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ALADDIN 3136; JULY 1952



Sometimes in life attempts at sarcasm can be too vague and ambiguous to really make an impression on those being mocked by it.

Around here we tend to eliminate that possibilty by making sure our sarcastic cracks at the expense of record companies connect like an anvil on the head of Wile E. Coyote.

To that end you know that a rock group is aiming right for the hearts of their fans when the writing credits for their latest release reads “Little, Oppenheim and Schuester”, for who else is better equipped to delve into the inner thoughts of young Black America than three guys like that?


Never Let Me Go
Yeah, we have another song from the Nineteen Thirties foisted upon The Five Keys by their record company… unless you’re one of the dolts who think that the group themselves were busily combing through the brittle 78’s in somebody’s attic to find tunes by The Hotel Commodore Dance Orchestra!

Considering the songs they themselves wrote sounded NOTHING like these pop standards, it shows once again that record labels were evil incarnate.

What else would you call a business where they signed artists to contracts but didn’t pay them what was owed yet prevented them from leaving if they wanted to go elsewhere? Who charged them for using their studios and engineers and then took the fruits of those labors and profited off them, all while leaving the artists to try to earn a living on the road based on the popularity of those records which featured songs they didn’t even get to choose aimed at audiences who weren’t going to be clamoring for them to begin with!

THIS is what all of you 50’s rock fans slobber over?

To show just how out of touch they were, the song Aladdin Records gave their top rock vocal group to record, Hold Me, was first performed on March 4th 1933, the same day that Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated for the first time… that’s first of FOUR four year terms he served as President in case you forgot!

Harry Truman, his successor, was now wrapping up his own second term in office as this record came out!

Wow, talk about cutting edge material.

Let Your Kisses Thrill Me
Okay, before we get to the record in question, let’s double back on the song itself in case there’s a wise guy in the audience who wants to dispute the idea that those involved with cutting this in 1952 were necessarily thinking of the Eddy Duchin or Ruth Etting or… dare we dream… the Muzzy Marcellino renditions from 1933, but rather were looking behind them a little closer in the rear view mirror than that.

While it is true enough that both Dean Martin and Peggy Lee released versions of this in 1948, neither was a hit, nor particularly suited to The Five Keys in a way that somebody would make an obvious connection when searching for material. Martin sounds utterly lost and Lee sounds a lot dreamier than the uptempo energetic delivery we get out of these guys a few years later.

Ahh, dammit! Alright, you caught us.

We tried throwing you off with the discreet thinly veiled criticism of the decision to record such a decrepit old tune because we were dreading having to admit that The Five Keys manage to transform Hold Me into something vaguely approximating “rocking”.

But that doesn’t mean this is exactly a scintillating powerhouse performance either. Yes, it’s a whole lot better than what we anticipated, and it’s definitely good to hear Dickie Smith get his first standalone lead (rather than just the bridge) since their very first released side, With A Broken Heart, more than a year ago, but let’s not get carried away or anything.

Okay, okay, Smith DOES sing this with some genuine flair at times, particularly the ”love-ah, love-ah, love-ah you so” line where he sounds almost as if he’s racing to unzip his fly for some quick action with a groupie, and we can admit the sax solo adds a few fleeting moments of lust to the instrumental break, but it’s still a compromised track all things considered.

If you want to dispute that assessment then it’s obvious you’re overlooking the cheesy “Doo-wahs” the others contribute to the proceedings… and the drummer’s ticky-tack time-keeping on the cymbals… or the way the sax segues into a much less offensive tone after startling you with the gritty blasts from the horn’s nether regions… or the light supper club piano transition as Smith stretches out going into the final refrain.

None of that is exactly breaking down barriers in the way the top rock vocal groups of the day would try. Instead this is a late 1940’s rock vocal group delivery that, because it’s taken at a brisk pace that we’ve practically given up on ever hearing out of The Five Keys, we’re prone to overreact to if we’re not careful.


Never Try To Hold Me Away From You
Luckily by now we’ve learned not to let ourselves be duped by some slight of hand tricks designed to get us off their cases for bad decisions to record songs like this in the first place.

We might be happy that The Five Keys are singing something at more than a glacial pace for once… and since they all had great voices we may rejoice over hearing one of the other guys get a chance to step out front. It’s even possible our instinctual reaction to hearing a sax solo that starts off crudely could override our senses, but that’s exactly when we need to step back and regain our equilibrium.

If we simply compare this to other records of The Five Keys this definitely stands out simply because of its different attributes to most of their recent material. But if we expand our vision and compare Hold Me to the other uptempo rock vocal group records of 1952 – a list that includes some absolutely killer cuts – it falls way short.

Even if we put aside the source material for the time being and look simply at the performances themselves we can see that this was a delivery that would’ve seemed much more impressive three years ago when the competition was thinner and the advances we’ve gotten since then were not even a fever dream yet.

It’s still got enough going for it to be glad they took the song in this direction… it’s still a welcome respite from one Rudy West ballad after another… and it still gives you a bit of a kick to hear that sax come in for a few raunchy notes before pulling its pants back up… but then you realize it’s still Aladdin Records trying to convince you the last two decades were a bad dream musically and that they feel taking a chance on new, innovative and fresh songs the group themselves might contribute is hardly worth the trouble.

Until they’re allowed to come back to 1952 in spirit as well as body, The Five Keys are never going to live up to their potential as a group, their fans aren’t going to get records that will speak to their sensibilities and Aladdin is never going to get the consistent hits they crave.

Everybody loses… even if at times like this you’re apt to look at this as a minor victory.


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

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
The Larks (July, 1952)