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REGAL 3315; MARCH 1951

 
 

 

Being unique as an artist definitely has its advantages when it comes to getting noticed and standing out in a crowd, but just as easily as it helps you to get a leg up when starting out being unique can also cut those legs out from under you in due time.

Though Larry Darnell was part of a larger movement with rock ‘n’ roll, at times he seemed as though he was in a category of one when it came to those within rock who used the same melodramatic techniques to connect with an audience.

That meant while other more generic artists could ride a wave of popularity for a various widespread styles by merely adhering those characteristics, Darnell had to continually re-establish what he did each and every time out and hope the audience came back to hear something in that same unique vein again.

This time they did not… and for good reason.
 

 

I Guess I Lost My Chance
In the future Larry Darnell would offer a different, more forceful, vocal attack on certain records, though it’d still be more of a rare change of pace than a committed new direction, but for now his glassy tenor concentrated largely on expressing heartbreak and even though this side has a lot more rhythm in its arrangement and his delivery than usual, it’s hardly being done in a way that is very modern.

In fact it’d be hard to surmise from this single just who Larry Darnell’s main audience was – and had been – since his arrival on the scene a little more than a year ago, even though vocally he’s not that far removed from his biggest hits.

The flip side, an original composition by Regal’s in house bandleader Howard Biggs, entitled Nobody Cares – Nobody Knows, was pure pop with a stuffy arrangement that is perfectly suited for the mainstream 1951 and while the lyrics are almost intentionally rote – thereby confirming its pop aspirations you might say – the melody is actually kind of nice and Darnell sells it effectively with far more soulfulness than most pop singers were willing to even attempt, or capable of pulling off should they try.

That attempt to bridge the gap between the two genres separated by a yawning chasm of indifference from each camp might seem to be a no-win situation at first, as middle-aged white pop consumers were hardly going to be giving up their Guy Mitchell and Dinah Shore records for Darnell’s more intense emoting.

Yet apparently some in the black community were aspiring to move “up” in the world, as that unlikely song crept onto regional listings while Why Did You Say Goodbye, clearly the side intended to have more rock appeal, failed to draw any interest whatsoever.

One listen to how awkwardly it attempts to bridge two vastly different musical worlds in its own right should leave no doubt as to why it fell upon deaf ears.
 

Someone To Take My Place
Musically this is ten years out of date with lots of inappropriate horns playing with brassy cheerfulness on the intro and yet another sign that if left to their own devices people like Howard Biggs, who came of age during the period this style was in vogue, would revert back to those moldy aesthetics because it’s what they knew, what they liked and probably in many cases what they wished had never been replaced by something like rock ‘n’ roll.

However to its credit Why Did You Say Goodbye does allow Darnell to sing with a quicker pace and more rhythmic flair than we’re used to getting out of him, even if in doing so they sent him back in time by stripping this of most of rock’s most defining characteristics.

Where’s the forceful back beat? The raunchy tenor saxes? Even the timeless boogie patterns that would go a long way in cutting down the years between the era this composition was inspired by and the current era in which it will have to find a home if Darnell’s career is to continue unabated.

We don’t get those and for the most part the musical arrangement is like an albatross around Darnell’s neck even if the structure of the song itself could’ve been made to work with better instrumental choices.

The sax solo is the one redeeming quality of this aspect of the record and is well played even though the same lines played with a bit raunchier tone would’ve been far better. As it is it still manages to connect the overall record to rock in ways the other horns can’t possibly do.

Yet it’s those other horns which dominate the arrangement from start to finish and after that prolonged intro it’s doubtful a lot of rock fans would even stick around until the saxophone makes its presence known, meaning that the image this record gives off is one of a rock solo thrown into a big band leftover.
 

After All I’ve Done For You
As inappropriate as the bulk of this music sounds within the rock environment of 1951 it’s still Larry Darnell’s record, not the producer’s record, and so if anyone has the ability to change our mind on its quality it’s the man behind the microphone himself.

He does his best with the limited means he’s been given to carry out his job. The fact he’s singing with some bounce to his step here is always nice to hear, but the problem is the melody seems to be one of those taken from a beginners course notebook that anyone who knows the rudiments of notes could probably stitch together.

In fact you might not even need that much knowledge because it’s not hard to imagine a restless four year old making up this same song (with far more inane lyrics) in the back seat of a car on a long trip. That up and down sing-songy pattern is annoying even in the best of circumstances and while the lyrics of Why Did You Say Goodbye at least tell a story… or the aftermath of a story is more like it… the basic structure is still remarkably juvenile sounding.

Darnell obviously has more vocal skill than your average tyke and he throws himself into the plot, as superficial as it may be, but his enthusiasm doesn’t match the lines he’s delivering. He’s supposed to be broken up over this split but it all sounds completely removed from the anguish he’s supposed to be expressing.

This would be one of those records where those who care less about lyrics might find more appealing, but when you combine the outdated arrangement, the disconnect between the singer and the message and the simplicity of the main melody you’re left with a song that has a bunch of seriously mismatched components leaving a rock star with no sensible direction to follow.
 


 

It Was Nothing But A Lie
Artists like Larry Darnell were always prone to being pushed in these more mainstream directions if they weren’t careful and yet those at Regal Records seemed to sense the inherent risks involved in such a move and tried to couch the older styled arrangement in a more aggressive vocal technique that could be buttressed by a rock-appropriate sax solo, apparently thinking that all of these things would somehow mesh well together.

While it’s true there’s no jarring switches from one element to another on Why Did You Say Goodbye there’s also no cohesion to the overall product. It’s badly conceived even if the individual parts are capably executed.

The record’s ambiguous stylistic direction and its subsequent commercial failure hardly puts Darnell’s career in peril, his previous records consistently charted and those to follow will as well, so in the big picture this is little more than a speed bump.

But at the time it came out you’d be entirely justified in questioning whether someone who was as unique as Larry Darnell to begin with could weather a prolonged absence from the consciousness of the rock constituency when so many revolutionary new sounds were emerging over the next couple of months.

As always with Darnell he stands alone and here he’s standing on some very thin ice in the middle of nowhere hoping he doesn’t fall through and drown in a frigid sea of indifference.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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