Tags

No tags :(

Share it

RECORDED IN HOLLYWOOD 165; AUGUST 1951

 
 

 

After all that… all those twists and turns and rampant speculation concerning the release dates of two simultaneous singles by The Hollywood Four Flames on the Recorded In Hollywood label, whether late summer 1951 or a full year from now in ’52… we’re right back where we started from with them.

No, not the point where we were re-introduced to them a couple of reviews ago with the first of those sides, but rather when we were FIRST introduced to them… as in way back in January 1950 on Selective Records when they cut this same exact song for their debut.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge in the last two years… for that matter the last two days with them… so let’s see how they’ve progressed, regressed or transgressed in the meantime.
 

 

We Wanna Know Where Are You Goin’
When you hear vocal groups of the past talk about their repertoire in their heyday, they all seemed to have a song they used as “their hammer”.

The song they had the most confidence in and would use to impress admirers and squash rivals in impromptu street corner battles and on stage in multi-act shows.

In their first few years – no matter what they called themselves at the time – The Hollywood Four Flames’s clearly viewed this song as their go-to number… it was forceful, vibrant and provided all of the members with a chance to trade vocals throughout the song, making it a true group experience.

So when they hooked up with John Dolphin to cut some sides in the summer of 1951 it was only natural that both parties would want another chance with the only song that had done well for them, as the original version they cut for Selective had cracked the Los Angeles regional charts for a week back then. Amazingly they hadn’t gotten another record deal out of that minor hit until now – in fact, they didn’t even have another session on Selective, unless you count backing Peppy Prince who was every bit as inappropriate in rock as his name suggests.

Since Dolphin’s Of Hollywood was the biggest record store servicing the black community in Los Angeles its proprietor knew that single had sold well which meant he’d be more than happy to be able to make some long green on a new version of Young Girl, especially since he also controlled the means for promotion via the radio programs broadcasting in his front window.

Meanwhile I’m sure the group felt that with more experience under their belt they could improve on it since that had been their very first time in a studio when nerves and inexperience might have had a greater effect on their performance than they would’ve liked.

But while both of those are sound in theory, in practice it turned out not to be quite so easy to improve upon what was a crude song whose nervous energy was its greatest attribute from the start.
 


 

We Are The Ones Who Make Everything Alright
Before you have a chance to get your bearings the difference between the old and new take on the song hits you in the face, as last time around it was a very good rolling piano that provided the musical foundation the singers worked from, whereas on this we get an electric guitar playing a loud and sloppy intro while the piano is far more subdued in the background.

It’s natural to attribute this to the twenty months that have passed between releases. When the first version of this song came out – cut in the waning days of the 1940’s – the tenor sax had started abdicating its spot as the primary excitement starter on rock ‘n’ roll tracks but a permanent replacement hadn’t been named. The electric guitar was a dark horse candidate at best simply because so few tracks that used it prominently had become hits and as we know hits are what dictate trends.

So into the void stepped the piano, sort of the reliable veteran of any band, able to step up to fill a need without requiring artists or labels to completely overhaul their long term game plan in the process. The piano was such a ubiquitous presence in all of music that it never seemed out of place when plugged into a key role.

But now in mid-1951 the electric guitar, though still not front and center in most rock arrangements, has become a looming presence in some big productions of late. In the vocal group realm alone it had helped to drive The Dominoes chart topper Sixty Minute Man and while it was played in a much bluesier fashion by The Larks’ Allen Bunn, that group had featured it a number of times on their biggest selling records to date, so it certainly wasn’t a bad idea for The Hollywood Four Flames to try this.

Unfortunately it’s not nearly as effective as the piano was the first time around, primarily because the piano, while faster-paced, was more under control which helped to set off the wilder vocal parts of the group. On this version of Young Girl the vocals remain somewhat unhinged but so too does the guitar which makes it all come across as more chaotic rather more intense and exciting.

They don’t exactly clash, the guitar does step out of the spotlight once the vocals take center stage, but it’s not complimenting them as well as you’d hope. The solo later on is okay but hardly as compelling as it needs to be to bring this alive.

The reason why the record has dug itself a hole is the group themselves just aren’t as sharp this time. Granted it was never a very intricate song to begin with but at least before the trade off between the vocal lines was done in much crisper fashion. Bobby Byrd is not bad on lead here, but the others, especially starting at the midway point, sound as if they’ve been caught looking out the window or wondering what they were going to have for lunch because they miss their cues and when they do come in it’s without any real enthusiasm, which frankly was the entire point of their parts to begin with – to ramp up the excitement.

As a result this comes across as sounding like the work in progress rendition, while the original release from a year and a half earlier sounds like the one that’s been fine tuned and polished up, which is hardly a good sign for their evolution.
 

Come In, Baby
You would think that if you’re remaking a song originally cut at your very first session that you’d have found a way to improve it in the interim. Maybe it’s not even the performance itself that would be honed, but at least you’d have better production or a better musical arrangement, but here things have taken a clear step backwards in both those areas as well as what the group as a whole is offering.

It might not be terrible but this version of Young Girl surely wouldn’t be the one you’d reach for first and really only holds interest as a point of comparison.

Because Recorded In Hollywood is not your typical record label with the usual broad commercial goals (normally just looking to sell their releases in their own store based on local artist familiarity) it would appear they felt that with a hasty and opportunistic cover of The Glory Of Love on the other side that John Dolphin was hoping to break this single out nationally and that explains his pairing it with something that already had a verifiable track record, even if this was a weaker rendition of the song in question.

It didn’t matter much as this failed to sell at the time, but as calculated gambles go this at least made some sense. Next year though, when this side is re-issued with another song from this same session, the landscape will have changed and the motives will be a little bit more ambitious perhaps.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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

 
Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
 
The Flames (January, 1950)