No tags :(

Share it

REGAL 3328; JULY 1951



Taking creative risks has a lot of advantages if you get them right. The first artists to break new ground always have a leg up on those who follow in their footsteps.

However if you’re off the mark just a little those risks can become dead ends.

Larry Darnell had already succeeded with an innovative two-part dramatic reading in his debut back in 1949 and while he’s remained popular since then, his stock had begun to slip as of late and so he went back to the drawing board in an attempt to come up with something a little more distinctive.

This time around however those new ideas didn’t find many takers.


If You Caught Me Out With A New Romance
Any time an artist is unique it may help them to get noticed at first, but their individuality may wind up working against them in time as they don’t comfortably fit into the ever-changing musical evolution going on around them.

Larry Darnell was a balladeer in a genre that leaned more towards uptempo tracks. He had a delicate melodramatic vocal delivery that seemed to run counter to the harsher emotive wailing of his peers. On top of it all he was constantly at risk – as so many rock acts specializing in ballads – of being pulled towards pop in his record label’s quest for crossover appeal and the mythical pot of gold at the end of that magical rainbow.

The fact that he was not a songwriter also meant he was subject to the whims of others. That’s a lot of obstacles to overcome in an attempt to stay relevant in something as fast moving as rock ‘n’ roll.

Though he’d had what would turn out to be his final national hit at the end of last year, hardly a drought long enough to be too concerned about at the time, Regal Records was once again trying to tweak their formula with him by bringing in female vocalist Mary Lou Greene whose specialty appeared to be singing obbligato, as she did for the pop side of a recent Tiny Bradshaw single, Butterfly.

She handled the same duties on the flip of this record, Sad And Lonesome, a song which might’ve been included here as (an outlying) rock release on the basis of Darnell’s lead which was just soulful enough to qualify… if not for the pure pop backing of the band which renders its true intent all too clear.

But it’s on Do You Love Me, Baby where Greene gets to handle half the lead chores earning herself a co-artist credit as well as spurring Darnell into a more assertive role than he was usually afforded.

Greene also co-wrote the song with a pair of heavy-hitters, Howard Biggs, who had been handling much of Regal’s output over the past year, and Rudy Toombs, just starting to really make a name for himself with his work for Atlantic.

Their ideas here were certainly interesting but when commercial returns are deemed far more important than being creative its failure to connect ensured this was a one-time only experiment.


Even If Things Go Wrong
Whoever is responsible for this arrangement deserves some credit because it manages to balance the “classier” aspirations Regal was still going for with Darnell with a grinding rhythm that allows it to have a firmer connection to rock audiences while not throwing the song’s identity completely out of whack in the process.

With guitar and drums giving it its rock’s credentials and the horns leaning towards a poppish mood, the results are intriguing enough to not mind the potential stylistic conflict. Actually the horns at certain points have a Vegas jazz show-band feel to them, maybe even a noirish tint to them which probably makes this one of the few rock releases that should’ve come with a sharkskin record sleeve.

The vocal banter though is the real draw of Do You Love Me, Baby and with Greene kicking this off in a soprano voice that stops just short of being shrill it forces Darnell to respond in a deeper register than normal so as not to blend together too closely and his warmer tones here are very appealing, as is the confident air he takes on in his replies to her coy questioning.

They have really good chemistry and the back and forth exchanges make the lyrics sparkle far more than they would if delivered by only one singer, as now their vocal inflections act as a window into their relationship… each complimenting the other while still trying to gain the upper hand.

The manner in which they both subvert the expected delivery at times adds even more character to their performances, whether it’s Greene switching from singing to speaking mid-way through certain lines or the way in which Darnell eases off the gas while singing “You make cold chills run up (pause) and down (pause) my spine”, upending the melody in a way that makes the line itself seem far more clever than it really is.

All of this ensures the record is anything but dull, even if the fact it’s coming from left field means it may fly over the heads of those who expect their rock ‘n’ roll to be far more direct and unambiguous than this.


You’ll Be Coming Back
This was the final release by Larry Darnell on Regal Records… the company he more or less put on the map back in the fall of 1949 when they were just starting out and he gave them two monster hits right out of the gate.

But it wasn’t the commercial failure of Do You Love Me, Baby that was at fault for his coming to the end of the line with them, but rather the company’s mismanagement which sent them into bankruptcy soon after this was released.

But fear not, Darnell – like many others on Regal’s once proud roster – would find their way to OKeh Records shortly, following producer Fred Mendlesohn to Columbia’s new rock imprint before the year was out.

Though he wouldn’t regain his status as one of rock’s most promising young stars (he was still just 22, so he was far from washed up) this record showed that if given the chance to expand his repertoire a little, he was more than capable of turning in ambitious quality work.

But even though rock ‘n’ roll was more experimental than the more conservative brands of music on the scene, you still need to be able to back up those creative risks with tangible returns in the marketplace to be allowed to keep pushing the boundaries.

Maybe this one wasn’t quite deserving of hit status, but we’d have liked to have seen it score just to guarantee that Darnell had a free hand when he got to his next stop.


(Visit the Artist page of Larry Darnell for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)