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RCA 20-4305; SEPTEMBER 1951



You had to know something like this was coming today, didn’t you?

After raking the poor Blenders over the coals for voluntarily handing over their rock membership cards by passively submitting to pop aesthetics for major label Decca, who systematically removed virtually every shred of genuine emotion from their deliveries over the past two years, we now reveal the reason why we subjected you to a record that barely qualified under the rock banner…

Namely to show how another group, one with even deeper pop music roots who also recorded for a major label, were able to shed their pop attributes whenever they chose, not only singing in a manner befitting a rock act, but just as crucially having the studio musicians fully on board with their efforts.

In other words, in rock ‘n’ roll you only go down without a fight and while The Blenders didn’t put up so much as a struggle, The Four Tunes came out swinging.


My Baby Is Coming Home
It’s interesting to ponder what may have happened with The Four Tunes career had they come along just three or four years later.

Of course that would change all sorts of other things, such as their founder Deek Watson being with The Ink Spots during their glory days and then starting The Four Tunes as a carbon copy when he left, but considering they quickly evolved into something a little different – and then adapted even more to the current trends of the late 1940’s when Watson left – you wonder how much more gung-ho they’d have been about diving headfirst into rock without being entangled in that history.

When they DID make the effort to join in the fun they generally were pretty good. Yeah, there would be a few too many pop touches at times, but they thought nothing of ditching their prim and proper material to get down and dirty every now and then and even when they tackled a standard in a rock style they were able to emphasize the emotional context of the songs far more than any pop act had done and consquently the results were often startlingly good.

But that background was never far away and they’d built their reputation as a pop act, had hits in that style and clearly owed their long-term contract with RCA to those pop credentials and so as good as they might’ve been as a full-fledged rockers if they gave themselves a full year to explore it exclusively, they remained only sporadic visitors to these shores.

In fact it’s been quite awhile since we saw them around here, just shy of a year, but they clearly haven’t lost a step being away from these types of songs for so long, as Early In The Morning may in fact be their most authentic rocker front to back that they’ve attempted so far.

Maybe it’s not quite on par with The Dominoes raunchiest sides, or The Clovers slinking around the alley, but for guys that began way back in 1944, this shows it’s not nearly as hard to keep up with the times provided you have the right attitude… and the right saxophonist.

The Lovin’ That Appeals To Me
It’s not to hard to picture this same song being done in a more refined manner, one accentuating a smooth vocal delivery and a low-key arrangement, maybe haunting trumpet rather than rowdy tenor sax.

In that realm I’m sure The Four Tunes would’ve handled it well, their singing abilities weren’t confined to only one style after all and they’d shown they could croon in harmony with the best of them.

But somebody – be it the producer or the group themselves – actively chose against that approach here by creating an arrangement designed to emphasize the things that pop music despised… raunchy musical attributes and boisterous vocals replete with a unhinged shouts during the break just in case they hadn’t sufficiently made their point by then.

Early In The Morning doesn’t actually go all out in its attempts to get you to dance naked and howl at the moon as it plays however. The vocals start with a mesmerizing harmony part in the intro which is also what passes for the choruses later on and while it certainly sounds good, it’s not quite bordering on indecency or anything.

The verses are even more tightly structured and rank as the weakest component of the record, though that’s mostly by comparison to far better parts, but you can see they weren’t quite sure of how to best convey the kind of modestly horny enthusiasm they have for the return of their sweetie that forms the basis of the song’s story.

They take it in unison, which makes sense in one way, as multiple voices singing the same lines have a tendency to seem more enthusiastic simply due to the vocal camaraderie, but its drawback is that it forces you to stick to a firm melodic outline. One singer would’ve been much more free to improvise while you let the others keep that all-for-one spirit alive with their backing vocals.

It still works okay, but it means that instead of being the most exciting thing on their own record – especially since they only hint at the anticipated reunion between them and their partners rather than express their true feelings about her return – the guys are going to have to take a back seat to the band who features one guy who’s very familiar to us and he shows that while his own work sometimes might be compromised, it wasn’t because he couldn’t bring the heat when asked.


Gone, Gone, Gone
Considering how few vocal group records used saxophones so far – The Clovers’ Don’t You Know I Love You from just last winter is widely credited as the first of any significance – the fact that The Four Tunes not only include one, but have the entire musical arrangement centered around its gritty lines is remarkable.

The first thing you ask yourself incredulously is…THIS took place in RCA’s studio?

If you told me the executives of the company all smoked weed, passed a bottle around and had an orgy before, during or after the session I honestly wouldn’t be that much more stunned than I am from the sheer fact a saxophonist was invited to partake in the debauchery in the first place, let alone contribute such dirty sounding lines.

Not just any saxophonist mind you, but Big John Greer who just delivered his own best performance as a singer on Have Another Drink And Talk To Me a few records back on which the sax lines were taken by someone else. But here he’s manning the tenor and gets called out by name during the rousing solo as The Four Tunes are clapping along and whooping it up behind him, all while the piano, bass and drums add even more emphasis on the rhythm.

It’s downright shocking, really. This isn’t coming out on Aladdin or Imperial Records remember… it wasn’t being cut for King or Atlantic where such things were known to be encouraged… and it didn’t take place in the studio for Savoy or Modern who’ve featured plenty of these displays in the past… but rather it was done for R C fuckin’ A.

Who knows, maybe Greer was told to tone things down as usual and he finally rebelled, taking out his frustrations on somebody else’s record, but it’s among the best sax work we’ve heard all year and if The Four Tunes are going to benefit from the response in the rock community for their showing on Early In The Morning, then they sure as hell better be taking Greer out to dinner because he’s more responsible for its success than anyone.

But there’s enough credit to go around and for a group who’ve only vacationed here over the years, it’s nice to see The Four Tunes are so at home when they show up on our doorsteps again.


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