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DELUXE 3308; SEPTEMBER 1950

 
 

 

One unavoidable truth about the music you love that you’re going to have to come to grips with sooner or later is the fact that the companies putting it out don’t view it as art to be respected, but rather product to be sold… like toothpaste or cantaloupe.

Their business, like most others that have to depend on an often fickle market, had slim margins when it came to turning a profit and in fact the majority of records being released didn’t sell enough to justify their costs.

So the ones that DID sell had to essentially pay for all the rest in order to keep them afloat which is why record companies sought to subvert the artistic aspect of making music the best they could and more effectively target those buyers who already bought something in great numbers in the past by giving them the same basic thing under a new name down the road.

The lesson as always is Buyer Beware.

But occasionally, when dealing with really creative artists, some of whom had a larger hand in this deceitful practice than most, you might wind up with something worth spending your hard earned money on anyway, despite those mercenary origins.
 

 

The Sun Is Going Down… On An Idea
When it comes to the practice of other artists adapting, borrowing or stealing from somebody else’s record we tend to call it influence when it’s done creatively and call it a rip-off when it’s not.

But when the artist who had that original hit does a thinly veiled remake of it themselves, that becomes much harder to properly assess.

Since they came up with the original idea, utilizing it again means they’re only stealing from themselves… unless you want to call them con-men for charging you to hear a slightly different version of something you already paid money to hear the first time around.

Around here we’ve generally been pretty unforgiving when that happens in a way that merely tries to replicate the original, even if the resulting imitation sounds pretty decent taken in isolation. But when they’ve managed to shore up the weak spots of that previous record and improve upon it or come up with a new twist we’ll cut them a lot more slack.

Roy Brown’s been on both ends of that. We savaged him for coming up with a lame sequel to a good record in Miss Fanny Brown Returns, yet praised him for retooling Good Rocking Tonight, the first rock song to see release by any artist, with Rockin’ At Midnight which tightened the arrangement after he’d effectively seen how the genre was shaping up in the intervening months.

Now he’s at it again – sort of – with ’Long About Sundown which takes a similar theme and basic approach to an earlier hit and affixes a better musical framework to it to come up with something suitably different.

This time it didn’t get him a big hit, but for once we’re not complaining about where he stole the inspiration from.
 


 
 

I Wonder Who’s Been Using Daddy’s Bed
The similarities between this and 1948’s ‘Long About Midnight are clearly found in the title itself and the general outlook Roy Brown inhabits as he recounts relationships gone astray.

The pace is the same, some of the vocal inflections are too, but whereas that earlier song used a very stark backing track with strident horns to reflect his pain, ’Long About Sundown instead wraps his delivery in much warmer comforting horns which flips the key emotional attribute on its head.

On that first record he clearly just hit bottom and his misery was the entire focal point of that song, but this time he’s bouncing back up after being down for the count and the difference is striking.

The story is a simple one as we find Brown on his way home after a long sabbatical from a fractured relationship with a girl. Though he’s excited about seeing her again there’s uncertainty in his disposition because of the time he’s been away, having left in a huff over some unstated disagreement.

Right away this makes him proactive rather than responsive and because he’s exhibiting some measured optimism in his quest to reconcile it takes on a much different tone than what we’ve seen in the very loosely connected earlier record.

Brown sells his remorse well here, pulling out all of the emotional stops along the way, crying, moaning and dropping down in volume when looking inward at his own petulant actions that led to this juncture.

We never DO get her side of the story but Brown doesn’t seem intent on presenting her in a bad light. In fact she comes out looking better by default since he’s pretty harsh on himself and he gives her the respect of saying that ultimately the decision whether to let him back in rests with her, not with him.

Despite all that the story is more like a scenario rather than a script as there’s not many details and no interaction between the two protagonists. It sounds as if Brown is recounting the backstory to himself so he can focus on his aims before meeting her again, or perhaps he’s telling this to a fellow passenger on the train, either way though it gives this the appropriate amount of distance for us to better appreciate as neutral observers.

Furthermore Roy Brown the singer benefits from having a different role to play each time out rather than mining the exact same terrain he’s already crossed.
 


 

So Many Things Can Happen
Because this kind of song doesn’t require the same types of showy moments for the band to strut their stuff a lot of its effectiveness will come in the margins, whether they can hit the right mood and hold it as Brown gets the majority of the spotlight, and if they’re able to make their presence felt in smaller ways in spite of the lack of attention on what they’re doing.

For the most part they’re successful in that regard, imbuing ’Long About Sundown with subtle parts that compliment the singer yet at the same time not escaping notice for just how well they’re played.

Foremost among the musicians on this track has to be the tenor sax of Johnny Fontenette whose languid playing forms the backbone of the record, giving us the absolute minimum amount of notes required to convey the aching soulfulness of Brown’s plight. Though he doesn’t get a solo he’s given enough room to have some extended lines that are being called on to mirror the overall mood being created, constantly switching up his technique to match Roy’s shifting delivery.

He’s got plenty of help though from Batman Rankins’ baritone interjections and Wilbur Harden’s trumpet cries down the stretch, while Edward Santineo’s omnipresent piano provides color as do Edgar Blanchard’s guitar fills which are impressive enough when relegated to the background before stepping out for some choice licks in the coda.

In the past sometimes the arrangements leaned too heavily on one instrument or another – the trumpet dominating that earlier record for instance, though it was a good choice for the scenario being laid out in the song – but since Henry Glover took control of the sessions the arrangements are much fuller and everything is in perfect balance to constantly provide different angles with which to view them.

While this one might not be be designed to stand out it might in fact work better because of that, giving it a more nuanced feel to keep you slightly off-balance as it plays, wondering which direction it will ultimately head.
 

Going Back To Stay
This record did make the charts, albeit just briefly, in spite of it being nowhere near as attention grabbing as the flip-side Cadillac Baby, which shows just how potent a force Roy Brown was at this time.

Maybe some of those listening were expecting ’Long About Sundown to be closer in style to the gut-wrenching song it harkened back to, while others might not have even been aware of the connection, but it’d be hard to justify either of those constituencies being too upset by the contents which hardly disappoint.

Besides, it’s not as if Roy Brown at this stage of his career even needed a familiar-looking title to pull in listeners in the first place. Whatever he issued was going to be met with interest as his string of two-sided gems continues here, showing that rock’s founder was just as reliable at this stage of his career as when he first hit his stride.

Whether at sundown or midnight, this was rock’s reigning ruler letting everyone else know that he wasn’t just standing on reputation and recycling past ideas lock, stock and barrel, but rather that he was on top of the artistic heap for a reason, because even when faced with revisiting someplace he’d already been, he found a new road to get him there and back again.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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