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JUBILEE 5080; APRIL 1952



There’s an alternate reality that exists in the abstract if you’re willing to cast aside what you know and try to imagine what roads life would have followed without certain events that irrevocably impacted the course of history.

There’s far too many variables of course to ever definitively say what would have changed, but if you confine this exercise to just one small segment of the human experience – like say a certain type of music – it becomes a little easier to make educated guesses.

Today’s undertaking is centered around this one record as it presents a plausible outcome for music in a world where rock ‘n’ roll only briefly appeared before being quickly snuffed out by the powers that be.


I Know I’ve Treated You So Unfair
The Twentieth Century American popular music experience is largely a microcosm of the eternal battle between the establishment and the upstarts.

The former is Caucasian, conservative and cloistered… an exclusive private club that denotes class and rigidly enforces its membership requirements when it comes to decorum and presentation.

The latter is predominantly African-American, liberal and open, noted by freedom of expression while seeking freedom to pursue these goals.

Ironically the latter had also included other ethnic minorities in the past, notably Jews, who were similarly excluded from the mainstream arts due to racism, which has always been the establishment’s most effective means for limiting membership. But thanks to a shared skin pigmentation and a concerted effort to live up to (if you can say that without breaking into laughter) and embody the establishment’s ideals in their own work, Jewish songwriters effectively took residency in that hallowed artistic ground themselves.

See, that was one way the establishment was able to exert so much control over the musical environment for decades… it got ambitious outsiders to conform to their cultural standards and social outlooks just to be accepted. Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern… all of whom shed their outsider identities to toe the company line as it were.

Black artists had an obvious handicap in this regard because their outsider badge was impossible to “scrub off” with a name change and discarding of an immigrant’s language and dialect. Yet their music was far more revolutionary and threatened to overtake the existing standards when jazz rose to prominence in the 1920’s.

So the establishment first denounced it, casting serious aspersions on its morality and its musical legitimacy. But, unable to control the response of those young white listeners who fell under its spell, it did the next best thing – it consumed it. Paul Whiteman got himself dubbed The King Of Jazz by whitening it up and countless others followed until it had become accepted in white society as played by considerably tamer white big band orchestras. Crisis averted.

Now, decades later, rock ‘n’ roll was now threatening to upend things again, but as I’ve Lost shows, the revolutionary outcome – though by now probably inevitable – still had a feasible milder alternative open to it which followed precedent where the outsider music had its rough edges polished off to fit into the accepted ideals by the establishment.

There was only one catch – the growing rock audience had to actually buy into it first and by 1952 that was not about to happen.

If You Ever Trusted Me
That The Enchanters – this rendition of that group name anyway – are not a lasting entity in the field of rock ‘n’ roll, shows you that this compromised approach didn’t work, and frankly didn’t have much of a chance to work.

It was too late for that. By dismissing rock out of hand in the late 1940’s, ironically by not trying to cover most of its biggest hits with verified pop stars, watering it down in the process and giving black artists a clearer path to gaining faint acceptance, they gave rock ‘n’ roll the means to go unchallenged within its own community… a community the racist establishment thought inconsequential.

Now look at it.

Rock songs have started to infiltrated the hallowed white pop charts… The Orioles, The Dominoes and Fats Domino all have, or will soon, enter that realm and the white pop world is only now starting to really take heed.

Yet there were still independent labels who’d gotten their success from rock, such as Jubilee Records, who naturally felt that white pop acceptance was the be-all and end-all of the business and that by once again conforming to the establishment’s view of what was “good” and “proper” was perfectly acceptable.

The Enchanters therefore try and do just that with I’ve Lost, grafting a pop-styled lead onto a rock styled vocal backing by the rest of the group with predictable results.

The pop side is further emphasized by the rather tame saxophone of Buddy Lucas, exuding a sensation of warm longing rather than smoldering desire. It’s well played, judicious in its notes by letting each one linger in your ear, but it conveys the same timid message that Della Simpson imparts with her restrained lead.

She’s a fine singer and her control here is quite good. To her credit she’s not merely reciting lyrics with no emotional investment whatsoever, but the arrangement doesn’t give her the opportunity to really stretch out, to play with the melody, to ad-lib, even if it’s just a sign, a moan or a repeated phrase for emphasis. It’s a rigid script she must follow and she does so obediently.

Had they taken her and the band and paired them with a stock company white bread female choir as was used by the pop labels, this would be a pop record. Simpson might come across slightly better than most singers of that idiom, but the differences from mainstream pop would be too slight to really notice… if not for the other Enchanters.

They’re the ones who retain a modicum of rock authenticity here, not because they’re rowdy and uncontrollable – far from it – but simply because they have to be given something to do and what they choose to do is harmonize in a ragged sort of way that pop labels would have never approved.

It’s an amateurish sound, but an honest and endearing one. Their wordless emoting acts as the true feelings that Simpson is unable to express. They’re her conscience if you will, the repressed longing she has for the guy she’s singing to and when they get a few answering lines of their own, as shaky as they are technically compared to Simpson’s lead, they’re that much more convincing.

That may not be much, not nearly enough to get us to do more than glance up momentarily, but it’s enough to let you see for yourselves how insidious this adherence to pop conformity is if something that minor stands out and derails their attempt to submit uniformly to someone else’s standards.


Now’s The Time To See My Cause
The fallacy of upward mobility is the belief that just because someone, or something, is widely perceived to be classy and respectable, that it must be more desirable.

The elite classes in society want to perpetuate that myth because it gives them power, not only for holding those positions in the first place, but also for making them the arbiters of taste, thereby allowing them to never have to face outside threats to their dominance.

They make the rules, enforce the rules and eliminate challenges to that rule at every turn.

If that means they occasionally have to relax their standards so as to blunt the momentum of something building power outside their walls, such as they did with jazz, even in allowing racial integration within that music, that was merely a price they had to pay to maintain their grip on the tastes of the nation.

But rock ‘n’ roll’s genius was in having so many artists not seeking to conform – and those who did, such as The Enchanters, whether by choice or more likely by edict of Jubilee Records, falling by the wayside – thereby granting the establishment no means of control.

You could even call it ironic that the title to this attempt was I’ve Lost, because by mid-1952 it was becoming more and more evident the mainstream pop music was losing ground. Had they tried this sort of thing back in 1948 however and made a consistent effort to undermine rock with these types of performances that allowed just a hint of earthiness to penetrate what were, for all intent and purposes, pop tunes, they might very well have held rock ‘n’ roll at bay forever.

Instead by burying their heads in the sand the establishment opened the door for an overthrow of all that was good and holy. For that we sincerely thank them.


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