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How quickly things can change.

A year ago The Four Buddies ushered in a new sound when it came to vocal group ballads in rock that would go on to have a fairly sizable impact over the next few years. They scored a massive hit in the process and while their follow-ups weren’t met with the same level of national interest they were regionally popular and almost equally good aesthetically.

But now they were not just failing to click commercially, but they were slipping a bit artistically as well, which drew the ire of Herman Lubinsky, the cantankerous musically ignorant owner of their label who berated them in a letter for their recent failures.

The problem however wasn’t with the group per say, but rather a decline in great material and – if we want to point fingers – the surprising lack of promotion by Savoy for an act that had done so well for them.


Love Only Me
Any time there is a dispute between a rock act and their label we are almost certainly going to take the side of the ones with actual musical talent.

When the record label owner in question is Herman Lubinsky we’d take the side of everybody up to and including whatever wedding singer, teenage garage band or the drunken off-key yahoo at a karaoke bar that you could find.

The Four Buddies were far better than any of those examples of course but they did have one drawback that was starting to become evident the more singles they released. Like The Orioles before them, they were predominantly ballad oriented – thus far it was ALL they released – and therein lay the problem.

Ballads sung by the same voices with the same minimalist backing and employing similar vocal arrangements behind the lead have a tendency to become repetitive. What startled you the first time with its intimacy, impressed you the second time with their polish, begins to bore you the third and fourth and fifth time with their redundency.

Now this can be alleviated if you have better material featuring memorable melodies, something which Window Eyes comes up short on. Failing that you can hope that a really good story with inventive wordplay will capture your attention, but this song starts with an interesting title and largely lets it go to waste.

Lastly you can attempt to shake up the instrumental side of the equation by adding something not heard before behind the group, be it a moaning saxophone solo, a slithering guitar lick, or a glockenspeil and oboe duet if you want.

This record does none of that, which means its appeal hangs almost solely on four really good voices and nothing more.

The Way I Want You Has Never Yet Been Told
The opening is virtually acapella… there’s just a few guitar accent notes tossed in to let them get their bearings. As always their vocal blend is quite nice but right away you are left a little confused by what they’re saying.

The phrase Window Eyes is definitely intriguing, but it’s hardly common and so instead of letting you passively enter into the tale they’re spinning, where a few more familiar words would help to set the scene better, here you’re left wondering what the hell they’re referring to.

There are a few possibilities that seem obvious however. The first that comes to mind is a person who looks longingly out their own window at someone passing by each day and because they can’t muster up the courage to go out and approach them, they’re left to dream about the one they love from a distance, which certainly is a sad predicament to find yourself in.

If it was The Four Buddies singing about someone else doing that, whether looking at an anonymous third party, or at one of them, it’d be a way of spurring the girl on so that they might get together. If it was about their own actions as the lonely figure in the window and therefore an admission of lacking the nerve to approach someone themselves, that’d be promising too.

Instead it means something else entirely, namely the fact that a window is transparent and so they’re claiming they can see into this girl’s soul by looking at her eyes.

Okay, I GUESS that is a decent premise but it’s kind of clunky because it’s not usually phrased that way. The eyes are the window to the soul is how it’s usually put, but that doesn’t sing as well, nor would it fit easily as the title on the label or a typed strip in a jukebox.

Beyond that however the rest of the song doesn’t explore this idea well enough, explaining it in a way that is more technical than emotional – though the singing itself is selling the emotion hard.

I suppose if you don’t care about lyrics at all this works better because they do sing it very well. Larry Harrison’s lead is tender and evocative while the harmonies behind him, with some really nice bass interjections by Tommy Carter, are also effective. It sounds good enough, if slightly draggy, but most human ears need something tangible to latch on to which means a stronger melody with a catchy hook or memorable lyrics which roll off the tongue.

This has neither.

What’s here still works well enough to admire, but not to love. The more we try and peer into that window the more we realize that we can’t see very far beyond the glass and without a clearer look at what they’re trying to convey the more frustrated we become.

I Can’t Tell You No Lies
As much as we hate writing more about Herman Lubinsky than is absolutely necessary, he wasn’t so myopic that he couldn’t get one thing right in his screed to the group when he said that he saw other rock vocal acts like the Dominoes and Clovers “all over the charts” while not seeing The Four Buddies there anymore.

But had he cleaned his own glasses he’d have seen the reason was that their work was much more diverse, distinctive and dynamic than The Four Buddies which meant each of their singles lept off the turntables whereas with these guys you had to constantly lure the listener in with something more fragile and elusive.

When it worked, it was captivating, but when it was just a little bit off, such as with Window Eyes there wasn’t any amount of effort or attitude adjustment that could change the outcome…. only better material and more compelling arrangements.

This was a pleasant record to hear and even a good lesson for aspiring vocal groups wanting to learn how to fit their voices together and compliment one another, but it was ultimately a song that didn’t leave a lasting impression.

You wouldn’t complain about hearing it, but neither would you keep seeking it out to hear again and again.

The ones that do that are called hits and here it’s not the fault of the group that was in their company’s crosshairs who sang it well, but rather the fault of whoever picked this particular song for them to sing when it was clear that it didn’t have enough components of a hit to matter.


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