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Let’s call this what it is… a case of tying up some loose ends.

One look at this should inform you that the credited artist here is secondary to our story, while the secondary artist is paramount – at least to us – when it comes to chronicling rock ‘n’ roll history.

Yet on the record the secondary artist who caused us to review this record in the first place are clearly – and rightfully – taking a back seat to the primary artist whose presence in rock was brief and otherwise inconsequential.

Meaning if not for our compulsive obsession to make sure we don’t miss anything when it comes to studying rock’s evolution, this would be one we could’ve skipped over even if there’s a halfway decent record buried under the tangled story somewhere.


Get The Feeling
Let’s cut right to the chase since I’m guessing your patience for such things is limited to begin with.

Signed to saxophonist Sherman Williams’s vanity label, Unique Records, in the fall of 1951, The Four Flames cut a series of sides that included just one song of any lasting recognition, W-I-N-E, which was then leased to Specialty Records which put it out on their newly instituted Fidelity subsidiary.

The deal allowed Art Rupe, president of Specialty/Fidelity, to select whichever sides he wanted to put out, often conflicting with the original releases on Unique of those same songs.

The most interesting of which was this two part single, The Bounce, in that the first side was an instrumental featuring Williams in the spotlight, which raises the question of why Williams chose NOT to release this on his own label since he was the focal point of the cut.

Part Two, or simply Side B as it’s presented and which we’re focused on, featured The Four Flames singing some pretty non-essential lyrics over a similar instrumental track, their presence hardly improving the song in the least, even though at times they add something intriguing to the proceedings.

Any way you slice it though the instrumental parts are the best aspects of the record, with Williams’ sax laying down a nice groove that manages to sound just a little dirty with its gritty and grimy tonal qualities and a couple of honks and a squeal thrown in for good measure.

The guitarist, after a very solid supporting role behind the vocals early on, steps out front for a solo of its own with an icy vibrant tone, plenty of space between certain notes to draw out the tension and some fleet fingering when called for.

Unfortunately when the record focuses on The Four Flames things get off course a little.

The Lights Are Low
Some of this is hardly their fault. It’s doubtful Williams was quite as comfortable writing for vocals… not the words per say, but the way in which they’ll be incorporated into the song. The Flames are at the best when they’re merely using an almost chanting intonation, drawing notes out as if to hypnotize you.

When they’re forced to cram in more words to try and tell a coherent story The Bounce fails to make much sense.

Not only are the lyrics sort of vague and meaningless, but the way in which they’re sung feels forced and artificial within the melody, almost as if they’re cautiously navigating the song looking for open spaces they can fill.

As a result this comes across like having a conversation with a schizophrenic. The music is coherent, straight-forward and makes perfect sense. The vocals are distracted random thoughts on subjects you are blissfully unaware of. You may not get lost completely, after all the topic itself wasn’t supposed to be very deep, but it’s not going to be The Four Flames you’re eager to focus on when all is said and done.

Yet that’s the reason you’re here… or at least the reason we’re here… and so Sherman Williams is going to be made to suffer for their shortcomings which may actually be fair because it was his decision to include them on his song.

But it was our decision to include both of them in this history of rock overview and so we’ll take the blame if you’ve come to the conclusion that your time would’ve been better spent organizing your basement, cleaning out your refrigerator or taking a nap.


(Visit the Artist page of The Hollywood Four Flames for the complete archive of their records reviewed to date)