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It’d be hard to get off to a much better start as a recording artist than James Waynes did over the past few months.

Each of the first three sides we’ve covered were uniquely creative and aesthetically rewarding while the last one, the top side of this, his second single, was a major hit. Other artists to date may have made slightly greater impact with their first few sides, and certainly looking back there were those who had greater influence with their initial offerings, but at the time few could claim to have significantly outpaced Waynes with three songs under their respective belts.

Here’s where that comes to a halt, not with a bad effort per say rather with one that was generic enough that it seemingly could’ve come from any one of a few dozen artists thereby robbing him of the one thing that set James Waynes apart – his artistic singularity.


All I Crave
With Ed Wiley’s lazy saxophone leading this off you get an immediate after hours feeling that we know – before we even hear James Waynes’ voice – that as a singer he’s not entirely cut out to deliver.

We mentioned on the top side, Tend To Your Business, how distinctive Waynes’ voice was, nasally with a slightly metallic tone, which meant he was hardly very soulful and certainly not up to crooning a love song in a traditional sense. So sticking him in the familiar scene of a dark corner table at a quiet club after hours amidst candlelight and drinks as he tries to pave the way to make it easier to separate his date from her undergarments when they get back to her place, is a risky move.

Waynes, though he tries his hardest to embody this persona, can’t help but seem out of place in such a setting. He’s slowing down his delivery and saying all the right things, complimenting her in sweet fashion with some colorful images – “The touch of your lip won’t let my heart behave” is such a subtly great line – but he sounds like he’s wearing somebody else’s clothes so to speak.

That harsher tone of voice he sings Love Me Blues can’t help but put you on edge, there’s a tension in his voice that betrays the meaning of the words a little too much to ever feel fully comfortable around him.

It’s not his FAULT, that’s just the way his vocal chords are designed, but if you were the girl sitting across from him I’d think you’d be nervous and self-conscious… like you’d be aware that others in the restaurant could hear him and would be watching and listening because they’d be aware of it too.

I’m not saying he’s got anything nefarious on his mind, but that higher pitched whine is just too conspicuous sounding for a song of this nature, even though what that song contains is sweet and reasonably effective all the same.

It’s a case of the wrong tool for the job. Just as you wouldn’t use a sledgehammer to put a hook in a wall to hang a small picture, James Waynes’s coiled intensity is a little too much for the task at hand.

But is pointing out his harsh delivery being too harsh on HIM when he’s really taking steps to rein it in? Maybe, but records usually succeed or fail on first impressions and that’s the unmistakable impression that this one gives off.


My Sweet Embrace
With that kind of aesthetic obstacle in place to overcome it’s up to everything else – songwriting, arrangement and musicianship – to make up for it and here again, like with the vocal, it’s serviceable but not particularly noteworthy in any way.

Aside from that one quoted lyric the rest of the lines here are pretty straightforward declarations of love. We get no sense of the girl, just the guy’s impressions of her in a very general sense. There’s no doubt he’s sincere, but based on what little information he imparts there’s also no chance we’re going to be longing to meet her ourselves. She’s an empty vessel for his purpose, which is to convey a scene rather than a plot.

As with most scenes… err records… of this type it’s the saxophone that has the biggest responsibility in making Love Me Blues effective and while Ed Wiley contributes a fairly evocative mood with his distant lines behind Waynes, the sax swirling like cigarette smoke (this was 1951 after all where people clogged up the air with those things in such settings) there’s a little too much going on for it to stand out as he’s got to compete with Willie Jackson’s busy piano.

Each of the parts themselves are decent enough, but not very memorable. Wiley’s solo is understated which fits in with the overall motif yet without anything to really catch your ear or capture your fancy it creates the image of something easily passed over.

Again, that’s unfairly harsh but undoubtedly accurate. This isn’t a record that you’ll stop to hear, but if you do listen all the way through you’ll find they do their jobs well enough to be reasonably satisfied.

It’s just that, for the first time when it comes to James Waynes, “reasonably satisfied” feels like a let down.


Can Ever Take The Place Of You
It’s probably best to put this back into proper perspective and dilute some of the criticism so no one thinks this is some sort of failure.

Love Me Blues was the B-side of a major hit and as such it didn’t have to provide much more than showcasing a different side of the artist in question… and it did that perfectly well.

That being said though, that “different side” wasn’t the type of record that James Waynes excelled at and thus wouldn’t be what was pursued in earnest down the road to further his career any.

In other words this was a side to round out his musical persona, to diversify his output and keep him from sounding repetitive from one song to the next. That last one was hardly at risk since he had such unusual ideas to begin with, but the theory itself was a sound one and he hardly embarrasses himself in the effort.

This was a perfectly decent attempt at doing something that was widely accepted and thus consistently popular in rock circles and if he didn’t do it nearly as well as say Amos Milburn, well… join the club.

While it may not live up to the rest of his output thus far, it didn’t have to for James Waynes to remain one of the more interesting newcomers on the rock scene and going forward it wasn’t going to be the more traditional approaches like this which decided his fate, but rather letting him pursue his own quirky muse without interference.

So take this for what it is, an atypical artist doing something far more typical, and leave it at that.


(Visit the Artist page of James Waynes for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)