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There are certain records each good artist more or less just churns out.

They’re not exactly halfhearted efforts or throwaway songs that are only done to fill out a session or meet their contractual requirements, but rather they’re the kind of records that the artists could be reasonably expected to pull off without breaking a sweat.

In the album era these things went largely unnoticed as they’d be surrounded by the obvious singles and weak filler as Side A, Track Four. But in the singles era sometimes you might feel let down if you bought a record from a top flight artist who seemed not to be really trying to reach their maximum altitude this time around.


I’ll Never Be The Same
In his first three sides since coming to Derby Records from his excellent run with Gotham Records, Jimmy Preston has shared the vocals – and the billing – with female singer Burnetta Evans, a largely unknown entity who handled herself well and gave Preston’s records a new wrinkle to consider.

Maybe that’s why this one, which features only Jimmy on it, feels like a bit of a regression when in fact it’s simply a good tune, not a great one. It certainly fulfills the expectations we’ve set for him when he made the leap from club act who seemed to be in slightly over his head when starting out before becoming a surprisingly capable all-around star in rather short order who could sing well enough to mesh with his top notch band on a string of well written songs.

My Baby Done Left Me might not quite meet any of those descriptions. His singing is fine, the band is solid and the song is decent, but there’s nothing about this that sparkles, even if nothing about it is subpar in any way… at least for rock as a whole in 1950.

Therein lies the “problem” when you’ve continually raised your game… once you plateau there’s always the risk of being viewed as falling back when in fact it’s more akin to water finding its own level.

But those not anticipating being blown out of that water with this will find plenty to appreciate as Preston’s band – or orchestra as they’re now being called on Derby, despite not being any different in personnel – come charging at you on the intro with a full brigade of horns, blasting you in the face like an air raid siren to snap you into attention.

While it’s true that you might want a dirtier sound out of them, it’s not as if they’re being polite and dainty either. Like most things on My Baby Done Left Me it’s getting the job done efficiently and effectively.

When Preston comes in with his stuffy nasal voice he sounds almost enthusiastic until the lyrics set you straight, as this is clearly a break up lament, but he’s so declarative for a lot of it that you’d be forgiven if you think otherwise.

Maybe that’s a flaw, the theme and the vibe never fully meshing, but the performance is not any worse for the rift between those two things as someone is perfectly within their rights to express their sadness over a romantic split by using a more lively tone of voice. It’s not like he’s overjoyed about any of this, he’s just vigorously stating his desire to get this woman back.

Who knows… considering how few rock artists have gotten back together with the girls who dumped them when wallowing in misery, maybe Preston is onto something by showing more resolve in his delivery in the hopes it will confuse their ex and make them willing to give counseling a chance.

How You Treating Me
The same charge you could make against Preston for sounding too rambunctious for a song about being despondent you could levy against the band as well who follow their singer’s lead and turn what might’ve been a mournful dirge into a feisty plea for reconciliation.

It sounds a little unusual when the horns start riffing and the piano is hammering away with the drums to create a spry rhythm, but you wouldn’t criticize this if Preston was talking about how excited he was to be with this girl when they first got together and as long as the two components are on the same page throughout the record then you can’t complain too much.

Besides, if My Baby Done Left Me wasn’t treated in this fashion we wouldn’t get the brief but energetic Benny Golson sax solo which turns the heat up enough to allow you forget your confusion – or your misery if you’re Preston – and lose yourself in the more hedonistic release such a display provides.

The Prestonians, as they used to be known before being told they were now a class act by their new label, clearly haven’t absorbed the meaning of classy, as this is direct and to the point without any frills. It may have been better received if it were a little more raunchy, but then again considering they were already at odds with the subject matter if they’d really started grinding away lasciviously then who knows what weird things listeners would be envisioning in their minds upon hearing it.

If the primary objective of an arrangement is to provide the singer with what they’re asking for to help project a song in the manner they want, then this certainly does that. It’s got a scarcity of standout individual parts but in totality they all know their roles and carry them off without any strain.

But then again, sometimes what you want to hear from a band is them straining… not necessarily to play their basic parts, but straining to exceed what was written by sheer effort alone. Since this handles everything so effortlessly there’s always the chance it’ll be taken for granted… much like Preston himself often was.


My Old Used To Be
In music, as in life, timing is key.

If this record – or something that was the stylistic equivalent of it for its day – had come out at the beginning of Jimmy Preston’s career when he was struggling to grasp what was required for him to succeed in this realm then it would’ve been hailed as a big leap forward and the start of bigger and better things.

But in late 1950, coming on the heels of another Top Ten smash and with a couple years of really good and big selling records on his portfolio it’s almost inevitable that My Baby Done Left Me wouldn’t be met with the same enthusiasm because it doesn’t raise his game, doesn’t offer anything new and doesn’t have any major highlights within to draw your attention.

So while this might be slightly underwhelming when it comes to meeting your biggest hopes for Preston, it’s far better than being disappointed in the overall quality of a record.

This might not be a candidate for his greatest hits playlist, but if it snuck on there you wouldn’t say it was glaringly out of place either. After all it’s not fair that Jimmy Preston be penalized because he could churn something this fundamentally suitable for rock’s airwaves without a struggle.


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