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RPM 365; AUGUST 1952



Thus far when discussing Sam Phillips, a name that for some reason towers over most 1950’s record company executives, we’ve roundly criticized his ethical lapses that found him swindling money from artists, denying them credit for their own work and callously using them in his efforts to try to pit one record label (Modern/RPM) against another (Chess) while brazenly violating the handshake agreement he had with the first company.

Yet in spite of our low regard for him as a human being thus far, we’ve consistently praised him for his engineering and production skills which have always stood out even when he was underhanded and despicable in every other way.

After hearing this record however we’re hereby rescinding that praise.


Teach Me Right From Wrong
Everybody is entitled to a bad day, Sam Phillips included.

But as of the summer of 1952, in an industry comprised of vermin, he hasn’t exactly risen above that low threshold with his actions over the past year and a half and so while you could argue he fit right in, he was going to be at risk of burning bridges unless he made himself indispensable to the companies he was dealing with by making sure the finished masters he sent them were of a consistently high quality.

That’s where simple geography gave him an advantage, as he was operating the Memphis Recording Service studio which was prime real estate for the vast Southern region of America which had no other viable recording outlets for black performers between New Orleans and Cincinnati or Chicago.

So even if he was completely inept at recording music properly he still would’ve gotten plenty of business, but his background in radio and a natural interest in technology worked to his advantage and he was able to get better than average sound from the primitive set-up. As a result his studio became a magnet for artists in the area as well as record labels wanting his goods, even if both sides were busy trying to put one over on the other.

But this was still contingent on cutting hits, or at the very least records with the potential to be hits… good artists, original songs, innovative arrangements and – crucially – good sound.

On Two Kind Of Women there’s nothing wrong with the tape quality, but hearing what’s emanating from it maybe Phillips would’ve been better off had he soaked it in kerosene and lit it on fire before sending it across country to the Bihari Brothers who inexplicably put it out on the B-side of Rosco Gordon’s latest release.

Who knows, maybe they were trying to discredit Phillips for going back on his word in the past with them. Or it could be Phillips sending off this egregious assault on their eardrums to torment the Biaharis for objecting to his trying to get a better deal by courting a rival label.

Or it could just be that RPM knew Gordon was now recording for other labels since they never bothered paying him, so they figured they’d try and squeeze every last drop out of the tracks they still had on him, even one as bad as this.


That Great Big Lie
The typical standards we use to judge singers don’t always apply to Rosco Gordon, whose odd tone, quirky sense of rhythm and litany of vocal tics make him an abnormal artist even in the best of circumstances.

He might not be quite as eccentric as someone like Professor Longhair, but Gordon was working with similar limitations when it came to technical ability that he was able to turn to his advantage by accentuating those shortcomings and crafting a persona around them.

Yet while this gave him the leeway he needed to sound pretty far out, it still required him to come off as if he was in control of the situation and his weird delivery was intentional, rather than sounding as if he was possessed by a poltergeist or something.

Here he’d have trouble convincing you of that. In fact, you want to give him a breathalyzer test because you’re sure he’s well over the legal limit. Unlike earlier efforts when he manages to make that cockeyed approach seem endearing, here it just makes you cringe.

He’s not helped by the fact that doesn’t have the best story to begin with, in fact the Two Kind Of Women he “sings” about actually sounds like a dozen different women over the course of the song… or maybe just one with a severe case of schizophrenia.

But that’s far from the biggest problem here, as the band is just as confused as Gordon is, as each musician sounds as if they were recorded in a different room on a different day playing a different song in a different key… and even that description makes it seem a lot more coherent than it sounds pouring out of the speakers.

Are the horns butchering this most? You think so until you focus on Gordon’s piano or the off-time drumming, all of whom get their feet tangled together and go crashing to the studio floor.

Too bad Sam Phillips didn’t let the tapes keep rolling when that happened and got them swearing at each other, because a verbal jousting match between drunk musicians that may turn into fisticuffs would’ve been a helluva lot more soothing to the ear than this pile of steaming excrement.


Don’t Want To See You Anymore
We’ve covered some truly awful records around here, as might be expected over the course of five years of releases spanning more than two thousand sides by artists who ranged from truly special to barely conscious.

Yet limiting ourselves to those who actually had enough talent to score multiple hits, and eliminating records that were purposefully courting another (usually pop) audience due to the misguided aspirations of the record label, it’s hard to find many that are as bad as this one.

There’s not a single element of Two Kind Of Women that can be called even remotely adequate, let alone good. It’s the type of thing that most artists would reach into their own pockets to pay off the producer to tape over, if not encase it in a block of cement and throw it in the Mississippi River.

Yet for some reason Sam Phillips, still hoping to make a career in this field, saw fit to send off to the one company that would have the unmitigated gall to actually release it to the public and charge money for!

That’s a crime against humanity that should never go unpunished and consequently nobody here – not the singer, not the band, not Phillips or the Biharis – deserves to come out of this with their reputation unscathed.


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