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Though we all know that collectively decided-upon “great songs” rarely have purely objective criteria involved, there’s still a general assumption that the reasons chosen, if not the tastes shown, are fairly universal.

Well crafted music with strong lyrics and featuring excellent performances by singer and band alike with solid production values rounding things out.

Yet the more you see curated lists of great songs another unstated quality becomes apparent… the songs popping up most often are also catchy as hell, either subversive ear-worms or sing-along anthems of some type.

There are exceptions of course, but songs like this one, which checks off all of the core qualifications laid out above pretty easily, is rarely in the running for Roy Brown’s best record, let alone among the best of its entire era.

One listen to how it’s constructed reveals why it was bound to be historically overlooked.


Just Wanna Feel Real Fine
Full confession… it’s doubtful that before undertaking this dizzying project I would’ve thought to list this as one of Roy Brown’s true classics.

A good song for sure, but one of his most memorable tracks? Nah, can’t be… not when he’s got so many hook-filled rockers, lusty sexual come-ons and agonizing emotional wailers in his catalog.



Bar Room Blues is certainly not obscure among Roy Brown cognoscenti – now numbering 46 people worldwide at last count – and it was a certified Top Ten hit in late 1951, reaching #6 on the national charts, but in terms of content it comes across as more of “deep cut” kind of song because it lacks a more overt ear-catching component.

But while its best attributes may qualify as being subtle it’s still got a typically impressive vocal turn by Brown along with colorful and descriptive lyrics that are wonderfully specific while still being broad enough to get the drift without poring over every syllable. On top of it all you have his latest incarnation of The Mighty Mighty Men playing a complex, but still accessible, arrangement that features standout performances across the board.

What’s not to like?

Well, how about the fact that it’s missing a hook that sticks in your mind like gum on the sole of your shoe on a hot summer’s day which tends to mean that no matter how appreciated it was by the hardcore fans, it was bound to be destined for long term obscurity when it came to the masses.


Rock ‘Til The End Of Time
Flatulent horns, rattlesnake drumming with corresponding serpent guitar licks… and that’s just the first twelve seconds.

When Roy Brown comes in, laid back and a little dreamy-headed as the wine has already entered his bloodstream, the inebriated mood is set.

He’s certainly more clear-thinking than most people who are three sheets to the wind however and is conscientious enough to explain in detail why he’s got the Bar Room Blues, describing his motives along with his alcoholic preferences – no whiskey, but lots of wine.

He’s a drunk for sure, but a happy one and the way he lays out his itinerary – alternately subdued and impassioned without the two approaches clashing whatsoever – you might feel compelled to join him even if you were a teetotaler… at least you would if you wanted to keep listening to the solid musicianship on display here.

Edgar Blanchard has done nothing but astound listeners since he took over the bandleader role for The Mighty Mighty Men, not just because he’s featured his guitar so prominently – his work is sublime here, using two vastly different tones to create almost parallel impressions – but also because of how deftly he incorporates other musicians and sounds into the larger palette.

In the past some of Brown’s tracks would have one dominant instrumental feature while the rest of the band basically just carried the rhythm, but with this we get overlapping focuses including three different horns (Batman Rankins on baritone, Johnny Fontenette on tenor and Wilbur Harden who gets a brief trumpet solo that doesn’t even derail the record as that horn often has a tendency to do) along with Edward Santineo’s piano that’s as busy as can be while Blanchard himself constantly pokes his head out in a variety of ways.

While the record never builds to a frantic climax – musically, vocally or otherwise – it never fails to give you something interesting to consider along the way. If you focus on the story and the way Brown puts it over you’ll be captivated by the character he’s portraying. Listen closely to the musical side of the equation instead and the constantly shifting arrangement will keep you transfixed waiting for the next wrinkle to appear.

Put both facets together and you’ve got one of the denser rock records of the year and a perfect showcase for Roy Brown’s genius as a singer, a songwriter and the guy who put together arguably the best self-contained “name” band in the field.


Gonna Cash My Check
There are songs that are designed to pull you in on first listen by hitting you between the eyes with something irresistible and it’s largely the same songs that are still able to captivate a larger audience on the hundredth listen because the power of that initial draw never wears out its welcome.

Roy Brown has plenty of those and no doubt they were the ones which got the biggest response when sung live… and for that matter were sung BACK to him by the audience when he was performing on stage.

A catchy hook and a sing-along chorus are the on-ramps to any artist’s catalog.

But once you’re on that thoroughfare songs like Bar Room Blues are the ones which provide maybe even a slightly more satisfying response – exquisitely crafted, brilliantly played and sung and endlessly interesting to study.

It may not be his biggest hit, and certainly not his most enduring, but it provides as good of an insight as to why he was arguably rock’s best, certainly most important and one of its most creative, artists of its first half decade and why when it comes to rock history it’d be hard to justify the bar stools around him being empty for long.

After all, when he’s this good time and time again, Roy Brown should never be drinking alone.


(Visit the Artist page of Roy Brown for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)