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Though we just got through suggesting that Atlantic Records weren’t very interested in exploring the young vocal group idiom in rock during the 1950’s, preferring to stick with more polished professional groups that were giving them hits rather than focusing on the youthful exuberance that defined the slightly younger brand of doo wop, this single at least shows they weren’t completely oblivious to its charm.

Whereas the flip side which had more lasting appeal was a dreamy ballad, here they give us a rousing uptempo number to balance it out, full of (almost) all of the hallmarks of the style.

It didn’t pay off for them, but it suggests that had audiences picked up on this single maybe Atlantic wouldn’t have given up on the idea so easily and not left the doo-wop sound to their rivals to exploit over the rest of the decade.

Because of that cursory dismissal by Atlantic however, you have to assume the other smaller labels that would thrive with this brand of rock were forever grateful this one missed its commercial target.


C’mon Baby Make It Ring
We’re getting into the sweet spot of Atlantic Records’ success as 1952 draws to a close which may seem on the surface to be beneficial to new artists like The Diamonds who were assured of having their product properly shipped, distributed and promoted, all while standing out in the market thanks to the familiar colors on the label, but which in reality was also something of a hinderance.

With so many stars releasing so many hits, there was little incentive for the company to bend over backwards to push an act that may never reward them for those efforts. They simply didn’t have to. Their business was thriving, orders for Big Joe Turner, Ruth Brown and The Clovers were rolling in and the charts were already saturated with their company’s product.

In the year-end Billboard tally of hits, Atlantic crushed the competition in this field, while in the Cash Box survey of jukebox operators they were the only company with three artists to top 1,000 points… King Records barely notched two, while all others had just one artist to achieve this feat.

That left little room for someone like The Diamonds to make inroads even with a song as good as Call, Baby, Call which seemed to connect on most of the attributes hit records like this typically featured.

Not surprisingly maybe the label pegged this as the better bet, as a rollicking performance that jumped out of the speakers and was sure to make an impression right away on anyone who heard it. Truthfully it’s hard to say that was the wrong choice to make.

But whether the flip side, the emotional ballad A Beggar For Your Kisses, was “too good” in its own right and thus wound up splitting the juke box spins, in the process robbing them both of the chance to be a hit, or if they simply both flew under the radar since it was a new act without name recognition, the group’s aesthetically strong and diverse debut fell flat commercially, which as we all know is what Atlantic Records – and all companies operating for profit – valued most.

What a pity.

I’ll Do Anything You Say
In a lot of ways this is a company used to methodically achieving their goals trying to break down the components of successful records that exist slightly outside their own specialty and piece them back together to make one of their own.

Jesse Stone, who wrote, arranged and produced it, is really good at this even if there are a few slight missteps along the way. But we need to remember it’s a work in progress since Atlantic didn’t have groups like The Diamonds before.

What works great is the rolling piano boogie that kicks this off in grand fashion, like a bolt of energy that picks you up and carries you so far along that it’d be hard for the group not to benefit vocally from such an intro. It’s lively, catchy and unrelenting and makes it near impossible for anybody to walk out at that juncture.

Unfortunately it also has to carry the weight of the vibes they add to the arrangement which clearly were inspired by Johnny Otis’s work… although maybe Stone should’ve noticed that Johnny’s vibes were rarely in support of vocal groups like this.

They’re a little out of place here – a few intermittent appearances would’ve worked better, though they could just as easily be dropped altogether without feeling the loss. You can however see why he thought of them, as Call, Baby, Call is about trying to connect with a girl over the phone – ”I want to hear that tingaling sound” Sonny Wright declares – and the vibes are Stone’s way of replicating that musically.

I suppose that makes sense but it’s also a case of taking it a little too literally, especially because it’d have worked better if used just once or twice for effect while letting another instrument carry the load the rest of the time.

That’s actually the biggest omission here – as well as on the ballad half – the absence of a tenor sax to break up the vocals. For a label that had no shortage of saxophonists on call, the fact they went without one here is surprising and probably what keeps both sides from being truly great.

But what The Diamonds do with their vocal delivery comes close to greatness at times, particularly Wright’s urgent lead which shows he’s equally adept at fast numbers as he was drawing out his feelings over a slower tempo. The lyrics are pretty good too with the same kind of clever wordplay that set apart their ballad… it even has a similar theme, although approached in a much different manner.

Here he’s eager for the girl to give him a ring, suggesting that she’s not interested – or at least is playing the field before deciding on anyone. But while this has a chance to make him look kind of pathetic, merely begging her in a different fashion than he did on the other side, he manages to make his plea sound impatient rather than desperate.

That’s an important distinction to make because even though he remains dependent on her response to be truly happy, it also suggests he too has other options at his disposal if she waits too long.

The rest of them are given more to do than they were last time around and make the most of it, even though talent-wise they’re not in Wright’s league. Their vocal support is indistinct but varied from chanting to sighing to echoing his cries during the more emphatic sections, giving the entire record a vibrant spirit that is hard to resist.


Please Don’t Make Me Wait So Long
None of this is re-writing the book on how these records should be done, and in some cases it’s a little unsure of its direction. But by giving us a performance that is the polar opposite of what we’ve already heard out of them, it allows us to take our pick as to which we prefer and to let us know that they’re at least capable of excelling in both ways down the road.

But that’s where the methods of record labels in the early Fifties put groups like The Diamonds at another disadvantage as it has to be said that when it comes to music you never quite know what you have until you hear it on record. Studio performances are fine, but somehow things come across differently on wax, not so much the sound itself, but the reaction to that sound.

Yet a session typically means you cut four songs at a time, your first two releases, by which point if you’ve gotten no commercial returns on either one, you might either be dropped by the label or given less importance and thus go months without entering the studio to try again.

Ideally a new groups should cut only two songs their first time in, a fast one like Call, Baby, Call and a slow one, pair them together and release them pretty soon after that (these were cut the last week of October).

Then after they’ve been on the market a month and you can gauge the response it’s up to the producers to figure out what works and what doesn’t and then go right back in to cut some more sides to tighten things up. Here that would mean just adding a tenor sax and giving it a booting solo, and then the follow-up record wouldn’t simply be repeating the same formula of the first failed single.

You can hardly say this one failed, but as a result of not hitting big out of the gate The Diamonds’ evident promise will almost certainly go unfulfilled. All things considered though, for a single that fizzled on the market, you really can’t go wrong with either side of this debut.


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