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ALADDIN 3129; MARCH 1952



After being introduced in grand fashion to Jesse Allen with the first truly great record of 1952, we’d naturally be looking forward to hearing him again.

Just two months later here he is, on a different label no less and one which is more comfortable with rock ‘n’ roll historically than Coral Records ever was.

Furthermore while the last title was pretty unambiguous about his intent the title of this one is even more direct and seems designed to leave no doubt as to what market he’s courting…

Here’s where we have the inevitable “And yet”.

…And yet, while this record is still very good, it’s also showing signs that he might be leaning in other directions with rock as merely one component of his persona rather than the essential core of his being.

Damn those infernal “and yets”.


Gonna Rock ‘n’ Roll ‘Til ‘53?
First impressions are important. If you make a bad one it becomes increasingly difficult to win someone over down the road, whether in life or in music, almost as if we’ve immediately conditioned ourselves not to trust that person based on that initial meeting.

Conversely, when someone makes a good first impression we tend to be more forgiving about subsequent let-downs. But internally we get wary, not wanting to admit we might’ve been wrong about someone which in turn leads us to go back to see if we could’ve misread that first impression they gave us.

But rest assured, Jesse Allen’s Let’s Party was just as good as we touted back in January. It’s aggressive and rambunctious instrumentally with a vibrant atmosphere and sounds as modern as can be for 1952.

Naturally you’d assume that a follow-up called Rock This Morning would build off that, realizing what worked so well and then trying to find a way to be even more explosive.

Instead the changes made seem to downplay those attributes… a slower pace, more guitar, no saxophone, no group chiming in behind him and a vocal that says some upbeat things in a more downbeat tone of voice.

But is this really a repudiation of what he did the first time out, or merely a creative variation on a theme to keep from becoming repetitive?


Mellow And Fine
If you want a suggestion, listen to his first record once and then cue this one up right after it.

I know that sounds almost counterproductive… that it might make the downhome blues elements here stand out more, but in fact it seems to do the opposite by putting Allen’s more exuberant attributes he used before in your head so it draws those aspects out of his performance this time around.

But even with that cheat sheet at your disposal, it’d be hard not to see that Rock This Morning is cut from a slightly different cloth, some of which may be because of how it was written, certainly in how it was arranged for a smaller group without backing vocals, but also because of the choices Allen makes on the studio floor, not just emphasizing his own guitar more, but also the inflections in his voice as he sings.

Hearing it cold, with no earlier work to contextualize him, the vocal here seems to add ten years to him (he was 26), something that gets further emphasized by the guitar solo, which is very well played, but is not drawn out in the mix and has very little sustain to give it more body, thereby adding more blues textures that match the vocal.

But listening to it immediately after hearing him sounding much more full of life suddenly the similarities to earlier song stand out better, from the rolling piano boogie that opens this to the subtle bounce in his delivery. True the nasal qualities in his singing are easier to spot at a slower pace, but that’s true for all vocalists though.

We’re also likely to be thrown a little because the guitar has still not overtaken the sax in rock’s sonic landscape and so the absence of a horn here gives the record a different texture than the dominant rock tracks of this era. Even so it’s still riding the same steady groove that has been such a cornerstone of the last few years of rock ‘n’ roll and if there were any doubt the lyrics alone should settle matters for you.

The set up is that Allen is recovering from being dumped by immediately looking for a replacement and a lot of what follows is simply cribbed from Roy Brown’s Good Rocking Tonight, the first – and still most enduring – rock song to date.

It’s the re-crafting of it that is ingenious here, using one image that’s already been fixed in our minds to spin a new story out of it, which quite naturally SHOULD have a new atmospheric tint. The plot however sets the more downbeat undercurrent, both vocally and with the prominent guitar and no horns, which shows that he’s still broken up and merely trying to use booze and sex – and some rock ‘n’ roll – to get through.

‘Til The Break Of Dawn
Though in the end he wins us over despite the different vibe of this record, the fact that Jesse Allen WAS so comfortable with a bluesier approach does raise some questions going forward.

We may even start to wonder if his Coral release been made more rock friendly by the label looking to make an impact in the field. Certainly both B-sides were blues in nature, as the flip of this one – Gonna Move Away From Town – is downcast as can be… though I suppose you can infer that he and the girl he wanted to hook up with to get over his broken heart in this song stood him up.

But regardless the jury is still out as to which field he’s most comfortable in, but while Rock This Morning certainly qualifies under the heading of “blues-rock”, it’s still firmly within the latter genre.

One last thing to keep in mind of course is until success comes – and for Allen it never will – your best bet might be to keep your options open. Lots of artists, and fans for that matter, have diverse tastes and there’s no crime in dabbling in both fields as much as you want.

The only real problem comes when you look to classify something as one or the other for historical purposes to make sure a musical genre’s full story is shown. But as we’ve seen before and as we’ll see in the future, the borders of any style of music are never as clear cut as we’d like them.

Which means we’re back more or less where we started this review, thankful for a good record… “and yet” still curious about his intentions.


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