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DELUXE 3198; NOVEMBER, 1948

 
 

 

If there’d been any lingering doubt as to the veracity of not just rock ‘n’ roll itself, but the career of the man who started this whole darn thing, those doubts were becoming few and far between by this point in time.

Fads come and go with rapid turnover, while even most trends may last a bit longer before eventually running their course, but the enduring movements that permanently change the landscape have a clear and steady progression to them as they gradually become more widespread, largely thanks to the fact they don’t simply repeat their initial formula but rather build upon it, expand the parameters and in the process lay claim to increasingly wider swaths of territory. Eventually they become the new standard that everyone else has to contend with, live up to, and perhaps try to unseat themselves if they want to make good.

Both rock ‘n’ roll and Roy Brown were achieving those feats regularly in the fall of 1948.

 
Rock’s ascent to the top of the musical dog pile had been startlingly quick after Wynonie Harris covered Brown’s Good Rockin’ Tonight the previous winter and saw it top the charts that spring, and in the five months since it landed at #1 there’d been four other rock songs to do the same (for the record, and to get you to click the links to read about them as well if you haven’t yet, they were Long Gone and Late Freight both by Sonny Thompson sandwiching Ivory Joe Hunter’s Pretty Mama Blues and Hal Singer’s Cornbread).

Three other records already released would follow their lead to the top of the charts – The Orioles It’s Too Soon To Know, Amos Milburn’s Chicken Shack Boogie and last but not least ‘Long About Midnight by none other than Roy Brown himself.

With the success of the latter Brown firmly established himself as a full-fledged star of the new rock scene rather than just the visionary trendsetter who set all of this into motion back in September, 1947 with the original version of Good Rocking Tonight (okay, I promise, that’s all the links for this post, as I realize that if you click them all you’ll never read about THIS record!). But as was becoming evident with all of the new arrivals on the scene vying for space he had no time to rest on his laurels, he still needed to follow it up strongly in order to stay atop the ever more crowded rock field.
 

Time To Love Again
His prospects for doing so were quite good as Brown was also proving to be the most versatile of those stars, or at least vying with Milburn for those honors. With both ballads and uptempo material Brown’s records to date showed an artist who was nothing if not creatively restless, exploring everything from rousing calls to arms and salacious commentary on sexual subjects to mourning the pitfalls of love and immoral women.

In other words, he was covering all of the emotional bases by himself, thereby ensuring that each and every thread of rock was pulled together and contributed to the stitching that held all of that fabric together.

With Rainy Weather Blues he adds even more color to the suit.
 

 

For the first time on a Brown record the horns aren’t the focal point of the arrangement. Instead we’re greeted with a spry piano dancing across the treble keys in a standalone intro, lifting the spirits from the moment the needle drops and setting the table for the clever contrast between the seemingly dreary circumstances – that of the rain putting a damper on your activities – and the perverse benefits to such a forecast, namely the opportunity to stay indoors with somebody who has a few more curves to their chassis than you’re affixed with and subsequently exploring the differences in build and function those disparate models possess.

Sex in other words, in case you’re slow to catch on. It’s about SEX!

Don’t get carried away though, he doesn’t delve into the X-rated particulars here, it’s more of a blueprint for the primary topic which is the pursuit of a warm and willing companion to share his bed on these cold, rainy nights. In fact by the sounds of it he and this particular young lady have already found shelter from the storm together in the past and now with the forecast calling for more clouds on the horizon he’s merely making reservations at the inn as it were.

Just because there’s no off-color details offered up doesn’t mean it’s merely a dry educational thesis on the subject. He’s excited about it to be sure, his exuberance during the bridge where he wails with all his might at the prospect of being cooped up in the boudoir with this girl while the rain pours down outside is so convincing it may have you reaching for an umbrella, so sure will you be that the skies are about to open up.

Vocally, as always with Roy Brown, the commitment and vitality he projects are second to none. We’ve come to expect nothing less from him and once again he doesn’t let down in that regard, proving himself to be the most dynamic rock singer of the decade.
 

I Hope It Rains ‘Til 1953
Usually – as I’m sure you know if you’re a regular reader of Spontaneous Lunacy – this is where we’d add a very reluctant “BUT”, typically followed by a lusty harangue against a tepid arrangement which puts poor Roy in a straightjacket, unable to enjoy the fruits of his labor, held back by outdated horn sections and modest musical standards of days gone by that those involved were slow to shake free of, even as the sleeker, sharper, more lurid and dangerous records roaming the boulevard cruised by, almost taunting him in the bargain. We’d offer Brown our sincere sympathies and suggest that eventually the outdated mindset forced upon him by the producers would be stripped away, all while hoping it happened when he was still young and vibrant enough to take advantage of it when that day finally came.

Well, no more, for that blessed time is here at last …for the most part anyway.

Though there still is a trumpet-led horn break that is rather mild, its prominence in the arrangement is as small as it’s been to date and here it sees its usual role replaced by the already touched upon piano which remains a welcome and jubilant presence throughout. Not only that but they’re smart enough to call in reinforcements to hold back the tide of antiquity those mannered horns always tried to keep at the forefront.

In this case the reinforcement comes by way of a guitar. A properly amplified electric guitar no less, playing stinging riffs and accent notes, sounding positively threatening by their mere presence in this day and age when that instrument was more often than not relegated to demure backing far out of the spotlight. Yet here its prominence adds immeasurably to the sense of anticipation, dare we say horniness, that Brown is proudly featuring.

The record sizzles as a result, especially when the guitar, which was already slithering beneath the horns during the break adding a menacing undercurrent to what was the most traditional aspect of the arrangement, strikes repeatedly from the weeds in the second half of the song, its lines quick and deadly, giving both the song and the listener a jolt and putting Brown firmly at the forefront of the changes in rock on the horizon.

Though it’d be awhile before the guitar would take over rock’s instrumental enforcer role from the tenor sax, right away it becomes obvious why the electric guitar added something different and entirely welcome to the mix.
 

 

There’ll Be Lots Of Loving, Just You Wait And See
What’s so promising about all of this is the palpable signs of advancement shown. A year into rock – on the calendar anyway, but with the infernal recording ban it’s less than that in terms of active recording – and we’re beginning to see collective improvements on the models being rolled out.

There’s now a very real sense that those on the scene at the time were starting to truly understand what worked and what didn’t, what helped and what hurt an arrangement, what the audience craved and what they shied away from, and most importantly what avenues they could explore to find more of what made all of this so exciting to begin with.

The music industry of the 1940’s as a whole, at least when judged by the most popular styles, was by in large a very conservative place. In the mainstream risks were consistently rejected in favor of safe formula. The major record companies and their top producers actually believed in, and vigorously guarded, lofty musical “standards” and would often reject material or ideas if they felt they’d be lowering those standards, even at times when they’d be more likely to get a hit by compromising those standards a bit. Their seemingly ironclad hold over the industry enabled them to remain exceedingly cautious without much fear of being replaced if audiences became less enamored with their timid choices. What options did the public have?, they must’ve figured with typical arrogance of those who feel their reign would never end.

That’s what they get for not paying attention.

That overconfidence soon exposed their flanks and allowed for upstarts from the fringes of the marketplace to experiment and try reaching those who were craving something new and exciting.

It wasn’t JUST rock ‘n’ roll of course which attacked when mainstream pop let its guard down. Electric blues was vying with rock for black music fans interest, as were more exciting gospel styles, each going beyond the previously accepted parameters of their genres in an attempt to modernize the sounds and hook a new generation of listeners. Meanwhile bop was taking jazz in new and ever more adventurish directions, which while less commercial than what preceded it was even more innovative and experimental than found anywhere else in the music kingdom of the day.

But it remained rock which was poised to really tear open pop’s soft underbelly with the biggest fusillade coming from their brash experimentations. While it was still the least recognized by the mainstream, and thus seen as the least threatening among those in the know at the time, it was also the most revolutionary among those styles, for it seemed to have the potential to cross stylistic boundaries and thus pull in listeners from a wider array of backgrounds than all of the other fringe styles combined.

It wouldn’t happen to that extent for awhile and so nobody paid it much mind as it gathered strength, but the seeds were clearly being planted for the cross-cultural revolution around the corner.
 

 

Here, having already taken the first definitive steps at establishing rock as a whole and then following it up with more solid efforts bent on establishing his own place within it, Roy Brown doesn’t remain standing still for long but instead boldly ventures even further out, expanding rock’s creativity each step of the way.

Rainy Weather Blues is not quite his best song to date, but it’s damn good and even more than its obvious quality it’s what the creative effort of the record signified that really mattered – that rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t going to sit back and wait for everything else to catch up to it.

Rain or shine the goal was always the same, to keep moving forward and see what else is out there for you to enjoy when the clouds broke and the sun was shining bright.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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