No tags :(

Share it




Sometimes inadvertantly (and sometimes intentionally) running themes become apparent in the sequencing of these reviews.

Obviously they’re done chronological by month of release so there’s a limit to how much manipulation can be done to affect this – and in this case it was more or less random – but when you realize that trends and stylistic questions impact all of rock ‘n’ roll at the same time, it’s not hard to see how these ongoing themes in the reviews happens naturally.

Having just dealt with The Five Keys being forced to come to grips with their lessening impact on the rock vocal group scene which is moving ahead creatively by leaps and bounds while their record label furtively looks twenty years in the past for their material, we now face a similar – yet slightly different – dilemma as it pertains to keeping up with the Joneses.

In this case Jimmy Liggins is still coming up with new, wholly original, self-penned material, but it’s just that his own performance style is now beginning to lag behind the rest of the rock universe in ways that are increasingly hard to overcome.


It Gets Better All The Time
As this is written and posted we’re approaching the midway point of 2023… a full seventy one years after these records we’re reviewing were released.

What this means is if you like this general era – and likely the eras bookending it as well – you have the luxury to cherry pick from across the years to suit your individual tastes, as well as to conveniently disregard the musical changes that exist between then and now, and even for that matter between say 1948 and 1952.

But IN 1952 that gap was much more apparent to the main breed of listeners for rock ‘n’ roll.

Though it’s not uncommon that someone who was a fan of an earlier stage of the music’s development may stick with that general sound over the newer incarnations that have come along in the interim, those people become increasingly marginalized in the marketplace over time, simply because at a certain age the majority of your similar aged peers move on to other pursuits.

That next generation isn’t going to be as likely to find in these older rock sounds the same connection you had with them a few years earlier and while Jimmy Liggins never turned his back on rock ‘n’ roll, the genre’s expanded palette means songs like Brown Skin Baby are now being ignored and jettisoned to the margins of the style.

It still qualifies as rock for sure because new innovations don’t erase the classification of the previous plateaus, but time moves on, the audience turns over and yesterday’s dominant sonic approaches are going to seem increasingly out of step with the cutting edge sounds of 1952.

But don’t let that unnerve you if you’re a devoted fan of these kinds of sluggish Jimmy Liggins performances, because by 1955 the cutting edge sounds of 1952 that are pushing him aside are going to seem downright archaic themselves to the kids of that time frame.

You can fight against it all you want, but unless you continually broaden your tastes and eagerly accept new sounds and styles, the natural evolution of time will just shovel more and more dirt on your musical grave as long as you dig your heels in refusing to budge off your spot of ground.


Mellow And Fine
We’ve stated numerous times how Jimmy Liggins was severely limited as a vocalist, which comes from both singing through his nose and following a very simplistic melodic pattern like a mouse going through a never-changing maze.

Obviously this means his ability to constantly adapt was even more hampered than most rock acts who’ve been around from the beginning of the genre, but to his credit Liggins is still in there pitching and still getting just enough over the plate to stay on the mound as it were.

On Brown Skin Baby he does – or Maxwell Davis producing him does – seem to try one small update to the sound, but it’s the wrong one as the horn intro vaguely suggests New Orleans, but unfortunately it’s still the jazz-tinted New Orleans popular four or five years back (hmm, I sense a trend here) rather than the more aggressive, muscular sounds coming from The Crescent City today.

With no new wrinkles in the arrangement beyond that and with Jimmy’s own clogged vocals falling in roughly the same steps as a dozen or more other tunes he’s come up with, we’re not going to be surprised by much of anything we find here. But luckily for him that includes not being surprised by the quality narrative he’s able to craft for us.

The stories that he’s offered up over the years don’t necessarily knock you out with their themes, but he’s always been a very good observational songwriter with well thought-out couplets.

Here he’s trying to convince the girl he’s speaking to of his potential as a suitor but being in a subserviant position he hasn’t got much chance to win her over. What he’s got going for him is his modesty, sincerity and whatever charm he can slip into the platitudes he’s feeding her.

The thing that sets him apart and gives him a better shot at claiming her affections however is the sense he’s holding back his full-devotion from her even as his words claim he’s into her for the long haul whether she acknowledges him or not. This is really just a byproduct of his voice, which isn’t quite forceful enough to suggest urgency, and his laid back delivery which indicates he’s amused by her potential interest but not dependent on it for his happiness, but it’s effective because it’ll make her doubt her power to captivate him as much as she thinks she should.

If he just plays coy and gives her enough attention to stay on her radar without committing to more than that, her interest in HIM will increase and you might be surprised to see them walking down the street hand in hand in the future.


The More I Have For You
This record, and Liggins’ performance, are charming in their own low-key way, but hardly at the vanguard of rock ‘n’ roll by this stage of the game. Even the dual tenor solos are getting by more on their tone rather than the notes and manner in which they’re played.

But that’s what you have to expect by this point. Jimmy Liggins has already made his mark on rock ‘n’ roll with a handful of songs that should by all rights be able stand the test of time. You hope he’s got more in him to beef up that résumé of course, but it’s obvious that Brown Skin Baby isn’t it and probably wasn’t intended to be.

Now, like so many others who rose to prominence in rock’s early stages, he’s merely hoping to satisfy that dwindling older constituency while keeping his hat in the ring just enough so that he’s able to promote himself as a current artist on the road rather than one merely living off old glories entirely.

The turnover in rock ‘n’ roll happens at a constant rate. As an artist you barely have time to celebrate your last success before having to do it again so you don’t fall by the wayside.

As a fan as soon as you think you’re up to date with all the current trends and can finally relax, three more recent developments put you at risk for being left behind, never to catch up.

Music, for both artists and fans, is a conveyor belt existence, one requiring vigilance and stamina the likes of which few possess for more than a couple of years. If you make it that far consider yourself lucky… just don’t be the asshole complaining that the conveyor belt is still going after you’ve fallen off.

This might be in danger of falling out of step too much itself to be considered an “average” rock record for 1952, but we’ll give Jimmy Liggins a little extra credit for keeping his head up and not breaking stride even as he’s in danger of being left behind.


(Visit the Artist page of Jimmy Liggins for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)