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These kinds of records – two artists sharing a single, three if you count Freddie Mitchell who gets label credit on both sides – are frustrating to contemplate, usually because they’re completely unnecessary.

Rather than get two chances to explore an artist’s abilities and judge their potential (as this was the debut release for both women) we’re forced to make our assessments on just one song.

Worse yet this leads to the inevitable comparison between the two, as if they had anything to do with their shared fate brought about by record label incompetence.

Sadly in this case it means today’s featured singer, Sarah Dean, is going to come up short in comparison to Eunice Davis even though in normal circumstances her performance here would rate just fine on its own.


The Squarest Cat In Town
We’ll keep the spotlight on Larry Newton mercifully brief after yesterday’s fusillade against him, but it’s impossible not to delve into why we’re able to review just one Sarah Dean song rather than the more traditional two songs on her debut single without taking aim at Derby Records’s lunkheaded owner.

When reviewing the other side of this, Rock Little Daddy, the fantastic debut of Eunice Davis, we said how Davis was only allowed to cut that song because Sarah Dean only got one song in the can and they needed a flip side to it.

Though this may in fact be true Sarah Dean DID cut another song that will come out in a matter of weeks and whether that was laid down the same day or at a later date there’s no rule that states you have to release songs from the same session on the same single and so holding Long Lean Daddy over until you had an acceptable second cut was not a crime.

Since Davis did have more songs in her bag to record at the time, there’s no reason why she couldn’t have gotten both sides of Derby 752 and this Sarah Dean performance couldn’t have been paired with a later song next month and allowed to sink or swim on its own.

Considering Derby’s somewhat dubious track record of eliciting national interest in its releases this may not have swam commercially even then, but the good news is that no matter how it was released this record didn’t sink aesthetically.


Rocks Me Crazy All The Time
She was known as Sarah “Fatwoman” Dean… though how she was known as that is kind of a mystery since her two released sides don’t mention her weight, nor are there any ads or pictures of her to confirm this. She sounds mature yet word is she was a teenager at the time.

Her voice is full however and since she wrote Long Lean Daddy perhaps it’s intended to be humorously ironic if the subject contrasts so markedly with the artist, though even that’s going to be lost on a strictly audio medium anyway.

Regardless though, Dean’s role here is largely to set the scene for some wild musical histrionics by Freddie Mitchell, suggesting it was he who should’ve gotten the co-writing credit which Newton typically stole for himself.

But that’s not to say Sarah Dean doesn’t contribute much… it’s her attitude that establishes the mood of the record as following the storming sax, piano and drums intro the band lays down she comes barreling in to sing the praises of this unnamed figure “from the heart of Tennessee” who is a Grade A lover according to the woman herself.

In many ways this is the Cliff Notes version of what Davis sang about, for while Dean doesn’t go into the same descriptive detail as her label-mate the basic message is much the same. Both of their guys are knockouts in the bedroom and both gals aren’t shy about singing their praises, surely hoping to state their own credentials as desirable partners in the process.

The lyrics may be brief and to the point but Dean does her damnedest to make up for it with her delivery using her rhythmic gargle of a voice that admittedly sounds as if its owner has been around the block a few times. Whether she has or if she’s just playing a part probably doesn’t matter because it’s unapologetically lusty enough to make up for any technical shortcomings she may have.

Besides, since she’s not the main event all she has to do is hold your interest until Freddie Mitchell can take over and drive home the points Dean obliquely refers to.

He Knows How To Put It Down
On the Davis-Mitchell pairing on the flip it was Eunice Davis who came out on top, whereas on this side it’s Freddie Mitchell who carries the bulk of the load.

Sometimes leaving the heavy lifting to him was not always the best idea, for he was known to lay back for too long at times, but on Long Lean Daddy he goes for broke from the very start elevating not just the record but his own reputation in the process.

It may be a fairly stock arrangement for a racy rocking song but every component is razor sharp from that multi-faceted lead-in to the way the band churns behind Dean’s vocals. But where it separates itself is in the instrumental break which is built from the bottom up created by the ensemble blowing from the other horns to keep the rhythm from slacking off for even a second.

That frees up Mitchell to deliver one of his better solos, alternately honking and squealing with fervor, pushing the suggestiveness beyond the words on the lead sheet while those overlapping horn lines the others contribute keeps it from ever becoming monotonous.

If anything they could’ve given Mitchell a second solo to really send this to the moon but with Dean’s vocals taking up barely half the run time as it is you would’ve had to extend this record another forty seconds or so to keep her from being an afterthought. Since we all know how the industry with its emphasis on jukebox play resisted making records that were too long – thus limiting the number of nickels you needed to deposit to hear music – that was pretty unlikely.

Because Dean already had to face the indignity of sharing her debut with someone else anyway it’d be a little much to ask her to sacrifice more of the spotlight, especially since she wouldn’t get many more chance to shine.

Where He Learned To Rock No One Knows
Even in the best of circumstances – two sides of a single on a better distributed label – chances are Sarah Dean, however large she may have been, wouldn’t have become a star, her voice just wasn’t built to forge that instantaneous connection to a listener which is what made her reliant on having co-stars like Mitchell to bolster their sound.

But in an era where it was the the sounds on a record rather than the image on a screen that mattered most she at least had a chance to be a steady presence on the scene for awhile with a little more luck.

Certainly any female artist that wasn’t afraid to strut her stuff so brazenly like she does on Long Lean Daddy is worth something in a market that tends to reward the salacious.

She might not be a great lost talent from the first half decade of rock, but if nothing else she’s got the right attitude to be more than just a brief blip on the musical radar.

While it might have been her good fortune to wind up on a label that had someone like Freddie Mitchell to provide the kind of support she needed to make the most of her abilities, the flip side of that was she had the misfortune to end up on a label that couldn’t get out of their own way to give her the chance she deserved to see if she could build a career that lasted more than just a couple of weeks.


(Visit the Artist page of Sarah Dean as well as Freddie Mitchell for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)