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DELUXE 3306; AUGUST 1950

 
 

 

It stands to reason that the more expressive and dynamic a singer is the more difficult it can be at times to be properly credited for holding back.

Subtlety, moderation and introspection are all attributes generally admired in music yet if those run counter to your most acclaimed traits it’s awfully easy for people to overlook those skills when you do happen to break them out from time to time.

For Roy Brown, the man who essentially invented rock ‘n’ roll and brought with him the unbridled vocal passion that would help define it forevermore, his emotional anguish on slower material had always been an equally important part of his persona, but at the peak of his popularity a song that highlighted those features in riveting fashion found itself somehow roundly ignored, both at the time and in the decades to come.
 

 

Nobody Seems To Love Me
Though we’re well past the era of CD compilations and their even earlier predecessors in the cassette and vinyl eras, that doesn’t mean the contents from those long ago platforms aren’t available online to peruse today and one look at the majority of Roy Brown collections shows that there was an almost universal dismissal of today’s song.

This of course has something to do with the fact it wasn’t a hit when released in 1950 either and most Greatest Hits packages focus on the actual hits, so maybe we shouldn’t make too much of this. But those collections need to be filled out with other songs, either to balance out the stylistic approaches or to simply showcase what an artist excelled at that might not be apparent in the bigger records, and that’s where Dreaming Blues should’ve gotten a lot more love.

It seems to have made just one or two collections that weren’t merely chronological compilations of his entire oeuvre and so you’d be forgiven if this never crossed your radar, but one listen to it now should have you questioning why it remained so obscure all these years because this is everything we’ve come to love about Brown wrapped in one compact package… from the story and lyrics to the arrangement and playing and especially Roy who wrings out his soul from start to finish.

To put it another way, if you’re a Roy Brown fan then you’re a fan of this record or you’re no Roy Brown fan at all.
 


 
 

All Night Long And Through The Day
This was cut in Cincinnati in the middle of June with his road band in tow and the timing of this session is definitely important here as Hard Luck Blues had just been released a few weeks earlier and was already making lots of noise commercially on its way to #1 (and for what it’s worth, that’s the one aching ballad of his that makes all those compilations to offset the more uptempo material).

It’s pretty clear that he had that song in mind as he went into the studio, but this isn’t a cheap rip-off by any means and despite a first line which finds him saying he “wants to tell a story about the hard luck guy” which indicates it may have been initially conceived as a strict follow-up record, it doesn’t do much to really cement that connection after that brief passing mention.

For starters Dreaming Blues provides far more detachment from the sorrow being expressed making it less melodramatic than Hard Luck Blues which required an immersion into the emotional misery Brown was laying out in order for it to make a deep impact. By contrast this allows you to observe his plight from a safe remove ensuring that you are more of an observer than an active participant.

It doesn’t lose any of its effectiveness because of that however, partly because we know where we stand as this is another song in which the narrator is facing despair as his romantic prospects dim. But though he explicitly says “it’s so sad” and tells the girls rejecting him “the way you treat me ain’t fair” it comes across more as someone complaining as a cathartic exercise, not because he’s near the end of his rope and is contemplating something unspeakable to relieve him of his sorrow.

Maybe it’s the fact he refers to dreaming throughout this which alleviates its serious consequences. If we can be led to believe that he’s more upset that his life isn’t living up to those dreams then that makes him no different than the down on their luck bums ordering up another round at the local tavern and thus it becomes easier to dismiss as him grumbling while lost in a haze of self-pity.

Yet while the literal meaning of his words may be misinterpreted by us, or at least glossed over, the words themselves are among his best. He’s painting a really vivid picture here, using specific examples that are colorful and three-dimensional and with the kind of effortless wordplay that makes them stand out. Always an underrated lyricist, overshadowed by that voice and the usually hard-charging way he wields it from song to song, his compositions themselves have real depth to them and thanks to their details he brings each scene to life no matter how basic the overall premise might be.

Of course when you have a voice as expressive as Roy there’s probably no need to craft each word as carefully as he does because you’d be willing to listen to him sing the menu from a Chinese Restaurant because of how wholeheartedly he sells everything.

Here his voice shifts seamlessly between breathy contemplation and wailing despair and by the end of the song as he’s practically sighing the final lines instead of singing them, you’re completely won over by his conviction… and that’s before we even get to talking about the band he’s got behind him.
 

Belongs To Some Other Man
Though he wasn’t a member of The Mighty Mighty Men for very long, just over a year or so, the addition of Edgar Blanchard on guitar was like a shot in the arm for Roy’s music, giving him another top notch sideman to throw even more dazzling textures into each song.

Here Blanchard provides the intro by himself, a drawn out lick that touches on a lot of different moods over its eleven seconds in the spotlight, from a hint of almost foreign intrigue in the first few notes, to a quick injection of energy that suddenly winds down until it’s almost achingly slow as the drummer’s cymbal provides something to play off as it leads into Brown’s vocal. It’s a perfect distillation of what made Blanchard one of the best – and perennially most underappreciated – of the 1950’s rock guitar brigade.

His versatility, light touch and melodic inventiveness were hallmarks of his approach and unfortunately during the bulk of his career it was all done in the shadows, more or less anonymous to the general public who bought the records he played on by the millions without recognizing who it was that was providing such highlights.

Blanchard’s presence also a gave them a nice change from the horn dominated lineups of Brown’s earlier incarnations of the group, though the horns are still here, still airtight and still capable of some highlights of their own. They lay back for much of Dreaming Blues, Batman Rankins’ baritone and Johnny Fontenette on tenor trading off throughout the first half with subtle accent notes that add tremendous atmosphere before trumpeter Wilbur Harden adds a surprisingly effective counterpoint riff behind Brown in the second half.

Though you’d assume that producer Henry Glover (a trumpeter himself remember) had a hand in the arrangement, reportedly it was Blanchard who took on that responsibility once he teamed with Brown and his choices here are sublime in giving each instrument – including some deceptively spry piano by Edward Santineo – plenty of opportunity within the song to stand out while never being allowed to overwhelm it. The whole production is so fine tuned that it’d seem almost artificial if it wasn’t carried out with such skill and grace.

In a catalog full of gems, hits or not, this stands out as one of the best constructed songs Brown’s come up with to date.
 


 

Where’s The One I’m Dreaming Of?
This is truly one of those records that gets better with each listen, allowing your senses to gradually pick up on the different elements that went into it rather than being captivated on the first listen by something immediately ear-catching… which might’ve been it’s problem in connecting actually.

We started off this review by pointing out how singers known for their vocal flamboyance could easily have their downbeat sides overlooked in normal circumstances. But that risk goes up exponentially when a song as deep, tender and heartfelt as this is being paired with something that can’t help but overshadow it by hitting all of the expected high points – loud, declarative and uptempo – as happened on this single.

But that’s a story for tomorrow. For now the story is Dreaming Blues, not a hit, not a song long remembered nor lavishly praised by most, but one that can stand with virtually anything he did, fast or slow, over a career that has no shortage of brilliance.

It may require more digging to find it but ultimately it’s worth the effort because this was something far too good to have been passed up back then and far too rewarding to be all but forgotten today.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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