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After departing this label last year and scoring a Number One hit with his new employer, Aladdin, it was probably inevitable that Sittin’ In Records ( they’ve dropped the “With” for ’52 and gotten a new label design to go with it) would haul out some leftover tracks from Peppermint Harris in an attempt to capitalize on his recent success.

Though this plan didn’t go as well as they hoped, it’s not exactly something to scream about in frustration… but then again, the record isn’t really worth screaming with excitement for either.

Since there’s no screaming to be done about this record for any reason, does that mean we should stay muted on the subject entirely?

Nah, of course not. What fun would that be?


I Knew You Wouldn’t Leave Me
You’d expect this to be a regression of sorts, back to a more primitive, less polished, sound than he’s shown on Aladdin thanks to the presence of Maxwell Davis who produced his sides at the new company in the best Los Angeles studios.

By contrast his Houston-based sessions were made up of good musicians but with a more rag-tag sense of arranging in studio environs back in Houston which were not quite state of the art.

That’s certainly the case with I Wake Up Screaming featuring crude drumming, adventureless piano work and very basic sax lines by Haywood Henry.

As a result the melody is very barren, almost like a rough outline that never got filled in, all of which puts far too much pressure of Peppermint Harris’s weary half-croaked vocals to carry the song… a song which doesn’t have vivid enough imagery to build upon that intriguing title.

The storyline is similarly cut and dried and not very imaginative, as Harris is in mourning over the loss of a girl before realizing he was mistaken. She hasn’t left after all but his worries left him feeling vulnerable. The idea itself has some promise but the pace is so slow, which combined with the AAB structure that repeats the first line twice before the resolution means he never gets the chance to really explore the situation and grapple with his feelings beyond the surface attributes.

Had he examined the natural anxiety people have of finding something they relied on is never really guaranteed in life and how that is more reflective on human being’s fear of loss than it is about the actual loss itself, maybe this would have been more interesting.

Then again such deep psychological questions are probably not going to be solved in a three minute song no matter how earnest Harris was in getting to the root of the problem and so you can certainly see why he steered clear of a thorough look into such weighty topics.

But what that means is this record is unable to appeal on either count. It’s not deep enough to stoke your intellectual or emotional fires, yet it’s not musically appealing enough to elicit a more transient response.

Henry’s winding sax solo adds at least an element of melodic interest but without more creativity shown overall in the arrangement it can’t support a weaker composition.


Forget About The Past
In the end we’re right back to where we began, which is that this sounds like a tentative woodshedding session that got issued in lieu of better material… which could be precisely what happened.

Sittin’ In Records had issued their best and most commercially promising material on Harris while he was still under contract to them while sides like I Wake Up Screaming got put on the back shelf, unable to make the grade.

Maybe had he remained with the company it would’ve eventually been issued as a B-side to a far better song. Down the road – not that anyone was looking this far in advance at the time – it was a perfect candidate for filler on a future album.

But our reaction to it in those cases would be the same, even if the context would have changed. This was a throwaway cut, a song not entirely fleshed out that with some patience and hard work might’ve been more acceptable.

Instead with Aladdin scoring hits they had no time to waste and pressed this into service. But whatever commercial jolt they may have hoped to get for it, they were thwarted when Aladdin issued a single in January that they’d been planning for the fall only to pull back at the time when they instead put out a hasty – albeit well done – cover of Have Another Drink And Talk To Me.

As a result Aladdin now had a newer and better record – P.H. Blues – to actively promote on the label where most of Harris’s fans had grown accustomed to seeing his releases over the past few months and consequently this one drifted away largely undiscovered.

That’s no crime though, and in fact maybe considering the rougher sound and subpar content it’s for the best where his career was concerned.

Harris had moved on and maybe it was time that Sittin’ In Records did as well.


(Visit the Artist page of Peppermint Harris for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)