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DOMINO 350, MAY 1950



Though around here we don’t relish taking sides in any disputes over credit or blame for the success or failure of certain efforts, it’s inevitable that when objectively analyzing countless records over the years there’ll be times when laying blame at someone’s feet is unavoidable.

When the target of that criticism is somebody well respected in rock history, a figure who will go on to contribute a lot of great work under a variety of guises over time, then it’s not very enjoyable to have to point out when they slipped up and cost an artist a chance for a bigger hit, or perhaps even a classic record.

But maybe that’s what flip-sides were for… to shift the blame away from the sideman and arranger and back to the artist who today shows that when it comes to stumbling in rock ‘n’ roll, nobody was immune for long.


A Crazy Notion
Essentially everything we’re about to tell you about this song and performance is the complete opposite of what we said yesterday about the top side of the single, Rock My Soul.

Where that was a good song done in by some bad decisions in the arrangement, Cryin’ For You is a lesser song that is made more tolerable by some strong choices in the arrangement.

While the most enjoyable aspects of the former were the lyrics, attitude and vocal exuberance of Mr. Google Eyes, on this side he’s by far the weakest part, and where we bemoaned René Hall’s over-reliance on outdated horn charts on that track, here we’re pleased to say that it’s Hall who avails himself best as he smartly features his own guitar as the primary accompaniment.

So if you want the pocket edition review, there you have it. What was good is now bad, what was bad is now good, end of story, that’s a wrap, let’s head to the bar and argue over something entirely different.

But if you’re the kind who needs details rather than generalities, then you might as well stick around to find out how the same personnel could create two songs that sound completely different from one another, unable to retain the basic awareness of what works and what doesn’t from one song to the next.

You Played Your Hand So Terrific
Since we started by picking apart René Hall’s decisions in the arrangement yesterday, his first appearance on these pages as the “official” Musical Director of a label rather than just a hired gun, let’s waste no time before highlighting his contributions to this song which comprise the strongest attributes of Cryin’ For You, an otherwise middling offering that had little chance for transcendence.

Unlike the rousing Rock My Soul which melded a rock song onto a gospel framework to good effect – save the inappropriate older-styled horns that Hall allowed to intrude far too often – today’s number is a ballad, something which is a smart choice in theory as it allows the artist to showcase two different skill-sets.

Because it’s slower paced with a maudlin theme that means much of what worked so well last time out – the surging rhythm, the call and response vocals, the enthusiasm of the singer – and even what DIDN’T work, those spry but moldy horns, are going to have to be swapped out for something completely different.

Enter René Hall, guitarist extraordinaire, who didn’t quite sit out on the top-side, but he kept well in the background. Not so here, where his guitar takes center stage and becomes really the only element worth focusing on for much of the time.

His playing early on is sharp as a knife and dripping with dynamics, going from harsh and menacing in the intro to soft and delicate as a spring breeze moments later, all of it perfectly in tune with the shifting mood the song itself requires. The horns meanwhile are reduced to a more appropriate supporting role and with less to do there’s less of a chance for them to upset the ambiance with ill-conceived parts.

The piano is laying down the faint rhythm, augmented by the bass and drums without any of them doing much more than suggesting a forward momentum for much of the record, smartly yielding to Hall and Mr. Google Eyes for the most part. Yet when they do try and stretch out ever so much it wanders uncomfortably around in search of a destination giving the impression that nobody was really confident about their choices.

It’s hard to blame Hall for any of this, for he hasn’t been given much of a melody to work with and rather than strip it down even more, essentially turning it into a two man game between his guitar and Mr. Google Eyes voice, he’s attempting to find spots for the rest of the band to earn their paycheck and yet the more they play the less they’re contributing.

But when we’re about to give up on the lot of them here comes Hall back for another deft lick or two on his axe and it sort of soothes your soul just enough to listen a little more.

Need My Consolation
I guess to be fair we should credit Mr. Google Eyes for understanding the need for different types of material, something he’s been doing from the start, no matter which of the three record companies that have been employing him. So his instincts are right if nothing else.

However it’s becoming fairly obvious that while he’s got the right idea when it comes to the benefits of pairing up a sad ballad with an uptempo rocker, the fact of the matter is the sad ballads don’t have nearly as much going for them as what’s he’s served up on his higher octane material. The fact Cryin’ For You was written by the usually reliable Rudolph Toombs – though it’s hardly one of his better compositions – shows that Mr. Google eyes is still lacking the proper touch when it comes to highlighting the elements required to make such songs work, making him oh-for-four when it comes to cutting a compelling ballad.

Though some singers clearly aren’t cut out for certain approaches, he’s got the voice for this, he’s got the right role model in Roy Brown who’d wring every ounce of emotion from songs like this, but what he doesn’t seem to have is the comfort level needed to be able to navigate something without much around him for support. He’s still plenty untutored on faster stuff too, but because those songs are being carried along with boisterous enthusiasm and provide plenty of opportunity for more compelling instrumental solos we tend not to notice the limited construct. But ballads have no such doorways to duck into… here, everything is laid bare and the thinner the melody is, the less chance there is to compensate for it unless you have the confidence with which to do so vocally.

Of course it doesn’t help much that the lyrics aren’t very deep or insightful, just a handful of sad-hearted tropes that have been used with much more inventiveness elsewhere, making this seem like a sketch outline rather than a polished idea. There’s no clever wordplay, in fact some of the lines are awkwardly trying to fit into the established meter forcing him to repeat syllables so it doesn’t come up short, nor are there any novel twists to the situations he lays out to at least get us to admire his creativity.

The key to making sad songs work… to getting them to connect to an audience, is never found in just the despondent mood itself, but rather in the ability of the singer to get the listener to put themselves in their place in the song. On the upbeat rockers we can be perfectly satisfied to be an unaffiliated observer, but these kind of mournful tunes have to reflect our own experiences and bring out those repressed feelings we want to remain hidden most of the time.

But here we just get some bland descriptions of sadness, as if it were a clinical study of the term, then throws in a few moans of despair to get us to think he’s genuinely miserable… which frankly we’d already believe even without those accouterments simply because the record is making us rather miserable to have to sit through.


Day And Night
Though he’s shaping up to be an interesting artist, one who still has some untapped potential lurking under the surface hoping to be drawn out in the right circumstance, Joseph “Mr. Google Eyes” August is also starting to appear as somebody with a very definite ceiling to those possibilities.

Granted he’s still a teenager and that’s hardly the time anyone wants their entire life story to be written in permanent ink, but as shown once again by Cryin’ For You his limitations have remained stubbornly unchanged despite multiple attempts on multiple labels with a number of skilled people working alongside him.

That we can also say his best aspects have remained similarly unchanged from one stop to the next is promising, but it’s probably fair to say that for good or for ill he’s more or less a finished product already and his ensuing career prospects will only be significantly enhanced if he finds a consistently capable producer and co-writer to shore up his weaknesses and better accentuate his strengths.

Since Mr. Google Eyes was from New Orleans we can only ask… Dave Bartholomew, where are you now that we need you?


(Visit the Artist page of Mr. Google Eyes for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)