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ATLANTIC 938; MAY 1951



While 1951 is rightly seen as a giant leap forward in the vocal group realm of rock ‘n’ roll, it was still highly indebted to the recent past.

On the hit side of this, their first single, The Cardinals channeled The Orioles, one of the two defining groups of the last three years utilizing the same tender look at love and possible rejection which had a similar framework to that group’s records.

Here they more loosely tackle the style of the other two successful rock groups of the last few years, The Ravens and The Robins, with a prominent bass voice handling much of the lead in a more uptempo style.

Though it’s not nearly as suited to their natural abilities as the flip was, the formula itself was seen as durable enough so that if nothing else it would allow them a chance to do what The Orioles could never manage… give them a single with two vastly different approaches.


I Swear You Won’t Defeat Me
The name to focus on here is songwriter Jesse Stone (as well as arranger and de facto producer… basically the musical genius of the vaunted Atlantic Records operation of the 1950’s).

This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered him by any means but for the most part he’s been largely in the background until now. He’s had two of his songs that he’d written years ago – Cole Slaw (which he helped retool for Frank Culley at Atlantic) and Idaho which Freddie Mitchell revived – get hauled out of mothballs and used for sax instrumentals. More recently he’s helped transform The Clovers into a viable rock group, reshuffling the arrangement on the fly to incorporate Culley’s unplanned presence while also conceiving of the bass-line that would dominate rock for generations.

That was the session that more or less set his course for his work over the next half dozen years and from this point forward Stone will be stepping into the forefront on Atlantic’s productions, writing more songs and studiously working with the vocalists and bands to craft an identifiable style.

On Please Don’t Leave Me however he’s still looking backwards, though at least it’s only as far back as rock of two years ago.

It’s clear to see that the timing of this was key in how it was developed. They cut this in March and so he might’ve written it a few weeks earlier and at that time the first records that really opened up the new directions in the rock vocal group scene were starting to make waves – with others just over the horizon – and so Stone is sort of caught between eras. He decides, not without some justification, to fall back on a reliable formula with a longer track record rather than consciously try hopping on a newer and still somewhat unproven sound.

Is that a bad thing? Well not exactly, as The Dominoes took the same approach in trying to diversify their sound right out of the gate with the flip of their first record, Chicken Blues, following the same basic Ravens blueprint that Stone appropriates here. They did it better and added enough unique elements to make it stand out, but the concept is the same.

The Cardinals don’t quite have the vocal firepower to make this distinctive nor is the song itself on par with that, but sometimes to move forward in life or in music it helps to take a step back first and survey the landscape so you can see what needs to be discarded.

Fuss And Then Misuse Me
Although The Cardinals had a great lead singer in Ernie Warren, this is a group effort through and through featuring mostly shared vocals that give the song the feel of an energetic rehearsal backstage before a show where everybody contributes equally.

The loose camaraderie that comes across in their vocals is clearly the main selling point of this, giving it an off-the-cuff feel that is just endearing enough that you’re not scrutinizing their performance as closely as you would otherwise, therefore allowing them a little more leeway in the technical aspects of their singing.

But since that’s sort of our job here it’s not hard to see that Please Don’t Leave Me is severely limited by that lack of polish in their collective voices.

Following The Ravens/Robins prototype the group’s bass vocalist Leon “Tree Top” Hardy gets the majority of the solo lines… well, that’s not exactly accurate. He gets the most prominent interjections let’s say… chiming in between each line delivered by the full group, either via a few actual words of his own or just a moan or two in response to what they said.

Because of this the actual story is being told by the others while Hardy is acting as the interpreter of the emotions they’re laying out. The problem is the narrative is rudimentary at best and can basically be summed up in the title alone. They’re pleading with a girl to stick things out in their relationship – though WHY it’s on the rocks we never do find out – as they run down a list of all of the presumably hypothetical mistreatment they’d put up with from her if she’d only stay.

The holes in the plot aren’t really important but it would at least help to know why they’re in this position to begin with. Have they done wrong and she’s fed up and leaving them, forcing their hand in an effort to shape up? Or was she at fault and is looking elsewhere for companionship and because they can’t do without whatever she’s got (as if we need an explanation) are begging her to reconsider because of what they’ll be losing?

By the end when Hardy is left to beg her in an alarmingly stereotypical manner, mumbling and blubbering in a way that’s demeaning – but far too common in this era when it comes to conveying humor via black characters – you’ve lost all concern over the reasons behind this split and are left wondering if this was merely a throwaway side that found its way onto the record for lack of any more suitable material.


Give Me One More Chance
While it’s clearly not what they did best there’s at least a few aspects of this that are understandable from a commercial point view, starting with the fact they were aiming to broaden their sound right away to keep their options open for the future.

Though it does seem a little strange to have a song that is centered on expressing anguish or despair be somewhat upbeat rhythmically, it does make for a fairly nice contrast to Shouldn’t I Know on a purely aural level and though their vocals are awfully ragged they do seem to be getting into the performance for a time which helps put this over a little better.

But while the overall feel of Please Don’t Leave Me is tolerable it’s hardly anything to build a following on.

It never hurts to let the others in the group have a chance to take a larger role in the songs that aren’t going to be carrying the weight of expectations on them to make sure everybody’s happy, but you get the idea that Stone wasn’t sure what they were capable of and is just trying something that a Jimmy Ricks or Bobby Nunn – both better actors than Hardy for sure – might’ve made work.

Unfortunately beyond that basic idea he didn’t craft a solid enough song for the group to shine vocally when the so-called humor breaks down in the homestretch. On a good day we could’ve justified giving it an extra point than what it winds up with, but then again holding someone with Stone’s credentials to slightly higher standards than we do for the usual riff-raff is actually a compliment.

Besides, the overall impression remains the same which is while you won’t begrudge the effort to shake things up here you won’t say this succeeded in its attempts either.


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