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CORAL 65078; JANUARY 1952



Thus far in 1952 we’ve covered some fairly dubious records by a host of artists, some legitimately talented and others who were just passable performers. Though there have been some good sides scattered among them, there’s not much to suggest that this year was shaping up to be anything special. In fact these sides may even hint that the astronomical heights that rock ‘n’ roll hit the year before, both artistically and commercially, could be in for a precipitous drop.

That’s an unfair burden to place on the rather random sequencing of a handful of singles released in just one month, but it does speak to the way that any growing trend has to try and navigate success when people try to capitalize on something they either don’t understand or, in some cases, try and use their earned success in that field to move towards another potentially more desirable field.

But slow start or not Nineteen Fifty-Two will indeed go on to be a year of epic advances in rock music and so to break out of this early rut we naturally turn to… a largely anonymous figure making his debut on a record released on a major label subsidiary that will not become a hit.

C’mon now, don’t tell me you were actually expecting something obvious!


‘Til The Break Of Dawn
One of the ongoing subtexts of this project in its early years has been to show that this music that generally gets lumped into some hazy netherworld of “pre-rock” categorization, either called R&B, jump blues or boogie woogie – that is if it’s not merely erased from existence completely – was in fact 100% pure rock ‘n’ roll long before most of white America ever heard of it.

Anyone dense enough to doubt this will see there’s been countless references to it in one form or another in the trade papers, in ads for artists and radio shows at the time and of course in the song titles and lyrics themselves.

These weren’t simply a few random examples either, they were frequent and consistent across the spectrum in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s and we’re able to see just how this broad acceptance of the term and the musical and cultural mindset it was tied to had penetrated those who had been the main consumers of these records from the start, many of whom were now becoming performers in their own right and taking the music even further.

Jesse Allen never became a star, never scored a hit, but he made clear his allegiance to rock ‘n’ roll from the start, as for a wide variety of labels he cut song after song that referred to it by name as well as by sound.

Though the term itself may be absent from this particular composition it’s obvious when he announces Let’s Party, that the bash is going to be playing nothing but rock ‘n’ roll and that the music – just as much as the chemical stimulants that may be consumed or the sexual chemistry of the participants – is going to be what gets this party jumping.

If that’s not rock ‘n’ roll’s essential formula, then nothing is.

Get Like Me, High As A Kite!
A boogie piano with a throbbing bassline and slithering electric guitar, lusty call and response vocals, a grinding tenor sax and exuberant vocals celebrating hedonistic activities… am I missing anything?

Not from this particular record per say (which gleefully contains all of the above), but rather are we missing any of the ingredients from so much of rock over next seven decades?

If you weren’t checking each thing off a list you still wouldn’t have any trouble identifying this music as the record surges from the speakers from the very first notes, impatient and aggressive yet not out of control. That’s an important distinction to make, as the wilder anarchy that so often gets celebrated is a nice change of pace but is hardly self-sustaining when used as the foundation of an entire genre of music.

By contrast Let’s Party is tightly focused and consequently packs a greater punch, honing its attributes to ensure each makes a maximum impact in their time in the spotlight. Allen’s guitar for instance only appears behind and between the rhythm section during the intro – and again briefly during the fade – yet in the process establishes an edgy vibe to the record that it rides for the rest of the run time, thereby making anything else out of that instrument all but unnecessary.

In other words its presence is almost like a ghost after that early appearance, you feel it hovering over the record without having to see or hear it. Besides, it’s not as if the others have turned into apparitions too, as the piano keeps up that infectious rolling groove with hand claps adding to the communal feel along with those responsory vocals chanting the title line.

Even this is done authentically, something you had reason to be concerned about when seeing the label and knowing that Coral might be pulling in some white-bread session vocalists for the job. Instead these guys sound as if they just stumbled out of the party itself and at one point you hear one of them get a little closer to the mic so his voice stands out from the rest, a happy accident that makes this seem more like it was an impromptu live performance captured on tape than a sterile studio take.

Have Some Fun, Have It Right
Allen is terrific in the middle of it all, his voice is strong and vibrant yet not overwhelming you, giving plenty of room for the band to share in the glory. His energy is infectious and there’s just a glimmer of something devious in his reading of it… you know the kind, someone whose irresponsibility ensures they’ll always be having a good time.

Meanwhile he’s brought along a saxophonist who is there to make sure everyone else is having an equally good time thanks to an extended solo that contributes plenty of noise, a little melody and lots of opportunity for reckless abandon on the floor. Let’s Party indeed!

The entire record almost visibly pulsates as it goes along, letting you feel the heat of an overcrowded room while smelling the intoxicating mixture of all those hormones mixing with sweat, smoke and the scent of barbecue wafting in from another room. It might be 9 PM or it might be 3 AM, time both stands still and flies by simultaneously at these affairs and who you came in with might not be who you leave with, but nobody seems to mind.

This is the sound of a Saturday night that never ends, the sound of a respite from all of your cares, worries and responsibilities, the sound of lust and life and undiluted rock ‘n’ roll.

The sound of blessed freedom.

It may not last forever… it may not even last until morning… but while it does there’s nothing better.

We’ll Have It All
One of the great things about music is the discovery of something you didn’t see coming.

In this case it’s an artist on a label with a somewhat sketchy history when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll, as Decca used Coral Records as an outpost to keep the major label inoculated from the the cultural stigma of the music. But while their artist roster had improved of late, they still largely had no real commitment to seeing that the rock records they put out pushed the music forward in the right way.

With Let’s Party they lucked out in that Jesse Allen, who’d already cut a session for the more appropriate Aladdin Records that hadn’t been released yet, was available and eager to sign to get whatever paltry advance they were willing to give to him.

Luckily he didn’t come empty handed and delivers the best record of the first few weeks of the new year. Naturally it’ll be his only release for the label.

Maybe it can be said there’s nothing particularly innovative about this and there’s arguably not even any single element that knocks you off your feet by itself, but with no false steps to be found anywhere in the song itself, the arrangement or the performances, the combined effect as a record is one of absolute perfection.

This is the state of rock ‘n’ roll in early 1952, loud and proud and only getting stronger and more insistent.


(Visit the Artist page of Jesse Allen for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)