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RCA 20-4849; JULY 1952




One word that means so much in relationships of all kinds.

If you can’t fully trust the one you’ve chosen to be with, the partnership is doomed, whether in romance or – in this case – music.

Usually the trust issue in the latter is most prevelent between artists and audiences, for when listeners no longer believe the artist is going to deliver what they need, the fans feel betrayed and begin to look elsewhere.

But The Heartbreakers had no fan base to speak of, so this issue of trust is actually between artist and their record company, RCA, who clearly don’t believe that rock ‘n’ roll is worth pursuing for its own merits and thus, having broken that trust, leave The Heartbreakers to take the fall for the company’s lack of faith.


The Moon Is Out Tonight
So much of an artist’s authenticity comes down to presentation.

When The Heartbreakers were given the appropriate backing on Rockin’ Daddy-O there was no denying their right to sit at the table.

But you can undermine the same group who’d shown they were perfectly suited for rock ‘n’ roll by saddling them with an arrangement designed to present them as if they were performing for an entirely different audience.

The group can resist, leading to a clash between the vocals and the musicians, and probably a reprimand from the higher-ups… or they can kowtow to the imperious demands of the label and curtail their own instincts to satisfy those of the company.

But on There Is Time they seem to want to split the difference, whether their own choice or that of the producer who perhaps figures that he can appease RCA with a more florid arrangement that will not push away the label’s usual audience, while at the same time allowing The Heartbreakers to at least sound comfortable in their attempts at conveying some genuine emotion in their reading of the song.

That’s not going to work of course, any rock fan can tell them that – as can any pop fan for that matter – because the two goals are diametrically opposed, so the question becomes which of these attributes is going to win the struggle over the song’s identity.

The Warmth Of Your Embrace
The piano is a pretty stagnant instrument. Unlike various saxophones, guitars, even bass or drums, there’s no variation in the actual instrument itself… only in the way in which it is played.

If you had put Harry Van Walls on this track and let him contribute something appropriate, it’d be a much better record. Or Fats Domino or Amos Milburn, Little Willie Littlefield, Devonia Williams… the list goes on.

If Professor Longhair was playing it’d be entirely different song that surely would’ve sounded to the executives at RCA that it was coming from another universe.

Obviously they weren’t going to abide anything so radical and so their usual orchestra was defrosted from the deep freeze they were placed in back in 1933 and told to accompany The Heartbreakers on There Is Time and that’s where the trouble begins… the piano.

It is played “proper”. As in day one of your piano lessons where you’re invariably taught how to curl your fingers “just so” and keep them poised above the keys they’ll soon be lightly touching, as if afraid to bruise either the fingertips or the ivories themselves by playing too hard.

Any piano student who follows such instructions deserves all of the mocking ridicule they’ll be subjected to by their friends as they grow up. Even those who managed to withstand the derision over the years, who’ve put that proper technique to work as a session musician for RCA Records, presumably being paid for this display of daintiness, is going to hear it from us seven decades later.


Instead they tickle them and with that the record swirls down the toilet regardless of how The Heartbreakers try and swim against the flushing tide pulling them down.

The vocals are… well, they’re better than the musical accompaniment, but then again so is a root canal performed with a jackhammer. There are times when Bobby Evans shows some actual emotion – a sob here, a moan there, a held note every now and then – but there’s also signs that he’s caving to the pop aesthetic in how he meekly drops down at the end of the lines in a way that negates the brief glimmers of urgency that preceded it. There are ways to satisfy the melodic needs of the song as written without using the passive method that pop music of the time always pushed but for the most part he eschews them in favor of something more sedate.

The other Heartbreakers are fairly muted behind Evans, poking their heads out before quickly drawing them back, but when one of the others steps out for the bridge with a guitar and more prominent harmony vocals behind him, the intensity starts to rise. Not a whole lot, but enough to be noticed and it seems to give Evans some courage to lift his game as well when he returns, meaning There Is Time ends better than it began.

But since it began with a flowery piano reminding you “this is RCA Records, dammit, and we’ll have none of that rowdy rock ‘n’ roll destroying our reputation!”, the gains made over the course of the song are not nearly enough to redeem it.

Prove To Me
If your goal in Nineteen Fifty-Two was to be a viable rock vocal group and you were offered a recording contract with RCA-Victor, a thriving major label who didn’t skimp on production or distribution costs and who might actually pay you what they promised and give you an honest accounting of the total records sold so you’ll get your royalties… you’d have been smart to turn them down flat.

While the independent labels were run by men and women who were no better than swarthy criminals in many regards, the one thing most of them – or at least some of them had – was an awareness of the musical requirements to succeed as a rock act.

They’d hire producers and arrangers who knew how to build a track that would compliment the vocalists, they’d hire musicians who knew how to play this stuff properly, and they’d be shipping the records to locations that might actually be receptive to what you were putting out.

Of course they wouldn’t pay you a dime for it, they’d charge you for the studio – probably even find a way to charge you to use the toilet – but at least the records would sound more authentic than There Is Time.

Maybe the title is the giveaway here… RCA figured there WAS still time… either to water down rock ‘n’ roll to the point where they might find it acceptable… or there was time to convince the up and coming generation that they’d be far more satisfied listening to Hugo Winterhalter than any of these rock ‘n’ rollers, who even when forcibly neutered were still a bit too uncouth to be trusted.


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