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Certain things can be both good and bad in life, though often the ramifications of each won’t necessarily be visible at the same time.

For Ruth Brown, a prodigiously talented singer still in search of a stylistic identity to call her own, each single she released carried with it far greater importance than most artists had to contend with, for if she scored a smash hit with one of them it would effectively decide matters for her… even if that style wound up being a weaker choice in the long run.

When taking that into consideration this song perfectly embodied the duality of the good and the bad in life, for although the commercial failure of this record became another bitter pill to swallow at the time, ultimately that would prove to be the best result possible for her future prospects.


I Was Wrong When I Decided
What’s never been in doubt – whether on hits or misses – was that Ruth Brown could flat out sing. Any tempo, any style, any subject, with any type of musical support Brown had the supple voice, impeccable control and understated power to handle any type of material with class and conviction.

But what brand of songs she should specialize in to best utilize those skills was another matter altogether and in that department the choices were not always left up to her.

Atlantic Records had lucked out on her first record, So Long, a standard she’d cut just as a test run to see how she’d navigate a studio setting and right away Eddie Condon’s band backing her were so impressed with her that they buckled down and gave her an arrangement that suited it perfectly and she promptly scored a Top Five hit with it and seemed well on her way to stardom.

Since then however they’ve missed their mark each time out, first by trying to cover a current rock ballad hit with I’ll Get Along Somehow which failed largely because they initially focused on the sung half of the two-part song when it was the spoken half that was stirring interest when performed by Larry Darnell.

Maybe in a case of over-correcting after that miscalculation they attempted to steer her more into jazzy material following that, but no matter how well she pulled those off there was no getting around the fact that those songs had a much lower commercial ceiling and an audience that wasn’t quite as welcoming when it came to embracing new talent.

So now they’re doubling back to where she started and trying another achingly dramatic ballad with (I’ll Come Back) Someday on which she delivers a stirring performance, yet it too fell short of their expectations when it came to sales.

But rather than be a total misfire this still manages to showcase Brown’s intuitive way with a song and at least provides a firm step in the right direction for nailing down a ballad approach that she’d put to good use in the future to provide some stylistic balance once she transforms herself into the inimitable Miss Rhythm around the corner.


Don’t Be The Kind To Hold This Against Me
At first glance this is the kind of song which sits uneasily between eras. There’s a lyrical and melodic resemblance to 1940’s torch ballads, a style that was certainly appealing for Brown as it allowed her to show off both her impressive pipes and her interpretative qualities, not to mention it recalled the music of her own formative years that she loved so much.

Yet rather than completely give in to that nostalgic mindset which would be permissible for such a song, she’s already flexing her creative muscles in ways that a lot of those old tunes wouldn’t have allowed for by wringing out every last drop of emotional content and leaving it limp by the final refrain.

(I’ll Come Back) Someday, as you might’ve guessed by the title, concerns a girl who is forsaking love to pursue some other endeavor. It’s never specified exactly what she left her devoted boyfriend to do, but chances are it’s to build some sort of career – like, let’s say a singing career – and as such you can take this as an early feminist manifesto which gives it added pathos.

There’s no doubt that she’s still in love with the guy who is probably incredulous that the idea of marrying him and popping out babies while staying home cooking and cleaning is somehow not enough of a thrill for her to want to devote the rest of her life to, but she knows full well there’s a lot of world out there to experience that you can’t see from your kitchen window and so she wants to get out and make it on her own.

That independent spirit alone removes it from the outdated mindsets of the previous generation, as she also manages to inject a hint of sass early on which further keeps it rooted in modern outlooks. But despite her progressive stance she’s still not defiant in how she projects this, nor even dismissive of the idea of the white picket fence and happily ever after image that he’s probably been putting in her head since they first held hands under the apple tree when they were sixteen, but she’s definitely got her mind made up and is trying to let him down easy. Who knows, she may actually return to him in a few years ready to settle down, though chances are once she’s out on her own she’ll find life is far more interesting than the quaint small town idyll the previous generation cherished.

What stands out about her reading of this is how she breathes life into each word, her instincts – not to mention her own real-life experience in dealing with the exact same issues when she left Virginia to seek fame as a singer – allowing her to capture the thought process behind every twist in the story. She knows when to push harder to make her point and conversely when to pull back to give her disappointed sweetheart a moment to recover from the blow of being left behind.

It’s really a masterful performance, proof positive of her innate abilities as a singer… but as a song meant for an even MORE restless rock audience than what her character represents here it doesn’t quite go far enough to fully connect.


If Fate Can Survive
Torch songs are easily appreciated by listeners of all types because when done right they showcase an artist’s skill in ways that hard to ignore, but they also have a tendency to seem almost encased in amber, not quite reflective of the specific moment in time… even with the more enlightened cultural outlook shown here.

That impression is certainly accentuated by the slow, melodically churning backing which is stately and discreet but hardly invigorating with its tinkling piano accents and faint drumming doing little more than keeping time.

Because of that the majority of the musical support found on (I’ll Come Back) Someday, doesn’t come from instruments but rather from voices, namely the famed Delta Rhythm Boys, a vital pre-rock black vocal group that we’ve mentioned once or twice along the way as a primary influence on The Ravens.

With rock’s rise in late 1947 – and ironically with the impact of those Ravens who dialed up the intensity of the vocal group form to fit in this new world – the more staid deliveries of The Delta Rhythm Boys now seemed hopelessly outdated. Atlantic Records had plenty of respect for their past work however and had just signed them to a contract and now were attempting to maximize their investment by having them contributing backing vocals on this late January session by Brown, hoping their presence would give this an added twist that might find favor with a different constituency than she’d get on her own.

It’s a good idea certainly and for their part the guys don’t seem to mind being reduced to glorified window dressing, humming unobtrusively while Brown’s voice alternately moans and soars above them. They get their chance for the spotlight in the bridge, sounding as nice as ever but it also lays bare their stylistic detachment to rock in more ways than when merely providing the vocal padding behind Brown’s lead.

When Lee Gaines, their estimable bass, steps out front to deliver a solo line it does bring it a little closer to the present, if only to remind one and all how much The Ravens’ Jimmy Ricks was indebted to him, yet it winds up only having you wish that it had been Ricky who was backing Brown here, providing the kind of spark that he alone seemed capable of in this role.

Even though that push and pull dynamic between yesterday and today never fully extricates itself from this it also doesn’t sink the record either as all of the parties, Ruth Brown foremost among them, are simply too good… too classy… to warrant tuning them out.


The Time Will Arrive
It’d be perfectly understandable if they all were disappointed in the lack of a response this received, for as a showcase for her abilities, both technical and emotional, (I’ll Come Back) Someday had to have been viewed an artistic success. But of course art and commerce are not always entirely compatible and while a song like this only adds to Ruth Brown’s legacy in retrospect, as a singer striving to establish herself in early 1950 its effect was much more ambiguous.

But as we said at the beginning oftentimes the good and the bad are intertwined in life and it simply takes awhile to work itself out. When the dust cleared the apparent downside of its commercial failure wound up being the upside once they realized that when a song’s trappings are still stuck in the recent past it’s never the best bet for getting ahead in the present… or for shaping the future.

Had they succeeded with this song it’d have given them no reason to ever deviate from a safe and predictable course and as such the Ruth Brown we’ve come to revere might never have been born.


(Visit the Artist page of Ruth Brown for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)