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You know times have changed when one of the more successful rock instrumentalists of the genre’s first few years not only turns once again to a vocalist to feature on his records, but then takes such a back seat to the singer that while he may play on it, Paul Williams leaves absolutely no stamp whatsoever on the record itself.

Though the final results may not be nearly as great as his best instrumentals the fact of the matter is this kind of record in 1952 probably had a better chance for success than most of his recent efforts where Williams was front and center.

Maybe the title was prophetic after all.


A Brand New Deal
The name Danny Cobb is not well known today, in fact he never even became all that recognizable during his recording career, possibly because he couldn’t get a hit singing with Paul Williams, but he had genuine talent as he’s displayed each time out.

The question we have to ask in retrospect, since his brand of big voice gospel-derived wailing was still going strong at the time, was did his association with Williams help or hurt his chances at stardom?

On one hand he was guaranteed exposure, as Williams was a mainstay on Savoy’s roster of artists and thus as long as the sax star was looking to pull in audiences interested in more than just honking, he was going to get a chance to sing on record.

He also was getting a chance to sing on stage which was just as valuable, as a two or three hour performance of nothing but instrumentals could try the patience of any audience, and so Cobb’s turns on the microphone – whether a set of his own in the middle of the act, or taking a song in between a few instrumentals, then sitting things out for a few more before coming back for another tune – provided the kind of opportunity to play bigger venues (thanks to Williams’ well-earned reputation from his own earlier hits) that Cobb surely would not have gotten right away if he was releasing singles under his own name.

But the flip side of that scenario is he didn’t get much chance to chart his own course and to try and build on his promise. Savoy Records didn’t try and build HIM up, they were busy trying to resurrect Williams’s fading commercial clout in their ads. At live venues, how many patrons who came to see Mr. Hucklebuck himself remembered the name of the singer who got to sing a handful of songs over the course of the night?

So opportunities such as It’s All Over Baby, were kind of a double edged sword for Cobb and there’s even a chance that certain rock fans who weren’t crazy about the honking instrumentals of the past few years might avoid even picking this up, unaware that half the single featured Danny Cobb’s voice a lot more than it did Paul Williams’s saxophone.


Say I Satisfy
One thing’s for sure, when this record starts you sure are going to pay attention… and possibly call the paramedics… because Danny Cobb’s desperate breathy cries sound as if he’s having a seizure, an emotional breakdown or is auditioning for an off-Broadway melodrama.

Yet aside from startling you off with such an uninhibited vocal right out of the gate, Cobb’s voice is strong, passionate and commanding and as he shifts into the proper song we’re not surprised to find this outburst is over a woman, but rather than a song about a breakup where he’s the one suffering from being dumped, as his distraught performance would suggest, It’s All Over Baby is mostly about his NEW girl, the one who replaced the girl he presumably dumped and he’s saying how happy he is to be with her.

Okay, he could’ve fooled me but we’ll take him at his word and not start a very credibile rumor that this “new girl” is one he made up just to get his ex jealous, even though that’d be more appropriate for the way he’s carrying on and would also make for a much more clever subject.

Because it doesn’t have such a plot twist however, we’re left to merely admire the voice itself which may not reach the heights of Roy Brown, Billy Wright or other emotional highwire acts in rock, but earns the right to be mentioned in the same sentence by how committed he is to selling the story, almost as if to convince his former flame he’s pouring it on thick.

Maybe she’s not falling for it – I STILL think he’s hung up on her myself, it’s the only thing that makes sense, you don’t gush like this about a new love to an old love unless you still have feelings for the old one – but you’ve got to admire the effort if nothing else.

But where is Paul Williams during all this? Isn’t he the one whose name is on the label? The guy under contract to Savoy? Well, he’s here, playing – I’m guessing alto, since Ted Butler, another baritone saxophonist, is listed and there’s only one to be heard – but niether alto nor baritone is stepping into the spotlight.

The band as a whole is fine, horns moaning, piano contributing the most noticeable fills, but there’s not even a soloing spot for any of them. The stop-time middle eight ramps up the anticipation but the payoff doesn’t come from the musicians, but rather Cobb who cuts loose with more vocal anguish.

That doesn’t mean the musical half of the equation isn’t worthwhile, but they don’t actually want half of the credit for this by the sounds of it, they’re more than content to settle for a quarter and call it a night.


Ain’t Heard The News
Not that anyone at Savoy records knew what the hell they were doing any more than any other record company did, but it’s interesting to see that while they designated the instrumental Blowin’ The Boogie as the A-side, their ads for this single touted the vocal side first… although they got the title wrong, apparently presaging The Valentinos 1964 record that The Rolling Stones would swipe for a hit that same year.

Oh well.

The point is, of the two sides, the instrumental is definitely the one which would hold up as a Paul Williams track and thus you’d agree it has every right to be the plug side on his single.

But It’s All Over Baby, despite Williams himself not having as much of a presence, is clearly the better side and the one with more commercial potential.

If Danny Cobb had been hyped up as a potential star in his own right from the start rather than getting secondary credit as a vocalist for a sax player on the wane who knows if he would’ve emerged as a leading light in rock over the next few years.

These gigs might be a good way to get your foot in the door and gain experience, but they seemed to be dead ends when it came to reaching stardom in your own right.

Somewhere Kitty Stevenson nodded her head in agreement.


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