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JUBILEE 5076; MARCH 1952



What are they doing?

Actually, “What are they TRYING to do?”, might be the better question.

Jubilee Records was launched in 1948 and became a viable label right out of the gate thanks to their very first artists – The Orioles – who scored hit after hit. Now, three and a half years later, they’re really no better off than they were then because while they’ve managed a few more random hits along the way, they haven’t expanded much on their roster and still get the majority of their sales from The Orioles’ records.

Finally coming to the realization that it’s probably self-defeating to simply flood the market with a new Orioles sing every month, they’ve taken to spacing them out every two months and filling in the gaps with Sonny Til solo records instead, hoping nobody sees through their shallow ploy.

Then, apparently to throw you off the scent of their odorous deception even more, they misspell his name on the label.

It’s safe to say that the person Til is saying he’s proud of here is not those running Jubilee Records.


The Things You Say
Any time you have a successful group in rock ‘n’ roll there’s always the expectation – or fear – that the lead singer will go solo at some point, whether to hog ALL of the glory for themselves, or to scratch a creative itch that wouldn’t have been appreciated within the group dynamics. Sometimes though it’s because the record company felt they could benefit from having two “name” acts to promote… the old group and the frontman.

That’s not exactly what happened here, as Sonny Til remained the lead singer of The Orioles, but it’s still basically an executive decision by Jerry Blaine to try and squeeze more money out of his only moneymakers any way he can. What the other Orioles thought of this isn’t known – and surely wasn’t asked by Blaine.

But as crass a move as this was, it might’ve been interesting had Til wanted to, or been allowed to, explore a totally different approach than he was doing with The Orioles. Instead, he was handed Orioles-type material without the other four guys being allowed to participate.

For instance on the flip we get You Never Cared For Me, another dreadful stab at pop acceptance that wouldn’t have been helped much by the rest of the gang faintly “oohing” and “ahhing” behind him and a croaking George Nelson adding to the farce with his bridge that delivers no added information to the paper thin story.

Here on Proud Of You, though the song is slightly more relevant to rock thanks to the slight undercurrent of emotion and faint hint at rhythm, it doesn’t take a different tact in how it’s being presented. We get the same odd instrumental touches – organ and Hawaiian guitar – that they’ve been using their last few sessions and Sonny hasn’t begun wailing and screaming to shake things up a little and make it stand out from the group efforts.

Instead it’s just more of the same, albeit with less mouths to feed.

I’ll Tell You No Lies
It’s impossible to listen to this and NOT wonder what the differences would’ve been had the other Orioles not been told they were recording at 3AM only to find the building locked and realize they’d been duped.

Truthfully the changes would likely not have been that significant. Some wordless harmonies, probably taking the place of the organ and using the same notes and swells as we hear on this.

In other words hardly very exciting stuff.

The organ remains an interesting addition to the sonic textures of these records as of late, but a curious one because it’s not the kind of organ we’re used to hearing in later years where the Hammond B3 dominated the scene with a much more insistent sound.

Instead what’s used here provides a ghostly churchy vibe to Proud Of You that hints at a more ambiguous double meaning without delivering on that thought via the story which is nothing more than boy complimenting girl in broad, yet shallow, ways.

That’s not to say he’s not sincere. If there’s one thing Sonny Til can do better than most is make the most rote sentiments sound profoundly meaningful, but while we can appreciate his voice, even compliment the sneaky melody, slow though it may be, there’s no hole being filled here by the instrumentation that necessitates the absence of the rest of the Orioles.

We do get a saxophone which is appreciated, but for the most part they either forgot to put him near a microphone or simply gave him no parts to play, choosing instead to let that Hawaiian guitar get a much bigger role to make us believe this singer from Baltimore who was recording in New York was actually sipping a mai tai on a beach in Oahu. Again, a note to producers, just because you HAVE an exotic instrument laying around the studio does not mean you have to use them when they’re not warranted.

Why they felt that inappropriate sound would be better than a soulful sax, especially in trying to convey the yearning eroticism Til hints at, is beyond me. But then again most of Jerry Blaine’s decisions running Jubilee Records are not for those who put their trust in rational thought.

So while nothing here sounds bad enough to really criticize, there’s also nothing here to really praise, meaning we can chalk this idea up to early onset dementia for Blaine who somehow thought “Hear Orioles Vocalist Sonny Til Singing A Bland And Tedious Love Song In A Hawaiian Church” was a headline people were anxious to see… and a record they’d be excited to hear.


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