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ALADDIN 3137; JULY 1952



There are some artists who come along that we know aren’t going to make a major impact the rock landscape. That doesn’t mean they’re insignificant altogether, only that their place in the ranks is rather replaceable and their records can sometimes seem slightly interchangeable with those made by others.

Though this song itself certainly is interchangeable with countless others, as seems to have been the intent, singer Mickey Champion brings something sly to her performance which shows just how vital it is to find a way to imprint your own personality onto a record to make it your own.

In the end that still might not make this a release with a lot of impact, commercial or otherwise, but it makes for good listening whenever you come across it which is more than enough.


Please Let Me Be The First To Go
Just like most people don’t venture far away from where they were raised, a lot of artists tended not to go far outside their hometown when signing a recording contract, which could be problematic if the city you called home was bereft of viable options.

Los Angeles had plenty of rock-based labels to choose from thankfully, and since Mickey Champion began with the most reprehensible – Modern/R.P.M., at least when it came to getting paid – anything else would be a step up.

As she’d already been working with Maxwell Davis, the city’s indefatigable producer of note, and since he was most closely aligned with Aladdin Records, it was only natural that Champion offer that company her services now that she was free and clear of the notorious Bihari brothers.

What this means is that she’s got the best platform possible to take a jump up in the world. The label is one of the better run operations in rock and musically speaking there’s a good solid foundation to work with on Two Faced Daddy, as Davis is backing her in the studio with his peerless group, while the song itself is written by one of rock’s foremost independent songwriter, Jessie Mae Robinson.

Now granted what Robinson came up with is more or less a collection of recycled lyrical tropes but it’s put together very well, and Davis lifts up almost everything he touches with tight playing and diverse arrangements, which means it’s up to Champion to bring just enough charisma to the table in order to make this more than just something to pad Aladdin’s summer release schedule.

Luckily for us she does just that even if it takes awhile to become apparent.


Some Honey Over Here
The way this starts off, with ten seconds of piano and bass creating an 8PM jazzy club vibe, you might not have very high hopes for what follows.

Not that it won’t be competently executed with Maxwell Davis in charge… even those ten seconds have a little more groove to them and an earthier feel than many similarly constructed songs that have forgotten which era they’re in, but it’s still giving off the appearance of looking backwards rather than planting its feet firmly in the present.

That impression doesn’t fully change when Mickey Champion comes in, singing quite well and sounding as sultry as her Little Esther inspired pipes can do. Of course it helps she’s a few years older and isn’t beset with the same nasal passages as her rival, but even so this is still coming across as more of a laid-back high class production than a down and dirty rock song.

But that’s okay… we might not make it our first choice, but anything done this efficiently is bound to be worth sacrificing three minutes of our lives to hear.

We needn’t have worried, for when she turns her sights to the Two Faced Daddy in question the song takes on its own identity and Champion steps up and leaves no doubt as to who is in charge here.

The song is presented as an ultimatum for her man to choose between Mickey and his other squeeze and yet Champion doesn’t seem at all worried about the outcome. She’s calm and calculating in her delivery and Robinson’s lines are sharp and unambiguous enough to make her message clear.

To her credit both women involved understand it’s a win-win situation for Mickey… either he chooses her because she demanded it, giving her the guy she wants and an affirmation of the power she possesses over him which she’ll need to keep the relationship going, or he vacillates on his decision, or frankly picks the other girl, which will allow Champion to make a clean break from a guy who’s not worth her time or attention.

With Davis’s smokey replies on sax emphasizing her cool disposition, the record has an effortless aura of self-assurance to it that is highly alluring. Girls listening will envision themselves embodying those same traits that Mickey shows, while the guys will see the inherent appeal of having somebody whose confidence in themselves never wavers.

But where this makes a huge leap is in the bridge, a section that far too many songwriters and singers treat as merely a necessary break from the main thrust of the story, but which Robinson uses to inject her best lines while Champion breaks out her sassiest delivery and completely wins you over.

The tartness in her voice as she essentially mocks this guy for running around on him, broken up by Davis’s smirking replies on the horn, is priceless. Her tone, her line readings and their shifting emphasis vocally elevate this far beyond whatever generic materials it was crafted from and shows that while she wasn’t destined to be a star, Mickey Champion was much more capable than being seen as merely a foot soldier in rock’s quest for world domination.


Lovin’ Me In The Daytime
This is one of those rare records where your opinion of it – or MY opinion, since I don’t claim to speak for you – changes as it goes.

Everything about it was good in a very basic sense. The story is hardly original, but presents its plot in a clear concise way with some memorable lines. The arrangement sticks to the basics, yet every musician is on their game. Maybe you’d have liked a little less guitar in the break, or maybe you’d have liked more, but you can’t fault what’s there.

But as sturdy as all of those components in Two Faced Daddy are, the record requires a singer who handles each of them properly… one moment of disconnect, one unexplained shift in her voice that contradicts the attitude she’s supposed to have, one word that gets overplayed or undersold and the spell of the record is broken… not irreparably, but certainly enough to be politely put aside.

Yet Champion never falters. Each word is delivered with maximum effectiveness, all operating within the confines of a very narrow playing field, where each emotional mark has to be hit precisely and she hits the bullseye on all of them.

As a result this is one of those records where even though you can see why it didn’t become a hit – because on first listen it doesn’t jump out at you – you can sense its quality and when you listen again and really pay attention you begin to appreciate the craft shown by everyone involved.

So call this one a testament to the art of making a record if you want, more than a display of artistic brilliance, but the result is something that is as solid as granite, able to hold its own in most any company it finds itself in.


(Visit the Artist page of Mickey Champion for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)