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In music, as in sports, there’s a natural tendency to want to project an artist’s future based on early returns.

How much potential somebody has, whether a college basketball star or a singer, is what any fan wants to know as soon as possible since if they’re good we’re going to have them in our lives for the foreseeable future.

Sometimes there’s no wait at all to know how special somebody is, they explode right out of the gate and the only question then becomes is whether it was beginner’s luck, something they’ll never be able to beat no matter how long they try.

Far more interesting though are cases like this where a new group not only shows a lot of promise in their first release, but does so in a way that also introduces a novel twist on an existing style, something which suggests they might be shaping the sounds we hear for a long time to come.


I Can’t Help Myself
Considering the songs were cut the same day in the same studio, it’s kind of hard to envision them somehow figuring things out in a flash of inspiration, but then again, how else do you explain it?

The game plan for the top side of their first secular single, Give Me One More Chance, was simply to re-write a gospel song, keeping the basic structure intact yet delivering the relationship plea with a much different attitude.

It worked well and the concept of the back and forth vocals as if engaged in an ongoing conversation was ingenious, but it still had the general sound of their gospel sides with Lowman Pauling’s stark guitar, some piano chords and Jubilee style humming and vocal responses from the other members.

But Too Much Of A Little Bit sounds like something entirely different. For one thing it’s hard envisioning gospel lyrics over the uptempo track about boozing it up, but for another they seemed so enthusiastic about singing this way, no matter what the lyrics themselves might’ve claimed.

I’m sure if this rock ‘n’ roll thing hadn’t worked out for them they’d have insisted that this song was nothing more than a confession and that they’d done their penance for their misdeeds and wanted to return to gospel’s good graces.

Luckily for us they’d be lying… which goes to show they had what it took for rock ‘n’ roll all along.


Going ‘Round And ‘Round
The chugging piano boogie that opens the song sets a brisk pace but sort of eases you into the record all the same, like they were pulling out of a train station and were just getting up to speed.

It’s such an addicting sound, simple though it is, that you wonder what producer Carl LeBow would’ve come up with had The “5” Royales not brought along Royal Abbit to join them on the piano bench, because it’s the anchor of the entire record, not only providing the intoxicating – no pun intended – lead-in, but also the rhythmic drive behind the vocals and the instrumental break as well.

But as good as he is, the others are hardly sitting things out. We get the lead vocals from presumably Otto Jefferies (though it could be Pauling himself who also sang bass) delivering a rolling ode to the power of booze… albeit by someone claiming they were now done drinking. But while he sounds contrite enough, certainly a little subdued now that his head is pounding as the hangover hits, there’s an awful lot of joy creeping into his admissions.

Even if you want to believe he regrets the bender he went on, the music and the backing vocals are still at the party that he staggered out of, and they’re by no means letting up. During the instrumental break in which Abbit pounds the keys the others are whooping it up, cracking jokes, mocking the confessions with sly grins.

The vocal arrangement which highlighted the other side may be a little more standard here, but no less well executed as the backing vocals in the stanzas are a constant highlight, from crying out “NO!” at every turn, accentuating their phony exaggerated shock at his revelations, to the wordless “do-do-do” vocal padding and the tight harmonies when they deliver the Too Much Of A Little Bit tag-line.

This is a far cry from most of the vocal group records we’ve come across to date, for while those generally kept things orderly behind the lead, The “5” Royales are all over the place, adding to the freewheeling excitement.

On top of it all we get another sign that despite his inexperience with this type of music, Pauling instinctively understood the necessities of rock ‘n’ roll lyrics, not just by picking a rather obvious subject matter, but also in the way he slips in lines that will be sure to draw a smile. The best example coming in the way in which after enticing a female to come closer to feel him burning up he tosses in the outrageous line “My temperature’s eight thousand ninety three” and then adds for good measure “I’m almost dead!” in such a rapid fire manner that you don’t have time to stop and question it, you’re too busy cracking up.

For someone who just claimed he was nearly as hot as the surface of the sun (which registers at 10,000 degrees), he sounds pretty damn good to us and I think he might need another drink or two in order to help him cool off.


Stagger On Back
Since we’ve already mentioned in the last review that despite their good showing from an aesthetic point of view with these first efforts in rock, it’d be almost a year before they were back in the studio for another go-round, we’re left to question just what more convincing Apollo Records needed to make The “5” Royales the centerpiece of their label going forward.

For a company built on gospel they’ve now corrupted TWO gospel acts, The Larks being the other, and gotten them to sully their reputations in rock ‘n’ roll, but while they kept at it with The Larks and gotten a pair of national hits out of it, they seemed to cool on The “5” Royales and were unsure as to what to do with them for the time being.

Their next release in early 1952 was another gospel record under the Royal Sons Quintet name, where they – disingenuously as it turns out – claimed they’d Let Nothing Separate Me… from God’s love.

By then however not even God was buying their claims. He knew as well as we did that they’d already had Too Much Of A Little Bit of rock ‘n’ roll and there was no turning back now.

It may not have been heard by many at the time, but those who had gotten to spin this record could tell that The “5” Royales’s future was looking bright on the dark side of the street, where the drinks don’t stop flowing just because you get a little drunk, the parties don’t end just because the sun comes up and the music never stops just because someone is yelling at you to turn it down.

What can God possibly do to compete with that?


(Visit the Artist page of The “5” Royales for the complete archive of their records reviewed to date)