Ivory Joe Hunter from trying to shamelessly recycle his past successes in a shallow play for broader acceptance and get him to focus on coming up with something that is both new and which is more likely to connect with the audience that got him this far to begin with.

Or is that too much to expect?

The siren’s call of mainstream popularity for those who’ve traditionally been denied even the opportunity to compete for it on a level playing field is admittedly hard to resist for someone like Hunter, but like the crux of so many of his song’s protagonists it’s a only distracting him from pursuing a more meaningful relationship with someone worthy of his affections.

This wasn’t a case of being temporarily misguided either, as its even more blatant stab at pop approval with You Lied shows.

That’s a song which at times seems perilously close to minstrelsy and together with When I Lost You marks another wasted release in a career that is frustratingly playing out as a never ending cycle of artistically barren stretches followed by surges of inspiration and commercial reward before settling back into these long arid droughts.

Every few weeks or months he heads back out into the fields but without the creative irrigation and fertilizer necessary to feed his aspirations he’s left with these straggly crops from a parched landscape with no relief in sight.

Maybe it would’ve been more merciful of us to not cut him any slack at all and just throw this right into the compost pile without a second thought.


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