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FREEDOM 1535; APRIL 1950



There’s no joy to be found in having to criticize records you’re analyzing.

Though it has to be done when the situation calls for it, and can even be entertaining at times to unleash a full arsenal of sarcasm and scorn that certain woe begotten records demand, the fact is if you truly love rock ‘n’ roll music you don’t want to have to confront yet another poorly written, sloppily performed and badly sung effort by some talentless cretin calling themselves a rocker.

Worse yet is having to dismiss the under-powered efforts of those who have genuine talent and criticize them for their halfhearted attempts.

Yet to not do so, to go easy on them for their transgressions or even bypass the subpar records altogether so we can focus instead on only the worthwhile releases, only winds up painting a distorted and misleading image of what rock ‘n’ roll was and how it evolved over time.

In other words you need to suffer through the bad to better appreciate the good when it comes to music… but that doesn’t mean you have to like doing so.

Which is why after thoroughly panning the flip side of this release yesterday we’re happy to be able to say – “THIS is more like it!” – when talking about the song that is the focus of today’s review.

It may not make listening to the dud on the other side any easier to endure, but it’s still nice to know that there’s still some sunshine to be found after the rain.


Just Couldn’t Take It
We’ve talked many times about the idea that a generic song doesn’t necessarily mean a bad one. The definition of the word backs this up, as generic means it’s simply “characteristic of the genre”.

Not ahead of the curve, but not behind it either.

Your Little Girl Is Gone fits the bill in that regard, giving us a heavy rolling piano riff that establishes a safe, familiar and energetic rhythm, then the group vocals come along chanting the the title line in a fairly engaging manner. The pieces flow together with understated grace and when the lead singer comes in to start in on the story he sounds comfortable with his role and with his voice… not a great voice by any means, but it’s at least not straining to do what being asked of it.

The plot is hardly anything surprising either, yeah, it’s definitely generic in this way too, giving us another tale about a guy who seems incredulous that his girlfriend is leaving him – on a train no less, another standard trope for almost every rock song of the era (didn’t ANYONE in those days travel by bus or boat or even a horse drawn carriage, just for the sake of variety?).

Because we’ve encountered these types of delusional men who can’t understand that their low-paying jobs, threadbare clothes, poor table manners and lack of social graces are in fact detrimental to their keeping a woman, we don’t need him to run down her laundry list of complaints about him… including probably expecting her to do the laundry and write the lists around the house. We know why she’s leaving even if he doesn’t and that’s enough for us, provided he’s able to at least contribute a few halfway decent lines to keep us interested.

He does too, springing the fact that unlike most guys who merely sob softly to themselves as the train carries their sweetheart away, this time he tells us he actually had a heart-attack on the train station landing when she left him, which is a welcome change!

I realize we shouldn’t be laughing at myocardial infarction but you gotta admit, he SOUNDS okay telling us about it, so chances are he was exaggerating just a little to make his point.

That being said we the listener are about to have a heart attack when we hear that the instrumental break that follows doesn’t feature a saxophone, as you’d expect even if it WASN’T a Joe Houston record, but rather an electric guitar… something which, if it’s who we think it is, might not be the worst thing in the world either.


I Believe I’m About To Lose My Mind
This was cut for Freedom Records and that means if the band backing them was The Hep-Cats it’s probably Goree Carter manning the guitar which is a welcome sight. Even if it’s not him the sounds the guitar produce are clean and efficient, not otherworldly in the riff it produces, but it’s an extended workout featuring some nifty twists on some of the notes and it’s melodic and invigorating enough to give this a really good vibe.

The whole time that bass and drum rhythm never lets up in the background and though it’s almost incomprehensibly devoid of horns of any kind – again, are we SURE Joe Houston was even in the studio for this? – the song doesn’t really miss them.

Your Little Girl Is Gone may have been perceived to be nothing more than filler by the band, a song they were all eminently capable of playing without putting much thought into it, the end result is a far more potent record than what they apparently spent more time crafting.

Even though as modestly enjoyable as this is to hear and as grateful we are that there’s not a single component to criticize for being either out of place or poorly executed the limitations of something like this are readily apparent.

In fact we’ll see this exact same structure used a year from now in another saxophonist’s attempt at branching into the vocal record realm, right down to the rhythmic melody being lifted wholesale, but the difference will be that reworking of it improves upon this model in every way thanks to the far more creative individuals taking part.

But that doesn’t mean you can fault Houston and his anonymous cast of characters here because what they give us is certainly more than tolerable… it’s actually halfway decent and especially after you were left still reeling from the stench of their unseemly Jumpin’ The Blues that we had to deal with on the other side, this even earns the right to be called pretty good.


Goodbye, Little Girl, Goodbye
Of course no matter how generous we are in our “praise” for it, this still wasn’t likely to do much for Joe Houston’s recording career and that’s not even taking into account that his primary skill as a musician doesn’t even get featured on the record.

Still, as someone who was just leading his first session as a bandleader there was a learning curve that Houston had to figure out and he earlier returns seemed to indicate he might not get provided another chance with which to improve upon his initial missteps.

Your Little Girl Is Gone might not have other companies beating down his door for a chance to work with him, but it at least serves as evidence that he was catching on to what might have some appeal.

Now if we can somehow figure out a way for him to add his sax to the mix then who knows, maybe he might creep into the above average category next time around.


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