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4 STAR 1475; MAY 1950



When it came to superlatives, the only thing about Edward White that indicated he was particularly gifted was his professional name… The Great Gates.

Though he started off his career with a genuine hit, Gates was more serviceable than anything. He knew what he could do – and more importantly what he couldn’t do – and stuck faithfully to his limited arsenal of tricks. He might never really impress you much, but then again he usually was just good enough to not let you down either.

On this however he might be pushing that theory to the limit.


A Ticket Across The World
I suppose it’s best to start off by saying in his defense that far from being expendable in the music kingdom because of his decidedly modest talents, this type of genial artist with some lingering name recognition filled an important role for struggling record companies at the time who needed enough suitable acts to fill out their roster, thereby ensuring that The Great Gates had plenty of potential suitors.

Granted, they weren’t tripping over themselves to sign him, or engaging in some sort of bidding war for his services, but because he was pretty reliable he’d at least always have opportunities to cut a one-off session somewhere and fill gaps in their release schedule.

It’d been only a year since his initial hit, Late After Hours, on Selective, but because that was little more than a fairly creative rock-arrangement of a well-respected standard in Black America he wasn’t viewed as a much more than a competent opportunist. Still, it HAD been a hit and so that would allow the new companies to not have to pour much into promotion and still be reasonably assured they’d be given a chance by enough jukebox ops and record buyers to make their small investment in him pay off.

For Evening Blues he winds up with 4 Star Records, a label that specialized in high crimes and misdemeanors against its artists, and so if ever there was a time for The Great Gates to not quite live up to his consistent mediocrity then this is surely the time, if only to stick it to the label’s disreputable owner, Bill McCall.

While this never reaches the depths of being called truly awful, there’s a frustrating lack of awareness of what else might’ve been done to elevate it to simply being “acceptable”, which more than anything shows the limitations of Gates as an artist.

I Will Have To Put You Down
It’s rare that any song – by any artist – merely trying to come across as “workmanlike” will surpass its aims. With such modest aspirations it’s far more likely that it will fail to meet even that low bar which unfortunately is the case here. It does just enough along the way to get you to think it will pick up as it goes, but each time you get your hopes up it falls short again.

Songs like this don’t have much wiggle room to begin with, as Evening Blues is a somber tune in every way – from the lyrics to vocals and the arrangement – which means there’s just fewer opportunities to hit you with something unexpected. Because of the downcast narrative it needs to maintain a consistent, coherent mood (which this certainly does) in order for it to make sense thematically, but within that framework everything is just a little below par, never rising above the expected trappings to give us anything noteworthy.

The die is cast with Gates’ nasal voice and weary delivery which combined with the moaning saxophones make this difficult to get into as the first third of the record is marred by those off-key horns that play far too big of a supporting role behind the vocals. It might help some if the story was deeper but lyrically this is just a few random generalities about loneliness without any compelling lines to give it some depth or personality.

Though you have no problem believing that Gates is depressed after his girl dumps him, there’s far too much room between his vocal lines for him to build any momentum even if he had given himself an actual plot to delve into. Instead we’re left with just overriding melancholia and an over-matched band to try and breathe a little more life into it.


Won’t Treat Me Right
Supposedly this is NOT the same young crew he worked with on Selective who also recorded independently as The Rhythm Riffers, some of whom went on to greater things after departing The Great Gates company down the line, but we don’t have any definitive information on who it might be in their place.

We do know however they’ve added a guitar to his normal instrumental support which is by far the best component found on Evening Blues, giving the song its one extended respite from the low-key cacophony that consumes the rest of the track where everything is out of kilter.

The opening – with piano and guitar nudging each other along – is the most controlled and well-judged moment on the entire record and gives no hint that things will soon unravel when the horns jump in. Though their role when they arrive is a sound one in theory – trying to cast a pall over the proceedings with a mournful approach – they never find their groove and are left alternately wheezing and huffing, contributing very little melodically and even less when it comes to providing Gates with the kind of atmospheric backing this calls for.

So when that guitar drops in and rights the ship, giving us clean taut lines, none of it sounding rushed or unsure of itself, a sober designated driver taking the keys from the drunken horns, you almost let yourself get carried away, thinking it’s salvaging the record rather than merely preventing it from going off the deep end altogether.

Once that guitar bows out however you’re left with the same problems as before but now the life raft has already been deployed and is floating away out of sight leaving you to tread water until Gates sees fit to wrap this up, giving us his only brief moment of inspiration when he drops his voice down to repeat a line as if he was speaking to us in an off-the-record aside.

It’s a neat trick but doesn’t help much, for the song has nowhere to go and it can’t get there fast enough to suit us.

Have To Leave This Town
Essentially this is nothing more than filler material, which considering there were no full length rock albums being produced for it to appear as Side B, Track 5, then it doesn’t say much for ongoing commercial or artistic prospects of The Great Gates.

But if Gates had more to offer than Evening Blues then it’s doubtful he’d be engaged in an undignified wrestling match for a few crumpled dollars with Bill McCall on a label like 4 Star as a way to keep himself in the public eye.

Despite his unlikely hit from a year ago this was bound to be the way his career played out… a handful of uninspired songs on a succession of second rate labels, each of them hoping that something might click but without any reasonable expectation that it would.

Though he was certainly capable of better than this muddled effort, it probably wasn’t that far off from the best he could do which explains why he went from hitmaker to irrelevancy so quickly. If he just gets back up to average next time out it’ll have to be considered a personal victory.


(Visit the Artist page of The Great Gates for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)