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In the annals of rock record labels, Atlantic Records stands tall.

Of course it has to be said that a lot of the accolades for their success was the result of a decades long press tour by their founder Ahmet Ertegun, who never found a writer he couldn’t charm in order to boost his own legend, but such legends can’t be based on mirages and any way you look at it Atlantic stands second to only Motown Records when it comes to independent labels that created the biggest impact over time.

When they started in 1947 however they were just well-meaning amateurs with little idea about the current market and only through sheer luck did they stumble into rock ‘n’ roll. But now just four years later Atlantic Records has climbed to the top of the hill with shrewd personnel decisions, a sharp-eyed focus on the right material and the ability to mold talented artists who came to them with non-commercial instincts into rock stars.

Odelle Turner will never become that, she won’t earn a single hit or even last very long with the label, but this record, oddly enough, might just be the perfect example of why Atlantic succeeded where so many others had failed.


I Made That Party Rock
The man most responsible for the rise of Atlantic as the leader in the field – a position it arguably held for just four years (1951-1954), although it remained in contention for decades after that – was Jesse Stone.

He was the musical genius at the company, as well as the hardest working man there… the arranger, the de facto producer, the one who meticulously dissected what worked and found the similarities – the emphasis on the bass line being just his most famous contribution – and recreated them in countless songs, many of which he wrote himself which became the label’s biggest hits. He put the studio musicians through their paces until they could play what he wanted how he wanted it and he rehearsed the vocal groups until they sounded tight.

Stone was recently “promoted” to musical director… something that for all intent and purposes he already had been doing since his arrival at Atlantic three years earlier and was merely a lofty title to salve his pride since he probably didn’t get a rise in pay to go along with it. Here on Alarm Clock Boogie, the only release by Odelle Turner, he’ll at least get label credit as well.

Odelle Turner certainly wasn’t related to Big Joe Turner by blood or by talent, but she was certainly a serviceable singer and songwriter, even as it’s Stone’s arrangement that makes this work as well as it does.

A lot of times we’ll refer to something as “generic”, which usually is an insult, or at least a backhanded compliment, but the reason for this is most of the time it’s because the goal isn’t to replicate what’s actually great at the current time, but merely what’s pretty average so it’ll fit into the landscape.

Whether that’s because those who write, perform and/or produce those tracks simply don’t have the talent to aim higher, or because they’re lacking ambition, we can see the difference it makes when a song like this treats “generic” as a challenge to replicate the best of what is out there… much of which Stone himself had produced to begin with.


Thought I Was In Heaven
Since we spent the first half of the review celebrating Jesse Stone, it stands to reason we should start with his arrangement which create the kind of rollicking good time groove that captivates you on first listen…

But that’d be redundant, not to mention too obvious, so instead we’ll switch our attention to Odelle Turner who otherwise might undeservedly get lost in the shuffle.

Turner’s song may be a simple time-worn premise, that of life being an around the clock party, but it’s one that holds up because what kid digging rock ‘n’ roll in any era wasn’t obsessed with going out with friends, drinking, living it up and having the kind of fun that at 19 is the center of your existence.

Yet rather than merely break down her night’s activities, Alarm Clock Boogie presents the story from the perspective of the next morning when she’s roused from bed too early, maybe even before the hangover fully hits.

In spite of this she sounds as if she’s ready to go out partying again tonight because – vocally at least – she’s at full tilt from the moment that alarm clock effect which kicks off the record starts to fade. From there she’s alternating between bragging about the wild fun she had the night before and cursing the fact she was woken up before her body recovered. Making this even more intriguing is how along the way there’s some interesting, although very ambiguous, double-entendres in the song that may – or may not – mean what we hope they mean.

Chances are they’re not referring to sex but rather the after effects of a night of debauchery as she confesses “I thought I was in heaven” until the alarm clock brought her back to earth. When she also tells us that the clock “makes the whole bed shake” followed by her suggestive “Ooh-oo-ooh” squeals, you can easily envision an alternative explanation for all of these things which would indicate the party’s not quite over yet after all.

She seems to clear it up when changing the tag in the final line to “makes my whole head ache” to describe being roused by that alarm clock, but considering how bright eyed and bushy tailed she sounds it makes little difference whether or not she’s enjoying an encore performance come sunrise or if the previous night’s activities have already fulfilled her daily quota for cheap tawdry fun.

Surprised I Was Alive
The one failing Turner makes isn’t in being clearer as to her activities, we can read into it anything we’d like and it won’t hurt the narrative much, but rather the fact she doesn’t give the song a better hook as she sings a very clunky countdown coming out of the raucous sax solo giving the appearance of not being able to come up with anything more inventive even though it’s obviously meant to refer to the hours on the clock itself.

A stop-time run-down of the particulars of the preceding night’s decedent activities here would’ve been a better idea and had the potential to send Alarm Clock Boogie into orbit because Stone’s arrangement is firing on all cylinders with boogie piano, cascading drums and the undulating sax throughout the record.

In the end that’s what deserves to be remembered about this lone single from Odelle Turner – the uninhibited enthusiasm she and the band display even if the up and down nature of the composition serves as a reminder that the more fun you had last night, come morning there’s always gonna be hell to pay.


(Visit the Artist page of Odelle Turner for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)