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DELUXE 3302; APRIL 1950

 
 

 

What were you to think of Roy Brown’s mindset upon hearing this single coming off three spectacularly successful years in which he first basically INVENTS rock ‘n’ roll itself, then scores a dozen hits which help establish the prototype for a wide range of stylistic avenues other artists will follow and ends the 1940’s on a high note by releasing what arguably was his best ever record… only to find now, just a few short months into the new decade, he’s pairing up a song about trying to hold on to his youth on one side with another song declaring it’s a losing battle and he might as well cash in his chips?

I think the answer is obvious: Just what the hell happened to him over New Year’s?
 

 
Things That Used To Be Ain’t No More
Surely all of this is just coincidence, you’re saying… nothing more than a grimly ironic choice of the record label to pair up two vaguely similarly themed, though far different sounding, songs on one release. It doesn’t necessarily MEAN he was despondent, let alone suicidal, nor does it signify that his peak as an artist was finished.

But the move from one decade to the next in music does have a tendency to give that impression at times, albeit for mostly circumstantial reasons (see: the tragic deaths of Holly, Cochran, Belvin, et. all as the 50’s morphed into the 60’s, and breakups of the two biggest rock groups of the 60’s – Beatles and Supremes – in the early days of 1970).

Here though we’re faced with the bigger existential picture, namely the way in which a few of the major players on the 1940’s rock scene have stumbled just a bit in their initial releases for 1950, at least when it comes to just what type of material they’re tackling.

Amos Milburn had proven himself to be one of the best songwriters of his day, scoring era-defining hits with original material such as Chicken Shack Boogie, but thus far in 1950’s he’s issued one cover record after another with even more on the immediate horizon… a troubling thought for rock fans who tend not to listen to outside genre music for a very good reason.

Now we have Roy Brown of all people reverting back to outdated arrangements with the trumpet out in front on both sides of this single, marking a clear departure from the sax-led tracks that had made him arguably second to only Milburn in terms of impact in the late 1940’s.

On I Feel That Young Man’s Rhythm he at least had a great uptempo rocker to flaunt his vocal prowess on enabling him to overcome the somewhat hoarier arrangement he was saddled with, but on this side he has to face down the same obstacles the band throws his way and making that prospect all the more daunting is the fact that End Of My Journey is a ballad that has far less room for him to flex his muscles.
 


 

An Unlucky So And So
Crying trumpets, a slow piano flourish lacking any type of bluesy tinge and an exceedingly slow and modest (albeit steady) beat, give this record a detached vibe in the context of what we’ve come to expect from Brown at this stage of the game.

It’s not that maudlin ballads aren’t common in rock, we know they are, and often times, like say Ivory Joe Hunter’s best work, finds them with even more prominent pop shadings than this exhibits, but End Of My Journey gives the impression that it’s a record not of its own time, yet not specifically of another easily identifiable time either.

The good news of course is with Roy Brown singing you’re reasonably assured of a strong emotional performance at the very least, providing you with something tangible to pull you into the story he spins involving a suicidal man’s public cry for help via the song he sings.

Unfortunately though while we wish him no harm and realize that depression takes on many forms, his reasons for wanting to end his life are rather… umm, flimsy on the surface… at least for a rock singer of his stature.

He tells us that his girlfriend is gallivanting around town, having herself a ball, and yet unlike so many of these types of stories she hasn’t left him and may not even have cheated on him. By the sounds of it she’s just an irresponsible party girl which probably shouldn’t be too surprising considering they were both in their early to mid-20’s… after all if you’re going to be reckless it’s better to get it out of your system at that age rather than still be “drinking moonshine whiskey, coming home late, getting drunk and raising hell” when you’re middle-aged and have responsibilities in life that those activities tend to interfere with.

Yet Roy’s treating this behavior like it’s the end of the world, wildly overreacting to her being the Queen Bee of the after hours social scene which leads us to suggest he should perhaps put on some less restrictive boxer shorts and go out with her and live it up some himself.

If that’s outside his comfort zone there’s an easier remedy to his problems than drowning himself in the river… just break up with her!

That’s it. Stop seeing her. Most relationships don’t end up working out, that’s why you tend to date a lot before settling down, you’re looking for the right partner, one who shares your interests and outlooks on life and it just sounds as if this girl is a bit too wild for the suddenly pious Mr. Brown.

But of course in music the obvious simple solution doesn’t make for the most dramatic of records and so we’re forced to suffer along with him as penance.
 

I Don’t Want Nobody To Cry
Maybe that’s the excuse the band has for their role in this as well, after all, I’m sure they already told Roy that the cute girl doing keg stands at the party probably wasn’t going to be the kind of gal who will happily read Charles Dickens novels by the fireplace before turning in at 9 PM and so it was best for him to look elsewhere for a mild, unassuming housewife.

But Roy didn’t listen to their advice and so now they’re admonishing him by contributing to his misery by playing this plodding mournful tune until it sends him splashing into the Mississippi wearing his Sunday best.

At least that’s the excuse they SHOULD use for their defense because any other rationale for why they saddle End Of My Journey which such weak support is bound to result in their guilt in the death of Brown – or at least his record – being firmly established.

Granted, this is designed to be an exercise in misery by its very concept and theme and if they were utilizing a 4/4 beat with raucous tenor sax breaks it’d probably sound a little disconcerting. So they have the right idea I suppose with their downcast reading of the musical side of the equation, but they take the wrong approach to really sell this to the prime consumer of 1950 rock ‘n’ roll because of their reliance on that moldy trumpet and a starched shirt arrangement that robs it of its emotional pull.

Had they instead let the saxophones add their own soulful extensions to his lines rather than let the trumpet handle that and turned over the responsibility of delivering the prancing rejoinder to his lyrics in the next section to the piano and had it deliver some rapid fire treble runs then it could’ve plausibly given this enough a heartbeat to make it worthwhile.

Without any sign of a pulse however, the song is pronounced DOA before Brown himself gets lowered into the ground and it’s doubtful either one of them will have many mourners at the graveside as a result of all this.
 


 

When They Bury My Body
Before any one jumps to conclusions (assuming they haven’t already peaked ahead), Roy Brown the artist is hardly in much danger of expiring – creatively or commercially – just yet. The bumpy start to 1950 is still a relative term. In fact this is the only of his three songs thus far that’s been below average even though the better sides had obvious flaws that he should’ve been able to sidestep. But any way you look it at he was still one of the most reliable headlining performers in all of rock and selling well enough to keep him out of the market for graveyard plots just yet.

Even with the unfortunate arranging choices that appear on both sides of this single he managed to transcend them on the other side and even on End Of My Journey we’re not faulting his singing, just his weak narrative along with that far too predictable and uninspiring backing. Unfortunate, but not something that can’t be easily remedied next time out.

In other words, it’s a simple misfire, not a sign that Brown was on life-support, despite what he himself seemed to be suggesting with this morbid tune.

Conceptually speaking you may even want to credit Brown and DeLuxe for adhering to the sound policy of pairing a ballad with a rocker and something downcast with a song far more upbeat. But when you do hit on the right theoretical idea it helps a little if the execution of that idea is a lot more fleshed out than the execution of your tortured soul that you sing about in that song.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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