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Welcome to the first entry that can be housed under the heading (if we used headings that is) “Everything But The Kitchen Sink”.

As could probably be discerned from that teaser this is a fascinating record in many ways, cut by a big name artist who already has established himself as one the leaders in the field, a pioneer in rock instrumentals and someone who was breaking through as we speak with some of the first genuine certified hits in the rock realm, thereby confirming all this noise may in fact amount to something worthwhile.

Yet as we know in any endeavor that attempts to break new ground the early experiments can quite often be hit and miss. Occasionally you may stumble across a formula that works well enough to keep pushing forward, but at other times you’ll be mixing chemicals that will result in serious lab explosions and lead to nothing but considerably higher premiums on your life and property insurance.

So let that serve as a warning to be sure to put on your protective goggles and step back out of harm’s way because these are combustible materials Paul Williams is messing around with and he’s not a scientist, just a saxophonist, and so you enter at your own risk.

Lab Work
If Paul Williams had any idea what all of this musical alchemy was leading to you wonder if he still would’ve donned his white coat and headed into the laboratory, or if he’d have taken a job on the assembly line at one of the automobile manufacturers in his home town of Detroit instead. Putting lug nuts on a wheel wouldn’t likely wind up with him making a name for himself and receiving standing ovations for his work but it might be a decidedly less stressful occupation than trying to help light the fuse for a musical revolution in the public eye.

Williams was by all accounts a modest musician, one not prone to spotlight hogging displays, though on stage he could and would do what was required to put across a song. But listening to his work on record over the years he certainly seemed to prefer more orderly playing than many of his contemporaries who blasted their way to stardom using every crass squealing and honking trick imaginable.

Whereas many routinely skirted the edge of obscenity laws to make their mark in rock Williams was largely content to step aside for others to rouse the passions of the screaming masses while he kept up a steady groove in support.

But others in the business of issuing his records, whose own livelihood depended on connecting with this burgeoning audience who seemed to be craving loud, crude and reckless behavior on wax, were urging Williams to cut loose. Producer Teddy Reig in particular kept reminding his star sax player to honk up a storm and so, conflicted perhaps but dutiful to the end, Paul Williams did his best to comply.

The results of that compromise between his own artistic sensibilities and the still uncertain methods for achieving maximum excitement for the rock fan sometimes had a tendency to go a little haywire.

Such is the case at times with the promisingly titled Boogie Ride, a song which has the right objective but no earthly idea how to achieve their goals, hence the inclination to throw in everything but the kitchen sink in an effort to figure out what parts might help bring their goals to fruition.

Contents May Be Unstable
If you listen closely for all I know you MIGHT actually hear a kitchen sink rattling around in the mix here. Certainly it wouldn’t be completely out of place considering all of the other odd parts that get tossed into Boogie Ride along the way.

It starts off with a sound that harkens back at least four or five years with the horn section combining to sound like a train pulling out of the station. This is exacerbated with an odd percussion effect that follows, almost as if it were striking a bell twice before a penny-whistle chimes in.

At this point you might be flashing forward to some of Brian Wilson’s quirky sound palettes on the aborted SMiLE sessions, though this is not played with nearly as much melodic inventiveness as The Beach Boys tapes revealed. Still, you have to admit that the sheer attempt at such creativity in late 1947 when this was cut is something to behold.

The train motif is intentional, as the band cries out in unison “All aboard, all aboard for the boogie ride” but if the first part is any indication you’ll probably take the bus instead. Everything about that intro clashes and since clashes is one letter away from crashes you probably aren’t going to feel so safe climbing aboard whatever hunk of steel and high powered engine is soon to be barreling down a track at dangerous speeds.

But you have no choice, the record needs to be reviewed and we need to get to our destination at the end of the song and so we hand over our ticket and take our seat in the passenger car.

What do you know, once the train, or the song, gets moving things seem to settle into place more or less. Notably there are two components that get featured to reasonably good effect. The train imagery is conjured up by the underlying groove, steady and comfortingly predictable. It churns along nicely and if you focus on that alone it will transport you to a peaceful land.

The lead horn though, which is played by Wild Bill Moore on tenor, is where your attention inevitably wanders as it takes up the center of the arrangement, though this too is fairly sensible in its execution. It’s playing a riff that has just enough melody to comprehend and just enough showy flamboyance to pique your interest without possessing an abundance of either melody or excitement.

Actually it fits quite nicely, working in tandem with the rhythm, each part worked out to give the other room to breathe and get noticed. If it suffers from a lack of ambition that’s hardly the worst charge that can be made, especially after hearing the overly ambitious collage of sounds that kicked the record off in rather calamitous fashion.

Switching Tracks
Midway through you find yourself saying that you’re glad you took this Boogie Ride after all. But then Paul Williams steps to the forefront and has you wondering if the train ran over a herd of cows on the tracks. How else to explain the otherworldly sounds his baritone sax is making?

To call it strange is an understatement of epic proportions. To call it musical is an overstatement to match the previous understatement. It could rightly be called a prank in most situations, one designed to draw a laugh in the control booth before stopping the take and going back to cut the real song, except we know that it wasn’t a joke. Williams actually MEANT to sound like a flock of geese suddenly caught in an airplane’s propeller.

Now to be fair – or at least as fair as I can be while still being ruthlessly critical – at this stage of rock’s trip nobody had been very far down the tracks and had no idea of what the accepted protocol would be when switching horns for the middle eight. But c’mon, unless this was their first time picking up a horn you had to know that sounding as atonal as this wasn’t it.

By all rights he could’ve used his horn as a percussion instrument and bashed it against the cement walls and come away with a better – and more suitable – sound for the song at hand. The fact that this record had HIS name as the lead artist only makes this bewildering misstep even more notable. You can’t pass this off by saying it was some anonymous intruder getting too much airtime when it was the star of the show himself laying an egg on the studio floor.


Once that monstrosity passes the other components fall back into place, including Williams on the rhythmic underpinning for which he excelled in the first half and returns to capably in the closing moments.

Moore now takes off a little more energetically, pouring coal into the burner to get this train roaring across the open prairies, everything getting back on track.

No doubt all of the conductors are cursing the engineers under their breath as they have to answer each passenger’s questions about that inexplicable sound they’d all just heard and reassure them all that they did NOT in fact bring a camel on board at the last stop, but the occasional bizarre sounds aside they’re making fairly good time and will be pulling into the next station as scheduled.

This group of musicians would work together well, each one refining their roles as they went along and carrying off their tasks with a minimum of fuss. T.J. Fowler, the pianist, would go on to cut records of his own as the featured artist, following in the footsteps of Moore whose first sides as leader had already been issued. The others, Reetham Mallett on drums, Herman Hopkins on bass, Phil Guilbeau on trumpet, all contributed mightily to the best sides of mssrs. Williams, Moore and Fowler and so you can excuse them for their slight missteps here on Boogie Ride while still relatively early on in their shared journey to the promised land.

Back To Basics
What winds up being noteworthy, or at least most interesting on an otherwise slightly underwhelming effort, is their tentative experimenting along the way.

None of them knew for certain yet what the proper measurements for their ingredients needed to be, nor how the molecules and atoms would react under pressure. These clinical trials were a never ending study on musical properties conducted – not in the private confines of a laboratory but often on stage and on record where their failures, even if only temporary set-backs, were visible to the public and would invite ridicule when things blew up in their faces.

Here it didn’t quite blow up, just smoked and hissed a bit and sent you scurrying for cover, but the precise formulas needed for this to work were gradually becoming established. They had at least confirmed some of the basic chemical properties this time out – the churning rhythm playing in support had proven to be every bit as vital to a rock instrumental’s success as the more eye catching lead – and now it was just a matter of making sure the lesser ingredients being added were compatible with the primary compounds and weren’t going to cause any adverse reaction.

But the fact that this experiment showed a few positive results in terms of what worked wasn’t likely to be the most memorable aspect about Boogie Ride, not when the test tubes suddenly started foaming over with orange and green and fluorescent yellow in their brief display of instability that cropped up from time to time. Then again when you’re talking about rock ‘n’ roll a noisy wild light show is probably something that should be expected from time to time.

Back to the lab, boys.


(Visit the Artist page of Paul Williams for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)