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Analogies are often an easier way to describe something that otherwise might elude you. But for this record the analogies don’t come easy.

It’s September as this is written, the end of summer, so an appropriate analogy might be to say that while the days are still nice enough to go to the beach, the lack of crowds and action make them kind of disappointing.

Then again, when you listen to this record and hear some great singing backed by some entirely inappropriate music a better analogy might be that you went to the beach on a beautiful late summer day… and got devoured by a shark.


I’ve Searched Everywhere For You
The first thing that should jump out at you looking at the record is the artist credit.

Bobby Smith AND The Larks.

Bobby Smith was not a member of The Larks, in case you forgot, but rather the bandleader for Apollo Records and a very good saxophonist who has put out some decent material on his own that falls under the rock banner. Yet he’s also a jazz musician at heart and that style is probably what he’ll lean towards in his playing unless he’s told otherwise.

Apparently nobody told him otherwise on this session because what he serves up on My Lost Love is completely out of place, which come to think of it may be why they stuck his name on the label… to make sure he got the blame for ruining an otherwise good record.

Then again, they’ve done this before with Smith and The Larks and it could be a contractual thing to keep him satisfied that his “contributions” are recognized.

They needn’t have worried… we’ll recognize it alright.

Boy, will we ever!


Can’t Someone Please Help Me?
Have you ever been at an elegant function of some kind where an older lady, dressed to the nines, who takes her role as social director a little too seriously, starts walking towards you to welcome you and before she’s halfway across the room you’re hit by the scent of her perfume?

You start getting dizzy, seeing spots and hearing a loud ringing in your ears as the smell overwhelms your senses.

Bobby Smith’s saxophone is the aural equivalent of that unfortunate occurrence here. From the first notes as the needle drops, his dainty sax is an inescapable presence, stinking up the room and forcing The Larks to take a back seat on their own record.

It’s not that Smith’s parts after that lead-in are taking center stage exactly, at least until the equally ill-conceived solo, but rather that even when sharing space with the singing, or deferring entirely to the vocals while remaining in the background, it’s hard to ignore.

That’s what this kind of pop arrangement does to a song, pulling you right out of the delicate ambiance being crafted by the singers who are trying to convey genuine emotion and shifting your mindset to the artificial sentiments music like this is supposed to conjure up… plastic, shallow and insincere.

It’s too bad because if you stuffed a sock in Smith’s horn you’d have a pretty strong performance by Eugene Mumford to focus on instead.

He starts off a little timidly, not just in terms of the sentiments he’s expressing but in his vocal conviction, maybe swayed by that ill-chosen arrangement, but as it goes on he gradually ramps up the intensity while still maintaining that halting delicate delivery, creating a tension that My Lost Love tries to exploit to shore up a largely inconsequential story.

It never quite reaches the kind of anguish the lyrics suggest might be appropriate, but he’s not shortchanging the song by treading lightly, choosing instead to focus on the tentative nature of what he’s saying and the underlying doubt and anxiety he’s feeling.

It’s a pretty vocal rather than a passionate one and while you may wish he’d taken a slightly different approach, you certainly can’t fault the execution from a technical standpoint which, as with all of Mumford’s leads, remains first rate.

What you CAN fault to a degree is the subdued presence of the rest of the group who are reduced to wordless humming for the most part, and likewise you can take issue with the ineffectual response Mumford has to the uncertainty he faces in the song’s generic and somewhat threadbare plot.

But even with those drawbacks this isn’t the kind of record that will draw undue scorn for its missteps, yet outside of the most romantic saps in the audience few would suggest this is top shelf material or a well-rounded group performance.


I’ve Placed Ads In The Lost And Found
By now we’ve pretty much established the fact that The Larks were, at least on record, the most versatile of the new generation of rock vocal groups, having cut sides that could theoretically fit into a wide array of major genres outside of rock, from blues to gospel.

Chalk up My Lost Love as yet another example of that, as this veers a little too close to pop – not because of The Larks’ performance itself per say, but rather the framework it’s crammed into.

But because it fits so comfortably into that framework it’s hard not to take it at face value in that regard and view this as a conscious stab at the pop audience, so as much as we might like to single out Mumford and company and elevate the score for the vocal work, the fact is a record is the sum of its parts. More pointedly it’s the type of song the entire performance sets out to be.

This one set out to be one that straddled two markets, thereby fully satisfying neither, certainly not ours. Since that conflict was intentional, as evidenced by the dual artist credit, we couldn’t cut them some slack even if we wanted to and after feeling those sharp teeth of the alto sax nipping at our extremities for the whole song, it’s not like we really wanted to anyway.

Get out of the water, dry off and go home and consider yourself lucky another one of these pop-leaning sharks that proliferated the music industry ocean didn’t bite off one of your limbs this time.


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