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APOLLO 430; SEPTEMBER 1951

 
 

 

Having just eviscerated The Larks – and Apollo Records – for virtually abandoning all of their rock attributes in a feeble and futile attempt for pop acceptance on the flip side, here The Larks attempt to redeem themselves with a racy uptempo song that had no aims other than to make amends with the rock audience who’d vaulted them to the stature they currently enjoyed.

So you’d think we’d happy at this course of action, wouldn’t you? That we’d enthusiastically celebrate its content and claim vindication in the ongoing struggle between “our” style of music and the pop forces that always sought to suppress and vanquish rock altogether.

Yeah, you’d think so… but that’s whatcha get for thinkin’.
 

 

I Don’t Think It’s Right
Just to get get it out of the way to stave off the inevitable quick scroll to the bottom of the screen to see the score, this side of the record DOES rate higher than the other.

But that’s to be expected for while I Don’t Believe In Tomorrow was well sung in a style that only had faint traces of rock aesthetics embedded in its performance, this side by contrast was constructed to play up and play into all of those widely known and widely loved rock traits – humor, suggestiveness and devilment.

The problem is Ooh… It Feels So Good started off with that intent and tried to satisfy those needs before actually coming up with a good song to go with it… I believe the term is putting the cart before the horse.

But if that were its only failing we still might be a little lenient when judging its merits, docking it for a weak story while praising it for the presentation.

Unfortunately the presentation is – at times – just as much at fault here as the contents which is disappointing for sure but even more alarming after we’d praised the group for their stylistic versatility at being able to convincingly sing bluesy material as well as rock ballads.

Even their earliest rock sides cut under the name The Four Barons showed they could easily handle racy stuff and yet here, largely because the arrangement does them no favors, they not only sound as if they were completely thrown by the subject, they also appear as if they let that last pop-tinted performance reshape their approach to ALL types of songs, as this sounds a lot like a straitlaced pop act trying to show they were hip… and failing miserably.
 


 
 

I Could Get In Dutch
The real story of this record is how out of touch it is with rock of 1951 even though on the surface you have enough attributes to make it convincing if The Larks hold up their end of the bargain.

They don’t, but we’ll get to that, because first we have to examine what Ooh… It Feels So Good was trying to do as written and for that we look to the songwriters, Ben Weisman and Fred Wise… the same duo who’d written the pop song on the top side, not to mention whose other credits this year included the immortal The Oklahoma Polka by Patti Page.

I don’t believe I have to explain any more, just refer you back to that record any time you’re prone to dispute me as to whether “our song” here is truly appropriate for rock.

It isn’t. It wasn’t. It never could be.

Instead it’s the sound of two middle-aged white men who’d been exposed to a handful of rock songs, surely dismissing them all for musical reasons but finding in them a good-natured playfulness they found appeal enough to pursue.

But there is a huge difference between being slightly naughty and downright salacious and the bar for this in rock ‘n’ roll is The Dominoes’ chart-topping Sixty Minute Man, not two middle aged virgins milder interpretation of that song.

Now just to be fair and to fill out the story on these two writers, they DID go on to contribute a lot of songs to Elvis Presley’s catalog, albeit mostly movie soundtrack stuff which was designed to be lightweight. They did however write Fame And Fortune, one song which shows genuine lyrical depth and has melodic pull, so they were certainly capable of more than they show here.

But they’re clearly in over their heads with this, viewing sex from a novice’s point of view and hoping that David McNeil’s bass lead will make up for their own shortcomings by calling to mind the kind of horny suggestiveness of Jimmy Ricks or Bill Brown. But with lines that are both too tame in their content and too weak in their rhythmic thrust, he’s coming across as a second rate imitator at best.

More troubling though are the others who are using their highest ranges to either replicate the underage girl in question as the older McNeil can’t stop himself from copping a feel, or at one point Gene Mumford seems to be portraying the young male who is (I’m guessing) the same character as McNeil, who is now saying the girls are the ones who are taking advantage of him.

My guess is it was written for a guy and girl to sing together and The Larks weren’t about to invest in costly hormone therapy and sex conversion for the sake of a record. As a result though, despite a few good moments where they let on they know more about the subject than the lyrics suggest, it mostly comes across as confused and hardly arousing enough to excite someone who’d been on a desert island for six years with just a water-stained photo of Lena Horne to satisfy their fantasies.
 


 

Made Of Ice
Badly written songs, no matter their intent, usually make for bad records.

There’s only so much The Larks can do here when there aren’t any lines funny enough to crack a smile over, sexual enough to get a rise out of hearing, or rhythmically melodic enough to enjoy singing.

It’s a bad pastiche of the kind of song that has already been done to perfection and so even a good imitation would pale in comparison to the top songs in this realm.

Ooh… It Feels So Good can’t even reach that modest standard and the problem with aiming high and reaching so low is that it makes the failure seem even more egregious.

About the best you can say about it is we’re glad to see that Apollo Records hasn’t given up on trying to score with something off-color, but then again this was a label know for its gospel line and maybe to them getting three kisses by the front door with the porch lights on was pretty steamy stuff.

As rock records go however there’s not enough steam here to open an envelope and though The Larks try and breathe some life into the song, it’s only thanks to the waltz into popsville on the flip side that this looks good by comparison.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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