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These are the moments that make or break a relatively new label…

Rainbow Records had scored a fair sized hit, regional in this case, but impressive nonetheless, with their first release by The Five Crowns from late summer and how they tried to capitalize on that success going forward would give a pretty good indication of the label’s chances for long-term viability in the industry.

But that’s also the point when companies are at the greatest risk for setting themselves back with poor decisions which can erase all of those initial gains and mean that in the blink of an eye they’ll go back to being just one of dozens of obscure companies relying on luck more than talent to get ahead.

No pressure then.


If You See My Darling With Somebody New
Though you may believe that the first thing a record company should have is a basic grasp of the business, we know that’s rarely the case and that the pitfalls that have already tripped up other companies are surely going to be repeated again and again by newcomers.

Here Rainbow Records seems determined to run the gamut on stupidity, trying not to miss a single pothole in the road along the way before crashing the car into a tree and leaving it burning on the side of the road as they hitchhike back to town.

Their first mistake was in not having a more sensible release schedule for The Five Crowns in the aftermath of their successful debut, You’re My Inspiration. It’s really not hard to do you know, just space the releases at least two full months apart, three if it makes some charts, in order to ensure maximum exposure and allow the record to gradually build sales. When it peaks, or conversely once it becomes clear it isn’t going to earn many spins, only then do you turn your attention to the next single in line.

Instead this is already the second single to be issued on The Five Crowns in the last few weeks. As for why they purposefully undercut the follow-up, $19.50 Bus, just a month after it appeared, we turn to the insufferable cover-record fetish that all companies, large and small, still fall prey to.

While you can argue that in the pop universe this method of glomming on to another artist’s rising hit still paid commercial dividends, when it comes rock acts doing it the results are far more desultory.

The reason for this is cultural… young people are far savvier than adults, and that applies to both audiences and executives. Apparently once you lose your baby fat it has to go somewhere and inevitably it seems to wind up between your ears and so Rainbow Records, run by stupid white adults naturally, figures that what their young black audience MUST be craving is a cover of a Jo Stafford pop hit.

Hush now, Keep It A Secret and don’t spread news of this brilliant idea around because you know that as soon as they hear of these plans other rock labels will want to cash in on a song that not a single person in their existing demographic cares about in the least.

Sort of makes you wonder how these idiots managed to tie their shoes and knot their ties before going off to work to destroy the music industry so efficiently day after day, doesn’t it? Who knows, maybe they all wore loafers and clip-on ties.


Some Rendezvous
Surely you’re thinking that the biggest problem facing this record was that its origins were in pop music, but when it’s a pop song written by a black rock songwriter, the estimable Jessie Mae Robinson, at least some of those concerns are mitigated.

Now granted, she could write sappy dreck that pop music specialized in too, but on Keep It A Secret she’s using sentiments that are easily transferable to the teenage experience, as it concerns someone’s heart breaking as they watch the object of their affection go on dates with others.

I’ll go so far as to say that it may actually work better with this younger perspective, as once you lower the age it becomes more likely the character is clearly not with, nor probably was ever with, the girl in question. It’s now an unrequited love… a school crush that the girl probably isn’t even aware of because the boy singing this didn’t have the guts to tell her he liked her or ask her out himself.

By contrast Jo Stafford is an adult (there’s that awful word again), 35 years of age, which naturally changes the context quite a bit. Now it comes across as somebody being cheated on instead and because she’s unwilling to dump his lying ass for sneaking around on her she’s asking others simply not to tell her about it, thinking that by sticking her head in the sand it will allow her to get through it somewhat unscathed.

I don’t have to tell you that she’s a fool, and an unsympathetic one at that, because while she’s an innocent victim here, her decision to purposefully choose ignorance over action is not admirable or appealing in any conceivable way.

But in the teen realm, especially if they’re not dating, this is a situation that’s less morally reprehensible and thus easier to relate to and sympathize with. Kids don’t always have enough experience to feel comfortable approaching someone they feel may be their ideal partner and so they sit back in fear, hoping some miracle will happen that brings them together, all while dreading that they’ll lose their chance when somebody else, who has the confidence they lack, will come along and win her for themselves.

Robinson’s lyrics here are much more suited to that setting, as the naivety of the narrator comes across as endearing rather than annoying. That’s great news for The Five Crowns as it means this actually has a chance to be that rare case of a rock cover of a pop song that improves things.

Heck, I’ll state unequivocally that it DOES improve upon it… but unfortunately the record’s still not great, and not – as you cynics may think – because we’re deducting points for them having the audacity to cover a pop tune in the first place.


Pay No Attention And Just Let It Be
Nope, the reason why it’s not all it could be, and frankly all it should be, is because of the shortcomings of the group itself, mostly lead singer James Clark who was good in the past but can’t seem to get a firm enough grip on the melody here.

This is rather surprising because it’s actually very straightforward as written and while the slight twang in Stafford’s enunciation was something he’d want to steadfastly avoid, Clark goes too far in trying to bring something personal to the table by expressing the confusion, hurt and uncertainty of the story through fluctuating vocal tics. It’s not the show-off type of melisma that people love to criticize, but rather this is more a case of inexperience when it comes to not being aware of what his voice is capable of doing and what it should avoid.

Without getting too far into the technical side of things, the wavering tone only works if he doesn’t stray too far from the root note. Or in layman’s terms he needs to end each line properly because the way it was written is designed to lead directly to the note that goes with the next word we hear. By altering this it causes insurmountable melodic glitches that makes him appear lost.

A few individual passages, condensed and taken in solitude like say the very first line, might sound okay and you can genuinely feel his pain which is what he was aiming for. But when he tries connecting them it all falls apart because he’s let go of the thread tying them together which is the precise melodic flow the song was written with. At least the other Crowns are a little better, adding some nice touches around the edges including some deep bass responses, the floating falsetto that circles above and a few warm harmonies, especially behind the rather tepid sax solo.

But while overall this doesn’t sour you on the group as a whole, it’s disappointing to see that when they needed a record to really set them apart, to make them standard bearers of rock’s vocal group realm rather than role players on the fringes, they couldn’t pull it off.

Of course, it wasn’t entirely their fault. They did an admirable enough job with Keep It A Secret all things considered, but it was a song they never should’ve been tasked with recording in the first place, even if it did turn out to be more suited to them thematically than Jo Stafford.

The sad thing is had Jessie Mae Robinson given them the song initially, rather than to Dinah Shore (Stafford covered her version… see, covering was an epidemic then in pop music), then it’d have been an ideal song for The Five Crowns to cut. You’d still want James Clark to tighten up his delivery, maybe get a saxophonist with a raspier tone, but it’d at least have been a strong play to improve upon their earlier success.

Instead Rainbow Records made one mistake after another, releasing, then ignoring, the intended follow-up to their debut just to hastily issue this cover of a pop tune that couldn’t possibly have the same impact even if done perfectly, simply because the song was already defined BY someone else and FOR someone else, namely the pop audience.

In the end, that’s why Rainbow Records will wind up on the scrap heap of record companies where they belong. Like so many other labels who suffered the same fate they never really trusted their rock acts, or that fan base, to sustain them and instead they cast their eyes elsewhere for a love that was never within reach.


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