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RPM 358; JUNE 1952



We were going to start this review by saying that while it’s a good idea to try something different to shake things up, it tends to help if the artist actually has the ability to pull off that “different” approach in a technical sense.

Rosco Gordon falls short with that here and so – understandably – that was going to be the main feature of the review since what we do here is write about music.

But it’s not, because we also write about the times in which this music was made, who made it and who it was made for and in that sense what else he does here winds up being far more important in a roundabout way. Even though it can’t make the end results more appealing to listen to from the standpoint of aural appreciation, it does make what he’s saying, and what that indirectly implies, a much more vital lesson than most songs can deliver.


They Took Me Away From You
Let’s at least touch upon the idea of shaking things up as being a good game plan for most artists, especially those who have become so identifiable for their unique qualities that they are constantly at risk for being seen as a sort of an outlier in their chosen field because they don’t conform to the usual methods of operation.

Rosco Gordon certainly qualifies in that regard most of the time. His strained hiccup induced voice, choppy delivery and odd asides are entertaining as can be and his Rosco’s Rhythm musical approach we know would have huge influence on ska, so there’s plenty of milage to be gotten from his catalog even if he doesn’t deviate from that approach.

However, every once in awhile it’s good to give listeners something different, just so your output doesn’t become too predictable. It also helps to make the really great songs in an artist’s normal style stand out more if they’re not always competing with second tier songs cut from the same cloth.

So on those merits we heartily approve of the idea of releasing something atypical and this certainly qualifies in that regard.

But if looked at from nothing but a musical viewpoint, we probably wouldn’t have much positive to say about I Remember Your Kisses for no other reason that just as it’s usually not a wise move to eat a salad with your ears, it’s rarely a good move to croon a serious love song through your nose and consequently Gordon undercuts the potential of this song because of his own unavoidable shortcomings as a vocalist.

Yet when we strip aside the manner in which he’s trying to sing this, we can focus instead on WHAT he’s singing and how the subtext of that is actually one of the more important things coming from a rock record we’ve seen to date.



In My Foxhole I Dream
Even if we put aside the underlying message, there are parts of this which, had they just been delivered better, might be fairly effective in the right hands.

The melody on the first stanza was nice enough that Little Richard would more or less appropriate it for Send Me Some Lovin’ in a few years time and the sentiments themselves certainly are sincere and heartfelt, regardless of the context from which they’re being spoken.

But the context IS the record in this case which gives us the perspective of a young black soldier writing to his girlfriend back home from halfway around the world, sounding as if he’s dying or at least feels certain that he is going to die through no fault of his own.

When he states “They took me from you”, it is really poignant considering America was sending kids like him – who let’s remember they never treated as equal citizens back home – to fight a war in which the United States had no intention of actually “winning”, but rather merely wanted to hold the status quo to earn domestic political points to show how tough on Communism they were.

How brave of them.

So Gordon’s misery at this turn of events is entirely justified and might even be used to explain why he’s so choked up (we’ll call it that rather than criticize him yet again for improper singing techniques).

But while the subject in I Remember Your Kisses was certainly appropriate for someone like him to sing about, the manner in which he does so leaves a lot to be desired and I’m not just talking about his impaired singing abilities themselves, but also the extended spoken section which is mawkish and stilted.

As he goes on though he’s so committed to expressing these feelings that he almost wins you over in the process. As he cries out in anguish before segueing back to the sublime melody you feel a twinge of sympathy for him, even knowing that Rosco Gordon remained firmly on U.S. soil throughout the Korean conflict, never being drafted or being foolish enough to enlist on his own.

We’ll even go so far as to say it’s a fairly noble experiment on his part, using his rising stardom to draw attention to the inequities, or at the very least to give a lot of listeners in his age group who were dealing with the same issues… either fearing their own call-up or the girls who were facing losing their boyfriends to the draft… a song to relate to.

If nothing else we’ll fall back on the same point we opened with by commending him for trying something unusual even if the execution – not just his own voice but the wheezy sax which does him no favors – lets him down.

Then again, a failed record was a lot more tolerable to face than a bullet in the head fired by someone you never saw whom you had no grudge against while trespassing in his country when all you really wanted to be was back home on a date with your girl.


Just Speaking What’s Inside
The saying “I’ll give you an A for effort” is sort of a backhanded compliment, but it has it’s place when trying to fairly evaluate someone’s ambitious attempt that fell short of its (musical) goals.

We can’t possibly recommend this record on the basis of the listening pleasure it will give somebody. Gordon doesn’t have the voice for it, the musicians can’t adequately support the song and the structure is more clunky than anything. Those are some pretty big misses.

But I Remember Your Kisses does provide us with something that most far better rock records of 1952 don’t bother with, which is giving us a brief glimpse of a very real matter that listeners at the time were all too aware of.

Already in rock ‘n’ roll’s brief six year lifespan we’ve seen the government take away countless young rock singers via the draft – Goree Carter, Ernie Warren of The Cardinals, Lawson Smith of The Royals, Junior Denby of The Swallows – curtailing their careers, in some cases ruining their chances at making something out of their lives in the process. The same of course was happening to the kids buying these records and while Gordon didn’t fall victim to this himself in real life, the possibility that it might happen was still staring him in the face.

Maybe the record itself wasn’t very good, we won’t dispute that, but it stands as a stark reminder to everyone that you need to be in control of your OWN destiny in life so these kinds of songs don’t have to be written.

The voting age in America was 21 until 1971 when the 26th Amendment lowered it to 18 nationally, meaning most of those being sent to die in Korea in the early 1950’s had absolutely no say in their fate. Today there’s one insidious political party looking to try and disenfranchise the college age voting bloc (among others) that roundly despises them and everything they stand for so they’ll still have a shot at remaining in power to continue to dictate which of your freedoms they’ll try and remove next.

History repeats itself… but only if you let it.

For Rosco Gordon and his girl’s sake, don’t let it.


(Visit the Artist page of Rosco Gordon for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)