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For those who had their curiosity piqued by the teaser that closed out yesterday’s review promising more beguiling mysteries when we’d meet up with Joseph “Mr. Google Eyes” August again, I hate to disappoint you but I was referring more to future releases from him, not the flip side of the same release.

But since I’m sure there’s an equal amount of readers who could care less about the behind the scenes mumbo jumbo that inevitably forms a lot of the content of many of these reviews and would prefer we just stick to analyzing the music contained within those records, then this one might be more your speed.

Yet considering who’s involved there’s bound to be at least SOME mysterious mumbo jumbo to touch upon all the same.


In The Morning, In The Night
Rather than rehash all of that which would be more easily understood – or NOT understood as the case may be – simply by going back to re-read all of the convoluted details of For You My Love, we probably should spend today’s introduction getting reacquainted with Mr. Google Eyes himself, the performer who is still the focal point of all of this intrigue.

Barely eighteen years old Joe August was already in high demand as a recording artist. He’d been inked to his first contract earlier this year by Bill Coleman of The Coleman Brothers gospel group who was in New Orleans trying to get distribution for their label Coleman Records out of New Jersey that sold primarily gospel but had made waves with The Ray-O-Vacs on the milder end of the rock spectrum at the end of last year.

When Coleman signed August they happened to have chosen him over the similarly available Larry Darnell, which makes it all the more ironic that the top side of this record was a cover version of Darnell’s soon to be Number One hit For You My Love, recorded for another New Jersey label with even stronger ties to the Crescent City, the Braun Brothers’ Regal Records.

August’s colorful Mr. Google Eyes moniker and his more dynamic stage presence explains why Coleman saw him as the stronger bet and when their first record with him, Young Boy, became a strong regional hit in his hometown, it looked as though their modest investment had paid off handsomely. The Colemans quickly brought August up to Jersey to perform in a hotel they also owned and paired him with the equally colorfully named group Billy Ford And His Musical V-8’s. This pairing was then recorded at the end of November, either by Coleman Records who then sold the results to major label Columbia who were looking to get further into the rock market, OR Columbia oversaw the session themselves, somewhat less likely but not out of the realm of possibility either.

Any way you looked at it though it all was pretty heady stuff for a kid who’d recently been employed delivering food on his bike for a restaurant while trying to convince clubs to let him perform, something he was able to do more due to the fact he’d owned a P.A. system which everybody wanted to use rather than for his musical aptitude alone at this point.

But Mr. Google Eyes was nothing if not an enthusiastic performer and if his voice itself was rather limited he was perfectly situated, both in age and location, to tap into rock music at its very source, giving him an authenticity that record labels quite naturally desired.

He also seemed to grasp the importance of mixing up his style, though the specific pairings on his first two releases were done by the record companies, the fact that he was offering up songs that took alternate routes was a sign that he was versatile enough not to let himself be pigeonholed as merely a one-note performer.

The problem is however the second approach, a slower more downbeat motif which I’m Glad You’re Coming Home falls squarely in, is shaping up to be not nearly as compelling as in his hands as the uptempo ravers that comprise his first approach.

Can’t Go On This Way
It’s fair to say that conceptual mistakes are a natural part of any creative endeavor and while unfortunate they’re at least understandable, which means we’re often inclined to give the perpetrators something of a pass on their initial errors in judgment.

But should the same miscalculation occur a second time then it becomes harder to be so lenient, as Joe August is starting to find out.

The B-side of his first record, Poppa Stoppa’s Be-Bop Blues, had a good many things in its favor, from good lyrics to the overall concept of paying homage to a disc jockey in New Orleans who was in part responsible for helping to expose rock ‘n’ roll to a wider audience. As topics went that record was something that provided a real-time appreciation for the cultural landscape rock existed in during its formative stages.

But while those aspects were certainly well conceived and both Paul Gayten’s band’s instrumental skill and Mr. Google Eyes’s vocal abilities were showcased fairly well within the record they suffered from something that should’ve been easy to discern heading into the session – the fact that neither of them complimented the story itself in any conceivable way.

The main fault to be found with that record was that it was an upbeat celebration framed by a decidedly downbeat delivery and that schism made relating to it difficult. But if you wanted to cut him some slack you could easily remind critics that he was a teenager with no prior experience writing songs and it was also his very first recording session which meant his missteps were more easily forgivable, especially since the top side of that single was so strong in every regard.

But now that defense of August gets a little harder to put forth. He’s already tasted success, he’s gotten much needed experience under his belt and he’s had time to study the marketplace firsthand and reassess what types of songs he’s best suited to pursue. Since the mixture of positive theme and negative presentation the first time around seemed more like an unintended quirk than a deliberate game plan to begin with chances are we wouldn’t see him make the same mistakes this time out.

Yet amazingly I’m Glad You’re Coming Home repeats almost every single one of those faults with no change whatsoever in the results.


It Makes Me Feel So… Good?!?
The similarities in August’s performance on each of these songs are eerie but I don’t think it was done with any conscious intent, telling you that he simply gravitated naturally towards this type of song and delivery and nobody involved either time – since he was recording with two separate bands on the respective recording dates – seemed to notice the flaws in conception, or if they did then they didn’t feel it was their place to step in and question it.

When analyzing Poppa Stoppa’s Be Bop Blues I mentioned how he seemed to be trying to channel Andrew Tibbs’ vocal style, which is only natural considering Tibbs was an impressive singer with notable success in rock just before Mr. Google Eyes made his debut on wax. But I’d sort of forgotten I’d even written that until hearing August employ the same technique here on I’m Glad You’re Coming Home and the first thing that sprang to mind was how he was attempting to replicate Tibbs’s delivery on this as well.

Yet as said then it’s not something that is very easily done and it certainly doesn’t benefit August to put himself in direct competition with a singer who has a much better natural voice than he does, not only a purer tone but far more technical know-how thanks to Tibbs’s gospel background growing up.

Mr. Google Eyes still sounds okay here, it’s not a voice that’s giving you any discomfort in hearing in other words, but he’s placing an undue burden on that voice to carry the song in a style that is not his strongest suit to begin with. In order for this technique to work well the song it’s attached to will have to be able to lend itself to his vocal approach both thematically and lyrically so the two entities can compliment each other.

This is hardly a difficult task… or at least finding the proper perspective for the song shouldn’t be too hard to do. If he’s going to sing with despondency than what he’s singing about needs to be despondent by nature. That’s hardly a novel concept and there are obviously plenty of well-worn topics to choose from in this regard – financial hardship, being overcome by bad vices be it gambling or drink, and the always reliable losing in love – take your pick, they all have exactly the type of scenarios you’re looking for.

Yet Joe August chooses none of these, nor anything remotely close to them for that matter. Instead he seems hellbent on telling us how GOOD his fortune is because his girl who had left in the past is returning to him.

Come again?

In other words, Mr. Google Eyes is deliriously happy… expect you’d never know it from how maudlin he sounds in conveying this news.

Now at least it can be said that this time he’s framing his elation by recounting his earlier dejection which serves to show the contrast between the highs and lows of this relationship, but because he’s doing so from the point where “everything’s alright” again he needs to flip the delivery on its head. It’d be far more effective to sound excited while telling us about how bad he USED to feel before his girl agreed to get back together with him than it for him to sound on the verge of suicide while expounding on his joyful anticipation of their reunion. Nor does it help his case when the particulars of the plot are so thin and thus without any vivid scenes to distract us from the disconnect with the vocals, he’s drawing attention to it instead.

It’s almost as if he was so intent on giving us a song that sounded a certain way that he never stopped to consider what worked best within that context and if he can’t figure that part out – as simple as it is – then why should an audience grant him the benefit of the doubt yet again.

Gonna Have To Walk The Streets
Making this divide all the more glaring is the music Billy Ford’s group frames this in as he chooses to double down on the somber vocals by matching its colors with dusky greys that conjure up a chilly overcast late fall day where sensible creatures are preparing to hibernate for the winter or buy a ticket for the tropics to wait out the season in relative comfort.

The mournful group horns… the halting piano… the sparse reflective guitar accent notes… the lurching pace… the foreboding mood… all suggests someone spiraling into deep depression, not eagerly awaiting a rekindling of a romance. This is music for listening to when the cold winds blow and the rain beats down on your window, not for the types of scenes where you and your beloved run into each others arms amidst a field of wildflowers with the sun beating down on your bare shoulders.

I suppose you can credit the band with allying themselves with the singer rather than intentionally clashing with him, but in this instance it does no less harm – and perhaps far more – than trying to forcibly steer him into a more upbeat tone by playing loud and vibrant horn riffs backed by a jittery piano and slicing guitar riffs as the backbeat stomps from start to finish. At least then you wouldn’t be indicted as an accomplice for the murder of I’m Glad You’re Coming Home.

That the foibles of any artist, particularly such a young one, are laid bare in the public eye is one of the institutional hazards of a career in rock ‘n’ roll. Most artists will end up suffering their growing pains in plain view of the audience they need to connect with and Mr. Google Eyes is proving to be no exception to that unwelcome rule.

It may help for him to remember that the audience can be remarkably forgiving if your high points are so high that they’re able to ignore the misfires, or if you show consistent progress at least when it comes to navigating your learning curve by correcting for past errors in judgment.

The first time around August gave more than enough to have us eagerly anticipate his follow-up to see if he could match, or even surpass, his initial breakthrough while shoring up the conceptual flaw of its counterpart. But with this release he does neither, both sides are not only steps back in quality but also in their failure to recognize why they fall short to begin with.

As a result the jury is still out on Mr. Google Eyes and while he definitely has the skills to overcome this bump in the road, only time will tell if he’ll make the adjustments necessary to be more than simply a colorful name in the annals of rock’s history.


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