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REGENT 1041; OCTOBER 1951

 
 

 

When it comes to music it’s inevitable that we all have certain expectations with records based on past experiences with those artists.

This being the first release by The Falcons you’d think they’d be immune to that sort of thing, but you still have to listen to the two songs on a single one at a time and maybe if the first side you choose is just okay, your expectations for the flip side will still be in flux.

But when that first side makes a deeper impression, as this one did yesterday, then your expectations go up – or down – accordingly.

Down in this case, not because of anything to do with their clearly evident abilities, but rather because it’s so rare for both sides of a record by a complete unknown to hit you with equal force.

This side doesn’t do that by any means, therefore seeming to confirm the validity of a more skeptical view, but the performance at its core does in fact live up to, and in a way surpasses, those lowered expectations. All of which again leads you to wonder why this group didn’t stick around long enough to get enough chances to build their careers up from here and send those expectations through the roof.
 

 

I Go Over The Dreams That Are Mine
The Falcons had one rather obvious point of interest going in that was unique to them in 1951… they were the first rock vocal group with a female lead, Goldie “Boots” Alsup, who it turns out was a really good singer.

Furthermore, the sound of her pipes backed by her two brothers, Earl and George, plus the baritone from their lablemates The Four Buddies, Bert Palmer, was something that couldn’t help but stand out… it’s just an interesting mix of voices with that configuration as Gladys Knight for one found out down the road.

But in every other way they were like all of the other vocal groups which meant they were reliant on finding material that told good stories in ways that allowed the group dynamics to add things to the record that no solo act, even those who were better technical singers than Alsup, could match.

The success of How Blind Can You Be – at least in an aesthetic evaluation – came down to the fact that both elements, the song itself and the performance, both contributed equally to the record. It was well-written, providing a believable and relatable premise that excels because of how capably Boots puts across the emotional baggage her “character” is carrying.

Granted it still relied on established vocal group tropes and the backing parts were rather limited, but there was no overt weak spots to drag it down and thus it allowed you to focus entirely on what worked so well and appreciate it for those qualities alone.

Yet here on I Can’t Tell You Now the performance of Goldie Boots manages to stand out quite nicely, but the song isn’t quite up to snuff.

This can’t help but throw things into a tizzy. Another good performance means it’s able to exceed our expectations by proving the Boots was no fluke, but the mediocre material is about what we expected to get. So does that mean when it comes to expectations this is a wash?
 

Please Give My Heart A Break
When you look at the songwriting credits things both start to make a little more sense and lot less, depending on your perspective.

Whereas the top side was penned, in part, by Clyde Otis, a full-time songwriter who’d go on to contribute a lot of hits to the rock lexicon over next decade, this one was a solo effort by their own Bert Palmer.

Now we’re all for group members writing songs, for not only does it ensure that a record is going to have a style and story line perspective that is best suited for the group’s outlook, but it’s also a good move financially since they might actually get royalties on it whereas singing somebody else’s song in these years would get them maybe 50 bucks and a ham sandwich.

But that leads to the question that remains unanswered all these years later… what exactly was Bert Palmer, whose primary job was with The Four Buddies who had their own recording date later in the same week, doing cutting records with another group in the first place?

Maybe, just maybe, this provides an answer, in that he wanted to write and faced resistance within his own group and so he looked elsewhere. Yeah, I know, sort of far-fetched, but considering the other three Buddies were not even aware he’d recorded this session with The Falcons, it’s as good an explanation as any.

However not all singers make good songwriters and I Can’t Tell You Now is somewhat mundane at best, confusing at worse.

The main problem is the song centers around the title line because it “sounded good” singing rather than explaining anything about the plot. Goldie Boots has had her heart broken and repeats that title line before… TELLING US the reasons and doing so right NOW! So much for truth in advertising, not to mention violating the rules of common sense and the basic rules of writing, which is to be clear about your plot.

Instead that inherent contradiction means nothing else in the song makes much sense, especially because so much of it is unrelated to what else she’s saying. On top of that the bulk of the song is filled with the most simplistic clichés imaginable – “I tried so hard to please you/And never to deceive you” – which does the song no favors.

The melody is okay I suppose even if the instrumental arrangement it’s housed in is pretty flighty at times, but in most group’s hands something this amateurish would wind up well below sea level on record, yet Boots is still pulling it off with aplomb in spite of the obvious shortcomings of the material.

She’s laser focused on trying to match the vague and confusing sentiments with an appropriate tone of voice and largely succeeds, in the process turning something unwieldy on paper into something that comes across as almost graceful in its execution.
 


 

Never Never, Ever, Ever
In many respects this actually IS an effective B-side in that it’s not good enough to be a hit on its own, yet is more than listenable and showcases the group’s lead in a good light, at least making you anxious to hear more from them.

Throw in the fact that one of the singers gets himself a writing credit and it looks like a win-win situation considering the circumstances.

But I Can’t Tell You Now still winds up leading to more questions with no answers… everything from what the song is supposed to mean to what Bert Palmer was doing writing a song that didn’t give himself a bigger role in the bargain, or even what he was doing moonlighting with The Falcons to begin with!

So in the end this confounds expectations without exactly failing to live up to them. But the real story here isn’t what’s in the song itself, but rather the skills of the messenger of that song, as Goldie Boots is a revelation, a wonderfully expressive singer who has now given us two performances to admire which is never anything to complain about.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of The Falcons (ft. Goldie Boots) for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)