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On the surface Jubilee Records should’ve been the ideal landing spot for The Marylanders.

The label was well-known and had some rock credibility thanks to fellow Maryland natives The Orioles, but they weren’t exactly overrun with great artists who’d cause a new group to get lost in the shuffle as might happen with Atlantic or King Records.

Though you’d have to question Jubilee’s artistic instincts as they’d practically ran The Orioles slow yearning ballad approach into the ground, at least a new act would give them the chance to start trying something new since they wouldn’t have to be worried about jeopordizing the reputation of their established stars.

Lastly, one of the big issues with all untested artists on independent labels is the struggle to get their records heard, yet Jerry Blaine’s primary means of income remained his own Cosnat Distributing Company which ensured that all of Jubilee’s singles made it to the right outlets.

Yet once more Jubilee let us down… or rather, let their artists down… unable to break the group into the big time despite some good efforts along the way.


I Knew From The Start You’d Break My Heart
We’ve had more reviews of The Orioles than any other vocal group by far and the praise and complaints have come in equal measure. The positives were when they had a delectible melody few lead singers were as effective as Sonny Til at conveying the heartache of unrequited love.

The negatives were they kept singing about it in the same way even when they had boring melodies and uninventive stories. Over the last year they’ve begun to branch out stylistically to good effect, but have gotten just one big hit from those changes, maybe because audiences knew by the name on the label what to expect and those who’d grown tired of the same old approach weren’t even willing to give them a chance anymore to discover they’d overhauled their game.

Jubilee Records were obviously to blame in this, as like most labels they sought to replicate past success by sticking closely to what worked before rather than branch out and try and find new success by staying ahead of the curve.

Yet to be fair to the label they HAD shaken things up a bit with new groups they brought in of late. The Sultans came away with perhaps the best two sided single thus far on Jubilee, neither of which drew interest, and thus they were quickly jettisoned, ending a very promising career before the members themselves were even aware their records had been released!

Now The Marylanders have come along with a slightly more modernistic twist on the Orioles formula – still ballad oriented, but with more dynamic backing and a wider variance of melodic ideas.

Yet we can’t go so far as to say Jubilee has learned from their past mistakes, because with Please Love Me they revert back to the increasingly outdated idea of trying to hedge their bets by adding slight pop touches to what has some potential as a new type of rock ballad.

The group clearly wants to stick with the rock sensibilities, as evidenced by how active they are vocally, but the arrangement is often pulling them in the other direction, meaning that there was little chance of this side connecting with an audience no matter how well they sang it.

Once again Jubilee can’t seem to get out of its own way.


Make Me Realize There Is Still A Chance For Me
When you hear the elongated twang of the steel guitar that opens this, your heart sinks, knowing that Buddy Lucas’s – or Jerry Blaine’s – obsession with that instrument has ruined many a promising song over the past few months.

Thankfully it fades into the background as the voices come in, but they too seem preserved in some otherworldly amber far removed from the rock aesthetic we’re craving.

They sound good – they’re good singers after all – but they’re singing with that aforementioned pop slant to their deliveries, something very noticeable in the way in which they slide up on the word “cares” in the line “…and soothe away my cah-airs”, which is exactly what pop groups did so they never ended a line more harshly than they began it.

The intermittent falsetto echoing the group vocals allows you to hold out some hope for Please Love Me, but much of the first minute has you ready to add this to the list of reasons why the name Jerry Blaine should be considered a curse word to rock music history fans.

But then a funny thing happens, the group gets its bearings and start to wrestle the song back from these tepid origins. It starts with a Ravens-like responsory vocal by Henry Abrams about 35 seconds in, trying to turn this around as they trade off vocals with three of them out in front – the falsetto being by far the best attribute, though needing the others to offset it – and you begin to think they’re going to break free, maybe step up the tempo, or at least start investing more emotion in what they are consigned to sing.

Instead they find themselves reigned in by that arrangement, pulled back time and again to pop music benchmarks that fit the melodic structure they’re shackled to. The vocal interjections now can only do so much to improve your outlook because you know they’ll be unable to ever let themselves go completely.

The fact that the song as written is a very passive look at love delivered by the group acting as the different emotional outlooks of a single henpecked man, none of them having the emotional fortitude to take charge of his own fate and forcing the issue with this girl who’s captured his heart.

As a result we get a weird sort of hybrid. Part Orioles in the overall outlook… part Ravens in the utilization of the bass voice… while only part of this is true to The Marylanders themselves even though they’re the ones adding the more complex and diverse elements that comprise the best parts.

It’s a pity they didn’t let them just have their way with this and jettison those blasts from the past and see what they could do unfettered. The way it’s going though it’s becoming more and more likely we’ll never truly find out what this group is capable of on a consistent basis.


In Spite Of It I Could Always See
We always talk about context around here, as it’s the single most important factor when determining the score of a record.

Something which sounds light years ahead of the competition in 1952 will sound miles behind what comes along ten years later and thus – while it’s the exact same record which might have the same appeal to your ears no matter the era – you need to adjust your thinking when trying to grade it objectively for the specific year it’s released in rather than treat it subjectively based entirely on your personal stylistic preference.

But there’s another aspect to the contextual evaluation that comes into play as well, and that’s what you’re comparing each record to within the year in question.

If you start thinking of Please Love Me in a pop context – but still grading it from a rock ‘n’ roll perspective – this might do better because of the decidedly non-pop attributes The Marylanders inject into their performance.

But tempting though it may be, we’re not judging it against POP records from 1952 in a rock setting. Instead we’re judging it against all of the other rock releases of this year which sets a much higher bar that they fail to clear precisely because of the pop shadings that envelop them for much of this.

We can still admire the parts where they show their true leanings – and we’ll continue to curse Jubilee for once again stifling those aspects too much – but there are just far too many uncompromised rock vocal group records in 1952 to have that do them much good.

In the end that contextual difference is what keeps it – and perhaps keeps them – from getting ahead in an increasingly crowded field.


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