KING 4541; JUNE 1952



On the surface this is a song that seems decidedly far off from the rock ‘n’ roll we’re covering.

Even the title refers to two styles of music pointedly outside of rock’s parameters.

But it’s neither a blues song, nor a mambo and while it may stretch the definition of the term to consider it fully in the rock genre too, there’s little question that the artist in question is a rock act and since this was a creation of his own doing rather than a record company attempt to court another audience far removed from his normal fan base, we’re prone to grant him as much leeway as we can to see just what crazy ideas were running wild in his mind at any given time.


Taking The Long Way Around To Get Nowhere
We can all bemoan the experimental inclinations of artists when they deviate from the straight-forward types of rockers we tend to appreciate most, but if these creative itches aren’t allowed to be scratched from time to time we won’t make an unexpected stylistic leaps that introduce and define the next era in music.

Not all of them pay off… most of them don’t in fact and this one is no different in that regard… but it’s the freedom an artist has to try something new even if it seems potentially non-commercial that gives rise to some of the best developments in music.

Besides, isn’t this what B-sides are for? Weird genre mash-ups like Blues Mambo… an instrumental that isn’t a dark reflective piece, despite the first word of its title, nor is it a dance record even if the second word suggests otherwise. But neither is it a traditional rocker or even a showpiece for one or two of the musicians in the band.

So call it something else… an artistic musing perhaps. Or call it a misfire or an artistic indulgence if you want.

But the fact we get to hear it released and thus are able call it anything is a testament to King Records, along with producer and co-writer Henry Glover and especially Sonny Thompson for realizing that to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs and to get to some new place musically sometimes you need to take roundabout journeys, even if it’s just to see where NOT to head in the future.


Is He Ghosting Us?!
Usually we can pretty accurately pinpoint the stylistic nods an artist makes when they bend, twist and distort musical precedent for cockeyed experiments like this, but here we’re sometimes left scratching our heads.

The cotton candy horns that open this track seem to be jazz-based at a glance based on their tonal qualities and lack of resonance and with their rather stiff deliveries it suggests a rather buttoned-down club band of the 1930’s maybe. But there’s a whimsy in the notes that hints at a more eccentric mindset even if the structure of the parts themselves contradicts that in every way.

Before we can put our finger on it however we’re drawn towards the methodic, yet catchy, beat laid down by the drummer and supplemented by Sonny Thompson himself on piano.

It’s then that Thompson stretches out with some fairly simple playing, giving us the melodic thread to tease us with before seeming to morph before our very eyes into a guitarist picking up the same thread. The transition from one instrument to the other is sublime and though neither is playing with a traditional rock attitude, forceful with an abrasive edge, they’re leaning into the quirkiness of this in ways that are sort of intriguing.

When Thompson takes over again, Blues Mambo fully assumes its identity but we’re still not sure what that is per say. The steady drum beat never lets us forget this is a rock band, but it also never steps to the forefront to insist upon it.

The alto sax gets a solo that keeps our attention even if it drives us crazy in the process, playing a curly-cue riff that isn’t powerful by any means, but somehow retains its grip on us all the same.

The entire record across as a musical interpretation of having something stuck in the nether regions of your mind that you can’t remember precisely enough to expel it from your thoughts altogether, so it winds up driving you half-crazy for hours on end. A quote, or somebody’s name, a movie title, or a song lyric and the more you concentrate on pinning it down the further away the answer seems to be.

It’s a frustrating, but fascinating, experiment as Thompson’s practically taunting you with a song that appears almost transparent by nature. It’s got a nice enough melody without a firm hook… some capable playing without any dazzling displays… a feeling that it’s familiar in a way yet sounds like nothing we can remember, at least not in this field.

By the end, if we haven’t gone insane in the process, we’ve figured out what this is… it’s a musical apparition sent to haunt us.

It might not be a great record, or a very appropriate one for our needs, but it’s not a bad thing to have to deal with every once in awhile just to keep us on our toes.


(Visit the Artist page of Sonny Thompson for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)