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The consistently exemplary work of The Four Buddies took a foreboding downturn when they inexplicably shifted from embodying the rock ballad style they excelled at (heartfelt lead, tight angelic harmonies and discreetly appropriate musical arrangements) and adopted more of a pop mindset on the top half of this single, with airy lightweight harmonies and inoffensive instrumental backing behind a lead which expressed a decidedly subservient attitude in both the lead vocal and story itself.

That’s hardly a good sign for their future prospects, but here on the flip side, while they have a better song and no overt pop influences creeping in, they still wind up setting themselves back by tackling decidedly different material in what is already an outdated approach for rock.

Somehow I don’t think that this was a calculated gamble which suggested they felt rock audiences were becoming sentimental over the increasingly ancient history of the genre.


Stand Around For Hours
In an industry where often nothing makes sense, this release takes that nonsensical approach to the limit.

The Four Buddies represented one of the few contenders Savoy records had left to compete in the rock market. Though they peaked early – their first release cracking the Top Five and their follow-up being a regional hit – and that was now almost two years ago, it’s not like the label has replenished their cupboard with new acts that could usurp them.

Furthermore the group themselves were still young, fully versed in rock ‘n’ roll and while their commercial returns lately hadn’t reflected this, their output was still of a remarkably high quality for the most part. We’ve handed out three perfect scores for their singles plus another few that were nearly as good and we’re notoriously tough graders around here.

It’s unfortunate they weren’t always rewarded for these first-rate efforts, but since the audience’s response can never be accurately predicted in advance, all you can do is release the best material you have, promote it well and hope for the best.

Which is why in many ways Sweet Tooth For My Baby is such a peculiar choice for a single, even a B-side.

While it does have the distinction of being a rare uptempo number for the group and one which features a different lead singer than usual, things we highly recommend for vocal groups just to give listeners more stylistic variety in their releases and keep from growing stale, it’s also one that doesn’t present them in a way that shows they’re keeping up with their competitors in any way.

For one thing bass lead Tommy Carter left the group in April, meaning if this were to catch on, even just a little bit, he wouldn’t be around to sing it in their live gigs.

More concerning though is the fact that a song which sounds as if it were leftover from 1949 has little chance to connect in the closing months of 1952. If any fans were still clinging to hope that The Four Buddies might turn things around commercially, they would surely be inclined to give up on them after hearing both sides of this single as they combine to give the impression that The Four Buddies and Savoy Records were throwing in the proverbial towel themselves.

Just Came And Told Me
Unlike the pop-aspiring waste of time and talent on the top half, this side at least has more of a rock feel to it, even if it feels a little past its prime in how they deliver it.

If you were to describe the instrumental opening to this… guitar twanging over piano, bass and drums setting the rhythm… you might think it was very promising. But when you heard it that impression would likely change.

Not that it’s awful, but the guitar tone is hardly screaming modernity for late 1952… or even summer 1951 when Sweet Tooth For My Baby was actually recorded.

In other words, it’s outdated by design (though the later solo improves considerably), simply because someone there couldn’t articulate what the musicians needed to do to bring it into the present. Given that The Four Buddies are also seemingly unaware of how to pull that off vocally, you might say they deserve each other.

At least Tommy Carter’s bass voice stands out when compared to the tenor leads of Larry Harrison that we usually admire so much, giving this a distinctly different feel than most records by The Four Buddies. But even though there’s nothing wrong with his voice per say, how he’s using it is another manner, as Carter is trying – and failing – to employ an exaggerated phonetic delivery, elongating words unnecessarily, adding what he seems to think are comical variations on vowels and otherwise turning this into something of a lighthearted send-up of racier songs that groups like The Ravens would do.

That’s hardly the best idea to start with but the content manages to undercut that goal even further because there’s nothing humorous – or racy – about the song as written. He’s crazy about this girl for what might be legitimate reasons, but at his worst he sounds like a buffoon who will send her running out of the room screaming for help. Though he later “claims” that she has agreed to date him, I’d personally like to see verified proof of that commitment before I buy a wedding gift for this unlikely pair.

Yet in spite of these obvious flaws there’s still a good-natured sense of enjoyment about this track. The group is having fun re-working their established image, Carter is definitely enjoying his chance to take a lead and while the backing vocals are hit and miss in terms of their structure, they are good enough singers where they can even make you overlook at least some of the badly chosen melodic touches they’re saddled with.

It may not be a road back to the charts, nor even a way to remain modestly relevant at this stage, but I suppose you can’t be too critical of at least getting a chance to see the original itineration of The Four Buddies shake things up just a little before they go their separate ways.


Can’t Do Anything
Now after that ever so fleeting compliment, let’s get critical again because we’re not out to smooth any ruffled feathers but rather we’re trying to remain firmly rooted in the harsh landscape of rock ‘n’ roll reality here when judging how these songs will help or hurt an artist’s career.

Maybe if this were a B-side to one of their more recent top of the line releases where it wouldn’t be forced to be the drawing card of the single as it is here, we’d be more accommodating for this sort of thing.

Then we could reasonably defend the idea of getting a Tommy Carter-led stylistic curveball off the shelf now that he was gone, in the process clearing the deck of those older sides which were still in the can before turning their attention to newer material, hopefully not just in terms of date of recording but also in how up to date they sound.

But instead Sweet Tooth For My Baby is clearly a stop-gap release, suggesting they were either caught of guard by the change in personnel and thus not ready to cut new material suitable for their next single, or that Savoy was growing impatient with their lack of sustained commercial success and now looking to just try and get some pennies on the dollar back from the sides they’d already cut on them, unconcerned with how it was going to impact the market’s interest in their future releases.

When looked at that way, it becomes obvious this record isn’t going to fill your stomach though it might just give you some cavities.


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