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I know that not everybody scrutinizes every word on a record label before listening to it. Heck, for some inexplicable reason some of you might even not even pay attention to the lyrics in a song you’re listening to that you love! But surely the record companies putting these records out were a little more attentive to their own product, weren’t they?

You’d think so.

Yet here we have a record being billed as an instrumental – surely a reasonable assumption when the artist in question was a saxophonist I suppose – when in fact the song is a vocal workout instead.

Maybe they grabbed the wrong tape, or maybe we’re listening to the wrong record… if not the wrong artist since there’s no sign of his sax here, even during the instrumental break!

But all we can do is review the record we’re given and while none of it lives up to our expectations when it comes to Joe Houston, it’s hardly a waste of time all things considered.


Can’t Seem To Understand
To be fair, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard Joe Houston put down his horn to warble a tune.

Furthermore, we’ve long been proponents of expanding your reach as an artist, giving audience’s something a little different, something unexpected and something to break up a string of similar sounding tunes for when you’re playing a three hour set on the bandstand in the sticks somewhere.

Surely Trouble, Trouble, Trouble qualifies in all three of those areas.

Now granted, this was not what any of them – Houston, or Imperial Records – were banking on to get him onto the charts. It’s simply an interesting B-side, an atypical performance designed to bring some needed diversity to his catalog.

As such, our willingness to be open-minded about such things is substantially greater than if he suddenly had a change of heart about honking up a storm and decided to put his saxophone in cold storage and become a singer, attempting to advance his career that way instead of blowing the roof off each place he played.

Besides, we got that on the other side and then some… so let him spread his wings a little here. After the wild performance he just gave he probably needed some way to settle his heartbeat back down.

All Out Of My Mind
The surprising thing about this record isn’t the fact that Joe Houston sings… or even that he sings fairly well. Rather it’s the fact that the primary accompaniment is the piano… presumably his wife, Marian McKinley, with whom he played with for years.

The only horns come at the intro and in the fade out and the former is pretty inconsequential and in latter they’re faint and wistful, which means the quality of this record outside of the melody, which we assume he could handle being a talented musician used to writing them, falls to the story they come up with and the voice in which Houston delivers it.

That could spell Trouble, Trouble, Trouble for their chances at convincing you this was not a mistake.

Luckily it wasn’t a mistake because both of those components are pretty good. Yes, the melody helps, as it has a very sing-songy lilt to it, sounding almost like a children’s playground chant exacerbated by the repetitive piano lick anchoring it. But that only goes so far unless the rest of it works and though Houston sticks to a fairly basic concept of a guy complaining about the way his girl treated him, the lines themselves are giving us enough evidence to take his side in the matter, while his vocal never falters and has the benefit of some distant support from one or two others who double his lead.

Simplicity unto itself is never a bad thing, it’s only when it becomes simplistic that it grates on you. Here the narrative keeps the song on track, provides Houston with enough variation on the complaints to never get repetitive, while the rise and fall of the gentle melody allows you to brush aside the fact it’s basically going around in circles.

If there’s one complaint though it’s the lack of more of a musical punch. The piano serves a purpose but that purpose should not include giving us a subpar and somewhat crude musical break… not when you have Joe fucking Houston standing off to the side, his saxophone presumably within reach, and capable of raising the temperature of the track considerably.

It recovers from this error in judgment, largely because the stakes of the record itself were never that high to begin with, but what could’ve been a surprisingly good change of pace, becomes instead only an interesting diversion to the main event found on the flip side.

Cheat On Me All The Time
Yet again, this is another recycled song, but one where we can’t be so generous in forgiving him for reviving under another name.

He did this multiple times in fact, scoring a small unlikely national hit with it as Worry, Worry, Worry on Mercury earlier this year, and then doing it again down the road as Troubles And Worries on Cash Records in 1955, at least by then acknowledging the sources in the title rather than further trying to obscure it.

As much as we don’t like it from an artistic point of view, we can understand his reasons for doing so from a business perspective. As we just got done stating with Earthquake, he was signing contracts with labels usually for just one session and they were paying just a few bucks for four songs they could throw into the market with no real push. In other words these companies weren’t looking to build his career, just try and recoup their costs with a left-field hit.

Knowing this he gave them his best songs, even if he’d given someone else those same songs already. They were the ones he’d worked out over time, where he saw the response he got from the audience at live gigs and knew had some appeal. If they missed last time around, maybe this time he’d have better luck. So he just renamed them, maybe tweaked them a little in the arrangement, but who’d ever know?

Obviously he didn’t expect US coming along seventy years later and getting him in Trouble, Trouble, Trouble for these kind of shady maneuvers.

So while we can’t fault him in theory, considering the already scummy nature of the recording industry he was dealing with, we can be a little more discerning than the labels were and call him out on his three card monte act.

Of course as already shown though, we’d be singing a different tune if this version of that same old song had dramatically improved it. Then all is fair in love, war and music.


(Visit the Artist page of Joe Houston for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)