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When meeting an artist for the first time should we have them put their best foot forward right away and after piquing your interest risk letting you down later?

Or would it be better for them if we sort of eased you into their story with something a little more mundane that allowed you to get some idea of their technical abilities before letting them reveal their better material down the line?

When we have not one but TWO separate artists who are being introduced together in the same review and thus have more backstory to delve into, shouldn’t we want to cover all of the bases first without overwhelming you with the explosive payoff right out of the gate?

All of which is to say… this is merely a shameless teaser for bigger and better things to follow if you come back for more later on!


With My Baby’s Arms Around Me
Let’s start with the headlining name on the record, saxophonist Jesse Powell, who also wrote the song and will go on to play a much bigger role than his co-star when it comes to advancing rock ‘n’ roll over the next decade… and who despite all of that is not exactly the highlight of this side in any of those roles.

Powell was hardly lacking in talent however, already a veteran of some of the best bands in jazz, having worked with everyone from Louis Armstrong to Count Basie, and most recently Dizzy Gillespie before he wound up playing what was more or less simply a club date with a group that happened to feature vocalist Fluffy Hunter who’d sang with sax man Buddy Banks for a number of years, including on a few decent records in a pre-rock style.

Both may have already been veterans of the music scene, but each of them were just 27 years old, hardly over-the-hill, and thus Federal Records believed that they could have some untapped potential to churn out some rock ‘n’ roll.

Hunter was a looker with a reputation for raciness and Powell could definitely blow up a storm on the tenor sax, so since both were available they signed to do a session together with Powell getting lead credit but Hunter still getting bold type co-lead on Love Is A Fortune… a song that unfortunately never picks a lane and sticks to it very long.

It’s meant to be a rock torch song as Hunter is waxing poetic about being “the richest gal in town” because she’s got a great fella. Her voice is strong and while her delivery may be a little strident she’s at least got a decent handle on the emotional side of the story.

But Powell, maybe because he misread the hope Federal had for them, decides to inject a little more life into the instrumental track by using the horns to answer Hunter with a far too peppy response.

As a result the song swings from measured to unbridled and back again preventing you from embracing either one. Along the way Hunter changes her approach from sultry to saucy, reserved to up front, maybe trying to show her versatility, or maybe just trying to be more in tune with the music, but it comes off as schizophrenic instead.

Which means the instrumentalist who wrote this better have come up with some good lyrics to make this worth our while.

When I Am In The Mood For Makin’ Love
The line referenced in this heading hints at what kind of act Fluffy Hunter must’ve already been known for on stage. She was very attractive and with a gradual loosening of the moral restrictions in popular songs of the day she, like Chubby Newsom before her, wasn’t afraid to let you know what she might be game for behind closed doors.

But one line that isn’t all that racy in a song that doesn’t attempt to peek in her bedroom window after that isn’t going to cut it if that’s the image they were hoping to earn here and when the way it’s all framed is clumsy as can be nobody is listening to Love Is A Fortune to get their kicks, that’s for damn sure.

Which brings us back to the headliner, Powell, who contributes a solo that goes nowhere but in circles, never getting raunchy enough to please in that way, nor melodic enough to get us hooked on a purely musical jag.

In fact the best musician here – at least in terms of what he offers – is the guitarist, Johnny Johns, who not only throws in countless noisy tremolo picking accent notes, but then barges in on Powell’s time in the spotlight during the solo.

None of this is exactly riveting even if it’s all played fairly well. Mostly it comes across as slightly disorganized, all of them chipping in with something that runs counter to what someone else is doing, none of it working in tandem to bring things to a satisfying conclusion.

It may not clash outright but it doesn’t lend itself to a seamless instrumental track and for a record that has the musician’s name as the headliner and the songwriter – and thus the de facto arranger as well – this is hardly a good sign.

It’s So Thrilling Somehow
Because Federal, like a few other companies of the time, were in the habit of using the A and AA designations, rather than the more hierarchal A and B sides, you might not realize that this was considered the one with lesser potential by the label itself.

In other words, buyer beware, as Federal may have cost themselves by not being more clear that Love Is A Fortune was secondary in their plans.

You might find some merit in the individual performances here, but this is definitely one case where the whole is NOT more than the sum of its parts.

It’s not terrible, you can definitely see that all of them from the singer on down are competent, and Hunter even adds a few falsetto asides that add some much needed character to the story, but if this was the song you deposited your nickel in the jukebox to hear it’d be natural to assume you wouldn’t have much reason to waste another five cents to listen to the other side.

At least that’s where you’d be wrong.


(Visit the Artist pages of Jesse Powell as well as Fluffy Hunter for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)