No tags :(

Share it




We all know why this is here and it has little or nothing to do with the content of this side of this single.

If not for the name of the group making this record – and their subsequent wholehearted move into rock ‘n’ roll in a few months time – the qualities which allow it entry into the far reaches of the genre would almost certainly not be enough to qualify.

Yet it’s being reviewed so that when their stylistic overhaul on Atlantic Records in the winter of 1951 arrives their backstory will be well established and the unlikeliness of their transformation to full-fledged rockers will be made perfectly clear.

This then is the “before” picture showing the flabby body, drab appearance and badly out of date hairstyle.

So pay close attention, because when we see the “after” shots in a few months time it’ll be hard to believe this is the same group.


Things Will Seem Right Again
Unlike the flip side of their one and only single on Rainbow Records this song is not one dragged from the dusty recesses of time and given new life in 1950.

No, this was a brand new song that was only designed to seem old fashioned… and judging by the others who took a whack at it – Savannah Churchill, Steve Gibson and The Red Caps and the venerable Mills Brothers, all really great acts from past decades – it’s evident that When You Come Back To Me was seen as a song that was somewhat comforting to those who were finding it difficult to make the transition to a more modern musical outlook.

That a group just starting out like The Clovers should feel more comfortable cutting this type of material however only shows just how backwards their thinking was at the start of their careers when it came to judging their best prospects for success. Though the record companies and trade papers may still have touted the older groups who’d acquired a patina of class over the years, the charts told a different story.

The acts that succeeded in this day and age were mostly rockers and the huge disparity in the numbers of spins gotten by the more soulful sides put out by acts like The Ravens and Orioles and their largely ignored pop-leaning cuts couldn’t be any clearer. Yet here come The Clovers – without even the name recognition of those groups – trying to buck the trends with something that even if delivered perfectly had virtually no chance of connecting.

When they also happen to be far from perfect, then it’s no surprise it came and went without a trace.


How Much I’ve Cried You Will Never Know
One of the things all people must learn in life is what they are and aren’t capable of based on factors out of your control.

Flapping your arms like a bird will not get you off the ground no matter how much you want to fly. However buying or building a glider will effectively replicate that goal.

In other words it’d about realizing your ambitions by purposefully avoiding the insurmountable challenges in obtaining them and finding something that works to your advantage instead.

For The Clovers they want to be professional singers, make records and become famous doing so, yet the manner in which they’re trying to achieves those goals on When You Come Back To Me is doomed for failure.

Once again they’re trying to adapt an early 1940’s Ink Spots approach, seemingly unaware, or unconcerned, that it’s nearly 1951 and even The Ink Spots have been failing at sustaining much interest since… well, frankly since rock ‘n’ roll came along and displaced it as the primary means for musical expression in the young black community. That group’s final hits came in 1948, just as rock was enjoying their first sustained run of widespread success. That’s not a coincidence.

The Ink Spots were hardly going to change their own style after a decade as stars just to try and fit in, but The Clovers have no such ties to the past and so their decision to try and replicate the sounds of older more genteel groups like that in this new landscape is not going to work, especially when Buddy Bailey is futilely trying to sing out of his natural range to conjure up Bill Kenny’s work.

The fact is he simply can not do so effectively. His voice doesn’t have the flexibility to reach those notes… to HOLD those notes strongly… and to make it seem effortless and thus appealing. As a result he stumbles repeatedly, derailing the melody, cheapening the sentiments and making it an awkward and uncomfortable listening experience.

When Bailey drops into his natural range here he sounds fine and though a shallow song by nature it had a chance to work well enough if he was cognizant of his own limitations. But as soon as he flaps his arms and goes running off the roof of a building we’re simply waiting to hear the SPLAT!

To You Alone
The second problem The Clovers are faced with is that songs about desperate longing from a distance are tough to pull off, especially when the reasons for the person being estranged from their loved one aren’t explained.

Context matters in other words, as it always does. Is Bailey sad because he’s overseas fighting a war – this was in the midst of the Korean War so it’s possible, especially because it seems this song was based at least somewhat in tone and spirit on When The Swallows Come Back To Capistrano. If so, that’s easy enough to establish with just a single line to set the scene.

Is he distraught because he screwed up his relationship and his wife or girlfriend high-tailed it back to her family to “think things over”. That too is understandable and yet it also needs to be framed that way so we know it’s his fault and now he’s hoping to make things right.

But on the other hand he could just be whining about a girl he had only passing contact with who may not know he’s alive, or perhaps just has no idea he’s laying awake nights fantasizing about being with her. If that’s the case then we’ll pass on whatever pitiful explanation he offers because we’re not going to sympathize with him much anyway.

The truth is we never DO know what When You Come Back To Me entails because the lyrics are intentionally obtuse. He’s just repeating the same feeling of misplaced hope wrapped in sadness while using different theoretical examples to paint a one dimensional picture.

On top of all this the melody’s not strong enough to sustain interest for long on its own and even Harold Winley’s brief bass interjection comes across as a gimmick rather than a way to add any relevant point to the proceedings. With Bailey’s faltering tone in the upper reaches he can’t focus enough on selling the internal pain he should be feeling because he has to worry about if his voice will hold out.

Had they had somebody in the booth who told them to drop the imitation of a group that was well past its prime and instead sing this in their natural range as if the girl they loved had told them she found somebody new and they were in such disbelief that they just kept insisting to themselves it was a temporary thing, then the same skimpy song might’ve actually been worth hearing.

Instead without some fortuitous intervention on their behalf down the road it may very well have marked the end of their chances to make a living in this business.


My Love I’ll Give Again
The question to keep asking yourself as you encounter these records reaching back to the distant past is… what if this succeeded?

Not become a big hit or anything, but sold more than the fourteen copies or so it moved in real life and allowed them to get another session for Rainbow Records in which they cut material in the same vein as When You Come Back To Me. Even if none of it charted but if it got just enough minor interest to make them a viable club act for a few years in smaller outposts along the eastern seaboard… what then?

If that had happened then The Clovers we came to know would never have existed.

No other group would’ve been suited to take their place as the bluesy sounding and slyly smirking group they soon became and as a result rock ‘n’ roll would have a massive gap in its evolution, not just in terms of all the great records it would be missing, but that also might mean there’d be no sax solos on vocal group records, no semi-suggestive comedic “playlets” to serve as Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller’s prototypes for The Coasters, which in turn eliminates the material of The Olympics and so on and so forth.

Music history is not a series of unconnected events. One group… one record… leads to another… and another… and if you take just one crucial step out of the equation, like The Clovers on Atlantic, then the entire history of the genre is going to suffer in myriad ways.

When they come back to us next time out it won’t be hard to see just how the failure of this dismal attempt managed to benefit rock ‘n’ roll as a whole for years to come.


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