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Don’t look now but few rock-oriented labels have been as consistently good as Specialty Records who have lots of bright green numbers scattered throughout their release rolls on these pages.

They may not have had a very deep pool of artists, but those they had were first rate. Jimmy Liggins, Percy Mayfield and last month the arrival of Jesse Belvin made them a formidable entity in rock ‘n’ roll circles.

This past spring they added a teenager from New Orleans named Lloyd Price whose debut hit the top of the charts which seemed certain to make an already strong contingent of stars even stronger going forward.

Well, that much I suppose is true enough, for they got a string of hits out of him, including this one, but while Price remained a recognizable name for the rest of the decade he never quite became the bright supernova that seemed imminent after his initial offering.

This record goes a long way into telling you why.


No Taste Of Wine
Though we make it a policy around here not to look ahead much, and certainly make every effort not to prematurely assign scores to future releases we haven’t yet reviewed, chances are that when all is said and done Lloyd Price will sit somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes artist rankings.

I don’t think I’m giving away any state secrets when I say that his first record, Lawdy Miss Clawdy, will be far and away his best effort and while other artists will likewise hit their peak the first time out with a perfect score like he did, most of them at least have something else approaching that in terms of quality, impact or both.

Price though had limitations already seen on that side – his strained reedy voice for one – which will hamper his ability to surpass that debut, and other self-inflicted shortcomings still to be unveiled in regards to his stylistic choices down the road will work to negate some of that ensuing commercial success in the minds of many.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, for in the summer of 1952 with that initial offering still riding high, rock fans were eagerly anticipating the follow-up, as evidenced by Oooh-Oooh-Oooh hitting right away and spending an impressive ten weeks on the charts.

Yet there’s something immediately evident when listening to it which is the weakest aspect of the entire record is Lloyd Price himself… both as a songwriter and as a singer… meaning the quality of this comes down largely to the melody he stole and the efforts of Dave Bartholomew’s band under his steady production hand to prop up the artist they were working behind.

In other words it seemed as though Price was just riding their coattails.


Hold Me Once Again
In all music, but most evident in music out of New Orleans around this time, melodies were recycled a lot, giving them new life and a changed perspective thanks to new lyrics and story.

It’s not exactly ethical in the strictest sense of the word, nor always the way to show off your own creativity as an artist, but as long as you took from songs that hadn’t been widely successful, or old enough where the current audience wouldn’t be familiar with it, the practice was a little more permissible.

With his first hit the basic riff was one of the most durable in all of rock, having appeared on everything from Fats Domino’s debut The Fat Man to Professor Longhair’s classic Tipitina still to come.

Yet each time it was altered just enough, speeding it up, slowing it down, to make it appear fresh, helped inordinately by having unique and memorable new stories each time out.

But with Oooh-Oooh-Oooh we get none of that. Instead Lloyd Price merely takes Domino’s hit from last year, Rockin’ Chair, and slaps new lyrics on it that start off as a series of drunken vocal sounds signifying absolutely nothing (a far too common occurrence for Price at this stage of his career) before relying on a series of clichés in place of a deeper plot.

To be fair once he ditches the nonsensical language Price’s vocals improve enough to ensure you don’t disregard him entirely but he certainly wasn’t a great singer at this stage of his career, his nasal voice seemed to have no volume knob or the ability to express a different outlook, and rather than try and modify that he’s allowed to run amuck here.

The result is he’s too loud for his own good, something not helped by the caterwauling he seems to turn to any time he runs out of words. Consequently he winds up largely overwhelming the very thing that comes close to making this record work well in spite of Price’s own shortcomings which is the ruthlessly efficient decision-making of his producer and the steely professionalism of the band working behind him.

Ironically Lloyd himself seems to understand how much he needs their help when he delivers the best line found in the entire song right before the instrumental break asking “What’s the matter with me, doctor?“.

Well, as long as you asked, let me tell ya!

Please Now Doctor, Can You Do Anything For Me?
Apologies for those who don’t need the reminder, but for those who came to the game late it’s important to note that Domino had cut Rockin’ Chair back in the spring of 1951 when Dave Bartholomew was no longer working for Imperial, meaning the band on that record was Domino’s road crew which included some pretty good musicians.

But they weren’t the session aces that defined his records through the years and they weren’t led by the best rock producer of the decade and as a result Fats’ disc suffered from a far too simple construction, relying on Domino’s vocal charm to lift it slightly above average.

Here the reverse is true as it’s the band who is carrying the load for the singer on Oooh-Oooh-Oooh. Truthfully if you combined the best aspects of the two records – Fats’ vocals atop Dave’s production – you’d have a much better single than either of the ones released.

It’s not a complicated arrangement being used here but as usual Bartholomew smartly layers it to give it added depth. Most notable is how he’s bringing different horns to the forefront to give it a subtle hook to fall back on while letting the piano and drums establish the rhythm with parts that stand out even as they blend in. To top it off he lets Herb Hardesty take his time with the sax solo rather than push him to do something inappropriately wild that would detract from the overall groove they’ve established.

The result is that this winds up being defined more by the instrumental side of the equation playing a catchy melody created by an even bigger local artist than anything that Price himself is doing. Considering that Bartholomew isn’t signed exclusively to the company and might stop taking freelance jobs at any time, there’s a very real possibility that the best work they’ll get out of this kid has already been put to wax and he won’t live up to even this compromised effort in the future.


I Just Worry All The Time
To be fair Lloyd Price is still in his teens and this is just his second release, and second hit, so there’s no cause for panic by any means. That’s a track record that few artists to date can match and he’ll manage to add to that commercial success with the flip side.

Even so however it’s got to cause some mild concern for Specialty Records to realize that if you’re focused on what the band is doing Oooh-Oooh-Oooh will earn higher marks than if you’re concentrating on the artist whose name adorns the label.

That’s something you tolerate out of someone who sits comfortably in the middle of the pack, but not what you want when out of an act who you’re banking on to propel your company even higher.


(Visit the Artist page of Lloyd Price for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)