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You’d be crying too if all of your singles released over the past year since signing a well-publicized deal with Federal Records had sank without a trace in a sea of indifference from the public who just a year ago had adored you.

Though the top side of this record found her briefly getting her head above water again, her ability to stay afloat was compromised by a combination of bad material, weak arrangements and perhaps just the inevitable passage of time which ensured that once an audience has gotten their fill of you, they’d move on without so much as a second thought.


You’ve Got A Home
Our speculation as to the degree in which Federal Records tried hiding the involvement on this release of Johnny Otis and Mel Walker, both still contracted to Savoy Records at the time, resulted in us essentially declaring… they didn’t seem to care much at all.

The label credits on Ring-A-Ding-Doo were disguised just enough to avoid legal admission of their presence, citing them as The J & O Orchestra with co-lead vocals by Mel… no last name given (or needed for that matter).

But here on The Crying Blues they go one step further in granting Johnny Otis the writer’s credit in plain English.

Now of course there is no contractual clause in his deal with Savoy that only those artists recording for that label can cut one of his songs, so Federal was on safe ground here, but in stating his contribution in unambiguous terms they seemed to almost be rubbing Savoy’s nose in it.

Of course at the time this was cut in early November, Ralph Bass who used to work for Savoy and now headed up Federal, was reasonably assured that he’d soon land both Otis and Walker (who doesn’t appear on this side) when their deals were up, but as we said in the closing of the hit side, that wasn’t to be after Otis got a better deal elsewhere.

The problem with that is change of heart was that Esther was stuck at Federal for another year and would be deprived of her mentor’s guiding hand in the studio.

But then again, listening to the song before us now has you wondering if maybe she wouldn’t be a little better off without Otis around if this was what he was coming up with in an effort to revitalize her suddenly floundering career.


You Think You’re Not Satisfied
Before anyone jumps down our throat for roundly criticizing this cut, let’s start by saying there ARE elements to the record which are perfectly acceptable… not great mind you, certainly fairly mundane all things considered, but hardly awful.

The intro for one is rather promising, as horns creep into view, slowly building anticipation while drums and piano add interesting layers to the arrangement.

But while that aspect of the song remains intact as it moves forward, it’s kind of hard to hear it once the vocals start. Esther of course is the focal point and she’s fine as usual. The song’s lurching pace and gently swelling mini-climaxes in each stanza are effective enough, but unfortunately she’s not alone here.

Apparently Otis felt that since he named the song The Crying Blues that somebody had to provide actual sobbing to prove the story was eliciting the proper response. Truthfully they’d have been better off had they collected real tears in a small glass vile and included those as a surprise bonus for those who purchased the record itself (as for those too cheap to do so and who’d just plunk down a nickel to hear it on a jukebox, maybe somebody with a garden hose could be hiding in the shadows ready to drench them with a stream of “tears” instead).

The crying jag goes nowhere however, it’s off-putting and distracting. We KNOW this guy is sad, the lyrics tell us that already, so we don’t need to see – or hear – him breaking down for this to hit home with us. It’s redundant, not to mention incredibly annoying.

By now the musical side is breaking down as well, the melody wandering into aimlessness as the horns become more grating on the senses. The instrumental break pushes the limits of our patience with the throwback big-band horn charts and while there are some attempts to salvage it with a few stray trombone notes, the overall feel is still outdated.

Pete Lewis’s guitar tries trimming away the fat like a surgeon’s knife but he can’t cut down to the bone which is what the song needs and when he switches tone entirely for a fleet-fingered solo it sounds as if it was imported from another record entirely even though it provides one of the few redeeming moments in the song.

The only real highlight of this is ordeal is when Esther declares with some authority “He rocks me and he rolls me”, reiterating the growing importance of the term in music circles, but as to WHO she was referring to as being potent enough to elicit that response from her, your guess is as good as mine, because whoever it is clearly has gone incommunicado on this record.


You’re Gonna Hang Your Head And Cry
After enduring such a long commercial draught it’s doubtful that any of them would be bothered much by the criticisms of a mere B-side, however well deserved they were.

To be fair, the slower pace and dour mood this cloaks itself in does at least provide a halfway decent sonic alternative to the more upbeat top side.

The problem though is The Crying Blues doesn’t tell a sensible or consistent story, as Esther’s departure from her man immediately gets refuted by Esther herself who admits it was a mistake… but doesn’t give a reason.

Her sudden return down the homestretch means that everything leading up to that, some of which was quite uncomfortable sitting through, was rather pointless… kind of like the record itself.

The guy she came back to has stopped crying by this point, but it’s only because he passed the tears on to us.


(Visit the Artist page of Little Esther for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)