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REGAL 3274; JUNE 1950



Exploding out of the gate at the start of your recording career with two massive hits in a row is hardly something any artist could rightly complain about or consider a burden, but it does pose certain problems when it comes to living up to those incredible highs.

In the singles era when each release was planned to capitalize on the success of the previous songs the trick was to replicate the formula enough enough to satisfy the fans wanting more of the same yet at the same time hope to come up with something just different enough to appear fresh.

For an artist whose style was slightly atypical to begin with there was probably a bigger risk involved as the more he leaned into the desperate dramatic qualities of the material the greater chance there was that it could come across as emotional overkill.

I Had A Dream The Other Night
You like the fact that after a series of slow aching ballads that were all designed to highlight his anguish they decided to mix things up with a more fast paced song. Certainly his flexible tenor voice could handle it and he proves he’s got an intuitive sense of rhythm that wasn’t always apparent on the slower material.

No longer getting his material from bandleader/songwriter Paul Gayten (though Gayten is still backing him in the studio), this was written by Regal’s new in-house songwriter Howard Biggs along with moonlighting producer Fred Mendlesohn under the “Madison” alias, but which one of those three were responsible for the arrangement is the million dollar question because the song leaves you sort of scratching your head with their choices.

Rather than ground My Kind Of Baby with a proven formula of raunchy tenor sax, boogie piano and deep bass and drum work that framed most uptempo hits of this era, they take this in a decidedly different direction, one far more musically whimsical with the brass rather than reeds leading the way.

Though they were now all ensconced in New Jersey (and Darnell himself, though he got his big break in Louisiana, was actually from up north originally) this has a very definite New Orleans feel to it… although not necessarily a New Orleans ROCK feel at times. This may indicate that Gayten still had a prominent hand in this… not that he’d want to take credit for it mind you.

It’s sort of a musical gumbo of ideas with the horn section taking their cues from all types of different backgrounds… not quite Dixieland, nor second line jazz, but rather bits and pieces of lots of scattered influences all thrown into the pot randomly just to see what flavors might emerge.

Hardly a promising method of recording for a major star coming off a string of hits.


Borrow, Beg And Steal
The intro has a very prominent baritone bottom to the catchy circular riff but the as they repeat it behind the first chorus the baritone is taken out of the mix making the entire thing seem much less vital. The hook itself is still appealing but you aren’t drawn to it nearly as much because of the way it gets de-emphasized without that missing piece.

What follows though makes that part seem comparatively addicting because we get a trumpet led interlude … I mistakenly started to type the word “intrude” and maybe I should’ve kept it, because it’s a definite intrusion, taking the solo and grinding it into the ground with squalls followed by a gargling gimmick that was bandstand jazz, not roadhouse rock in nature.

That’s a shame too because there’s some impressive slamming drum work throughout My Kind Of Baby from Sam Goodyard which is thankfully positioned right up front in the mix but still somehow manages to get drowned out by the clatter from the higher horns – alto, trombone, even a clarinet – making this sound far more chaotic than it needed to be.

If you want to have such a full horn section and let them play a repetitive riff, that’s one thing, but they’re practically free-styling here and it takes the record into areas that are doing it no favors because it’s not focused enough to make any impact. There’s a reassuring simplicity – a crudity almost – in the best rock tracks which allows the vocals to stand out over a driving beat, but the driver of THIS track is not headed in a straight line at all, but rather doing donuts around a wet parking lot, fishtailing and spinning out which is never as exciting as it’s made to appear.

More damaging than its pointless nature however is the fact that it distracts us from Darnell who is turning in another fine vocal performance, adjusting his usual delivery while still retaining the vocal characteristics which make him unique.

Love You All The Time
In so many ways – his vocal tone, his projection, the sentiment of so many of the songs he sang, and even to be honest the real unspoken targets of his messages of love – Larry Darnell was far closer to a female torch singer than your typical male shouters… even here when he’s getting as close to shouting as he was capable of.

Whatever type of delivery he chose though his voice was always expressive and smooth, like polished chrome, and so it stands to reason that you’d want him trying a variety of approaches to see how well it adapts to each one.

To that end he acquits himself quite nicely on the eager cries of My Kind Of Baby, giving off a vibrant glow as he ramps up his delivery with barely controlled excitement. The slight quaver in his voice, almost a shimmering quality that doesn’t veer into melisma, is particularly impressive and makes you wonder what he might’ve been like in a club setting with a rougher house band at the end of a long night with equal parts dancing, fighting and drinking going on in the crowd. If he can sound so effortlessly charged up in a drab studio with a confused horn section behind him, imagine how much better he could be in the midst of a sea of drunken revelers with more appropriate musicians spurring him on.

The song itself however is nothing particularly noteworthy when it comes to both story and specific lyrics. They’re not a drawback by any means but you kind of found yourself hoping that they’d paint a more raucous picture to off-set the wayward arrangement a little.

Instead we get fairly generic boasts about Darnell’s main squeeze without delving into the kind of salacious details that could make this come alive. He sells the compliments to her with the requisite enthusiasm and conviction but you aren’t going to remember any of the lines five minutes after it ends which means that it’s entirely left to Darnell’s stellar voice to put this over.

Though he probably pulls that feat off in the final analysis, he does so without much room to spare, making this a good performance that still has to be chalked up as a missed opportunity.


Give You What You Want No Matter What It Costs
Taking risks – be it with an arrangement and a different tempo as shown here – or with any other of a thousand creative decisions that producers and artists have to consider each time they step into a studio is never a bad thing even if occasionally what they decide on winds up not paying off as well as they hoped.

With My Kind Of Baby we can applaud the attempt to expand Darnell’s repertoire with something more energetic while also singling out his own performance as being well worth the effort while at the same time criticizing them for their over-ambitious musical palette and overly-simplistic lyrical concepts that doomed this to being something of a messy misfire.

It’s interesting but ultimately not anything that will get him to change his direction.

The downside to not quite clicking with something done with the intent of stepping outside their previous templates is that it risks having its failure to connect with listeners be attributed to the newer elements that were actually working.

It’s not the pacing or the boisterous delivery that were at fault – that we definitely want to hear more from out of Darnell going forward – but rather it’s the far too busy horns that trips this up and if they want to score with this kind of thing they need to streamline the track into something more elemental and let Darnell act as the showstopper to hold our attention.

Whoever takes the blame for this, Gayten, Biggs or Mendlesohn, needs to remember that their own musical ambitions and creative restlessness can never be allowed to take away from the performance of the artist at the center of the record and here, while Darnell comes away looking as good as ever, the rest of them come off looking confused.


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