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SAVOY 779; FEBRUARY 1951

 
 

 

After praising The Four Buddies for their innovations in bringing together multiple sources and finding a way to combine them in a fresh vibrant style that would have tremendous influence on the future construction of doo-wop ballads, here we see just how things would’ve remained in that field had they never dreamed of shaking things up.

This is like the Before picture in those Before and After transformations.

In this case it still may sound okay, but compared to the flip side it comes across as almost prehistoric.
 

 

I Have Something To Tell You
About the only truly current sound found on this is the guitar figure which opens the record, note for note the same exact phrase and tone heard on The Dominoes’ Do Something For Me (albeit with a slightly quicker tempo than that).

Of course because that record came out first even this doesn’t sound fresh so even though this cut by The Four Buddies was actually recorded two months before that its most striking attribute comes across as a rip-off despite it being anything but that. This seems to be their fate though, often usurped by someone else when it comes to receiving credit.

From there however everything on Don’t Leave Me Now has its feet in the past… not the ancient past, but a good year or so in the rear view mirror which in rock ‘n’ roll usually qualifies as “old sounding”.

The reasons for this is obvious. They cut this at their very first session and while they also recorded the forward looking I Will Wait that same day which would soon become their hit debut, the rest of that session was more rooted in what already existed rather than peeking ahead.

By the time this side got released just a few months down the road, the difference in how it sounded compared to the more recently cut Sweet Slumber was pretty striking. This was yesterday, that was tomorrow.

As with a lot of yesterdays when you’re looking back things seem a lot more basic and uneventful than what’s happening in the present, as their best sides had showcased so well. Written by lead singer Larry Harrison the content here is pretty simplistic as he’s apologizing for some offense with his girlfriend, probably cheating on her even though he never admits to that directly.

The lyrics are about what you’d expect from a teenager offering a mea culpa… awkward but sincere, heartfelt but a little uncertain when it comes to just how much of his feelings he should express to her to get her to reconsider breaking up with him.

Truthfully as long as his transgression wasn’t too egregious then saying I’m sorry is probably enough, if she still likes him she’ll stick around. Then again two words generally don’t make for a very deep song so he’s got to come up with a little more to keep our attention, even if most of it is putting himself through the ringer to show his sorrow is genuine.
 

I Broke Your Heart
What hurts the record, at least in comparison to their best songs, is that aside from Harrison’s lead there’s not much else here to focus on. The music is only faintly audible and mostly non-essential, there’s no instrumental break and though the guitar is a constant presence it doesn’t add anything more notable to the arrangement than what came from those first six notes.

Unlike their two A-sides where the vocal arrangements were so innovative, here the other three Buddies are left to do nothing more than ”ooh” and “ahh” in the distance, making this a record that doesn’t sound as if it’s welcoming you in as much as keeping you at a distance.

It’s funny how quickly perceptions change in this regard. Here they adopt an old school method of presentation where the lead voice carries almost the entire weight and you can’t help noticing how stark it comes across. That Harrison isn’t exactly on the top of his game here only heightens that perception and shows why their more adventurous work was so vital in spreading the responsibilities around.

There’s also the matter of it being a bit of a sloppy recording… you hear Harrison clear his throat on mic during a pause in the vocals and he’s straining for some notes early on that should’ve necessitated a re-take or a key change to make his job easier. On one hand these things may create an historical intimacy that’s nice, but as a current release for 1951 it’s not nearly as endearing.

To its credit the vocal melody on Don’t Leave Me Now is fairly nice at times, particularly the chorus, but Harrison’s also struggling to find the right pace in his delivery throughout the song and as a result it doesn’t flow as naturally as you’d like.

Had they cut this a little faster it would’ve accentuated the melodic rise and fall better but my guess is with the contrite sentiments they thought singing it at a medium tempo would undercut the message, almost as if he were not serious about what he was saying.

Only the final refrain where they all join in for a more robust conclusion does the record seem as though it were made with the era we’re now entering firmly in mind. As a result this is a typical B-side, not quite a throwaway but rather a learning experience.
 

Loved You From The Start But I Just Didn’t Know
Considering they’re just two releases into their career and already have one big hit and another that should’ve been a big hit to their name it seems natural that The Four Buddies prospects for a long run of greatness is hardly in danger simply because of one subpar effort.

But while it’s patently unfair to give undue weight to a mere B-side that was taken from their first session, there’s a nagging feeling you get listening Don’t Leave Me Now that dampens your enthusiasm for what is to come just enough to be wary.

Maybe it’s just the competition they’re up against, where even the non-hits by The Dominoes that we’ve heard since their own concurrent debut in December 1950 are sparkling performances, whereas this is a tentative attempt that would never let on that they were particularly special.

This is no reason to panic necessarily, but if you bought a lot of stock in The Four Buddies based on their early returns maybe you’ll think of unloading some of that now and diversifying your investments a little more. I hear the Clovers are selling really low right now and they could be due for a market surge around the corner.

Hot tips from the future, one of our specialties around here.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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