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JUBILEE 5065; OCTOBER 1951

 
 

 

Hedging your bets in life is a way to minimize the risk of doing something that may not succeed… such as completely re-thinking your stylistic approach on record after countless releases as yearning balladeers.

Though the ratio of hits to misses was clearly in decline the more The Orioles trod the same old ground there was still a verifiable track record to point to which was pretty hard to argue against, namely that all of their hits were done in that manner, slow songs with heartbreak embedded in their lyrics using limited rhythm and tortured vocals to get the point across.

The flip side of this record may have maintained a similar thematic perspective but everything else about it was innovative – a faster pace, emphatic rhythm, vibrant instrumental support and prominent group vocals behind Sonny Til’s urgent lead.

So rather than take the chance that such a departure from their established personas would fall on deaf ears and cause this single to pass quietly into the night with no chance at all of being appreciated by their fans, they made sure to back it with a sound that was eminently familiar and thus largely stagnant by nature.

Yet because they were still a great vocal group, there was always a chance it might exceed your limited expectations all the same.
 

 

Remember Me As I Used To Be
There’s a tendency to feel sorry for those in the throes of heartbreak.

Human beings are fairly tough creatures when you get right down to it. We’ve clawed our way to the top of the food chain, created elaborate methods of improving our lives in the process and have extended our natural lifespans in ways that other mammals have been unable to do through the centuries.

Yet for all of our strength in those areas, the Achilles Heel we all have is our emotions. They may not impact us in a serious way most days of our lives but they’re always there right under the surface waiting to spring up and send us into dismay, particularly when it comes to failing at love.

Love is at times an inexplicable emotion that goes well beyond the simple need for companionship, protection and even fending off boredom by always having someone to do inane things with. Instead it has to do with our ego and the way in which it validates our own existence in a way by showing the rest of the world that someone somewhere wants us… has in fact chosen us out of all of the rest of humanity to be with.

When that falls apart it can wreck your emotional equilibrium.

No human being has ever faced this predicament more than Sonny Til who if these records are any indication of his fate in love must have been dumped by half the female population of America in a four year span between 1948 and late 1951.

Sometimes he cries about it alone in his room, other times he’s crying to the girl who broke his heart, sometimes he hasn’t yet been shown the door but is envisioning it happening to him and bracing himself for the fall.

Other times he’s fixating on her in an unhealthy manner long after she left and is recruiting others to spy on her while insisting they Don’t Tell Her What’s Happened To Me.

That’s good strategy because if they knew what lengths he was going to in order to keep track of her they’d be able to file a restraining order against him and sleep better at night knowing he’s not peering in her window or following her on her dates while wearing a disguise.

Ahh, love!… Deranged, obsessive and potentially criminal.
 

Right And Wrong
Listening to the ghostly piano that opens this makes the record come across almost like a dream, which is good news because current legal statutes absolve you for creepy acts committed solely in the realm of your imagination.

As usual Sonny finds himself practically breaking down over a lost love, singing in a trembling halting voice that is far too believable for comfort maybe, but certainly effective in setting the disturbing scene of how he’s taking – or is unable to take – the fact his girlfriend has moved on.

Gee, I wonder why?

There’s a nice echo to his vocals on the first stanza that’s haunting enough even before the other Orioles lend their wordless harmonies well in the background. From there however Don’t Tell Her What’s Happened To Me slips mostly into trite precedent as Til’s usual perspective is taken to extremes here as he’s imploring some unnamed accomplice to stalk her and report back to him.

He’s not going to DO anything about it – although I’m sure that’s what all crazed exes say when they’re implicated in these plots – but right away the sympathy he’s looking for sort of flies out the window. Yeah, you definitely understand the feelings behind it, wondering to himself what it is he lacks that someone else might possess, but the way to improve your lot in life is not to care what anyone else has, but rather to focus on improving your own desirability by having your own life and not being hung up on someone else to begin with.

But here we go again, dispensing life advice to the lovelorn of years gone by.

More pertinent for our jobs here is what Sonny’s doing about this in terms of his vocal delivery which is breathy and delicate for much of the time, swelling with emotion at times almost to the point of tears. It’s impressive as always even if it makes you a little uneasy with what he’s expressing.

But at least they’ve dispensed with those dreadful George Nelson sung bridges, instead letting the others take a slightly more prominent role by answering him in the distance while at other times humming like a midnight church service for the lonely.

Despite the presence of a fuller arsenal of musicians at the session this remains a stripped down arrangement however with the piano being the only instrument heard for much of this with just a few moments where the sax adds the faintest ambiance in the background.

Maybe that’s a strategic decision, eliminating more witnesses for Sonny’s soon-to-be trial, but truthfully anything more would probably be overkill anyway. Sometimes your most personal, unsettling moments of romantic delusion are best kept on the down-low for your own good.
 


 

Craved The Thrills
Usually songs of this nature, with such stark atmospheric conditions and fairly troubling stories that give license to Sonny Til’s borderline psychosis are docked for each of those elements until there’s nothing left to praise but the voice alone.

Maybe this record deserves such a fate as well – certainly he needs the name of a good analysis more than a good grade for his performance – but perhaps because Don’t Tell Her What’s Happened To Me is so much different than the top side for once, we’re more susceptible to its musical “charms”… not the right word for something of this nature but it’ll do in a pinch.

There’s certainly ways, beyond a drastic re-write to give Sonny a lead role that doesn’t veer dangerously into insanity, where this could be improved. That eerie echo-laden vocal early on could’ve been incorporated into it better, maybe an organ rather than the piano to add to that feel, even some addition backing vocal parts along the way to create a deeper sound.

Heck, The Orioles re-cut this in 1963 resulting in a much better version (which is the only version available on Spotify) thanks to a fuller arrangement, so it’s not hard to see it being done.

But because this contrasts so well with the best performance they’ve done in awhile on the top half, we can’t be too harsh on it for its shortcomings, if only because it once again shows that while this was certainly a viable approach for them to have, the evidence it presents is that there were better options right under their noses all along.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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