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SAVOY 823; NOVEMBER 1951

 
 

 

Every once in awhile a record comes along by a group we thought we had come to grips with and by making just a few minor changes it throws us for a loop.

That’s a good thing usually, for it means that the artist isn’t sticking too closely to what they’ve already done, which in this case is something to celebrate.

Of course, in the process mabye it can’t quite decide what it wants to be, caught as it is between a ballad and an uptempo cut, a veritable solo performance by Larry Harrison and a group vocal record on a song that has the hallmarks of a mere throwaway yet being performed in a way that makes it seem more important than that.

That indecision surely caused it to be overlooked at the time and not gain too many fans since, but if nothing else this side at least gives us some concept of what they might’ve done had someone just forged ahead with a few of these ideas rather than pull up a little short.
 

 

Don’t Notice The Tear In My Eye
No matter how many times we try and help out with unsolicted advice regarding their output, none of these artists, producers and record companies (from seven decades ago) seem to listen when we say that variety is not only the spice of life but also of music.

In other words don’t repeat yourself stylistically on both sides of a single. If a group like The Four Buddies excel at ballads then by all means take your time to make those songs stand out, but then issue them one per single, reserving the B-side from something distinctly different.

A faster song, maybe give a different singer a chance to take a lead, or if you DO stick with a more typical ballad then at least give it more instrumental bite to provide a different feel.

But forgive us if we remain skeptical, for we’ve seen how so many acts stick to one approach even as it starts bringing diminishing returns.

The Four Buddies are the latest to fall prey to this, each record since their hit debut has covered similar ground and become less vital because of that… but not ONLY because of that let it be said, as the quality of the compositions have slipped as well.

With Simply Say Goodbye you could argue they don’t quite reverse that trend – it’s not badly written, just not anything special – but at least they finally take steps to change their musical image in small ways even though they don’t go nearly far enough to leave a totally new impression.

All things considered though, I suppose we have to be grateful they tried at all.
 

Now It’s So Plain, You Don’t Have To Explain
The way this starts out you don’t expect anything different. It’s basically just taking page one of their playbook… err… play-phamplet maybe… and regurgitating it.

A florid piano, a delicate lead by Larry Harrison in the upper part of his range with a lone interjection by Tommy Carter’s bass before the others “ooh” and “ahh” behind him, all while we get sparse instrumentation as the backdrop to a song without a real indentifiable melody to latch onto.

As for the contents of the song itself… well, as if you couldn’t tell by the title alone, it’s another tale of heartbreak and by this stage of the game we tend to know these things will be lyrically sappy and emotionally weak. In fact we fully expect it and for the most part have come to accept it.

But what happens next in Simply Say Goodbye indicates that someone here realized they were close to becoming formulaic and knew that if they didn’t shake things up soon they might not get many more chances and so suddenly without warning Harrison becomes more emphatic, the pace quickens just a little and the entire feel of the record changes in small but significant ways.

The middle eight adopts a prancing bolero tempo that seems far more radical than it really is simply because of whose record it is. Aside from just projecting a different type of emotion – distressed and anxious rather passively yearning – the altered delivery allows the music to push him rather than laying low so it doesn’t intrude.

Of course there’s still far too little for the other members to do, save for a few Carter appearances which sound nice but are too brief and inconsequential, while the guitar is contributing some interesting runs without any extended riffs, two more cases of missed opportunities.

Even the lyrics contain few surprises as he’s upset over her deparature but determined to appear somewhat indifferent over it – at least that was his thinking until he gets increasingly worked up while explaining how broken up he was before attempting to put a lid on that by trying to present a more blasé attitude as he reaches the title line again.

But while it’s slightly unfocused because of this, it IS a fairly accurate display of the conflicting intentions a lot of people have in these circumstances, wanting to appear unaffected and above it all in case this really is the end, yet also wanting to avert that possibility by making one last plea in attempt to win her back.

What can’t be questioned though is Harrison’s investment in the story which never wavers and though we know that his wringing his heart out this way isn’t going to change anything, we’re willing to let him try all the same, especially since by doing so he’s finally providing us with something new to consider when it comes to their work.
 


 
 

I’ll Hold Out My Hand
Good intentions only go so far of course, but while the building blocks of the song are a little shaky, the end result is still a positive one.

Of course by only going halfway when it comes to reinvention – on a B-side no less, which won’t affect the commercial prospects much unless this were to jump out as the unexpected hit (it didn’t) – the cold hard truth of the matter is this side was still more likely to be an anomoly than a new direction for the group.

Still, any sign of creative restlessness is a good one and if pursued further would only make their more typical sides stand out more by comparison. So in the end you hope they don’t Simply Say Goodbye to this sort experiment and instead realize that the more you try and branch out, the more opportunities you have to impress which in turn can lead to a more profitable career and a greater lasting legacy.

But then again, we’ve told others this same thing before and do they listen? Of course not… and the fact they’re all dead and gone by now is hardly a good enough excuse because truthfully it shouldn’t fall to us to point out the obvious to anyone.

We’re glad they did this much though and hope that around the bend they’ll do even more or else we’ll be forced to make another plea that will fall on deaf ears.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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