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JUBILEE 5035; MARCH 1950

 
 

 

Though I make a concerted effort not to simply re-post the same words from one review to the next, even when covering roughly the same topics at times, I’m going to make a slight exception here with this intro, which is reproduced (with one important edit) from yesterday’s review:

It’s patently unfair to subject Sonny Til & The Orioles to the kind of ridiculously high standards on both sides of every single release that few artists in rock would be able to consistently measure up to.

Yet of course we’ve done just that from the very start with them around here… and fair warning, will continue to do so for the rest of their careers.

The reason for this is because when they were good they were very, very good, but when they were bad they were… if not awful, at least awfully bland, which in rock is just as bad as outright putrid.

At times they rise to the occasion and give us something that is so startlingly good that it takes your breath away and yet at other times seem hellbent on becoming warmed over pop singers ten years out of date…

Like on this record for instance.
 

 

We Can Never Ever Part
Therein lies the frustration of being a fan of The Orioles. You were being asked to sit through a lot of dross – however well-sung it may have been – to get to the really great sides that made that wait ultimately worthwhile in the end.

At Night, which adorned the top side of this release, was one of those aforementioned great sides for which The Orioles will always be revered. Though its fragile construction and tender sentiments were hardly anything new from them the components that went into it – lyrically and melodically with inspired performances from all involved – made it something that sparkled on the first listen or the hundred and first.

All of which allows you, if you’re being particularly generous, to even understand why they continually strove to match that brilliance each and every time they stepped into the studio, taking the same basic thematic ideas and affixing them to similarly tenuous deliveries trying to touch the same emotional nerves.

But anyone with any sense knows that doing so ad nauseum is destined for failure not only because there aren’t enough original songs told in creative fashion to provide an unlimited supply of like-minded material, but also because doing so on both sides of every release the group puts out is bound to make even the best of those sides seem far too calculating and thus cynical in their attempts to pull at your heartstrings… and purse-strings for that matter.

Which is why it is such a shame that rather than offer up something completely different on the B-side, like say a crude rousing rocker, maybe a letting all of them sing in harmony throughout, or just allowing a different one of them to handle the lead chores for a change, The Orioles are as predictable as ever by giving Sonny Til another romantic emotional crisis to navigate on Every Dog-Gone Time.

It’s a record which is hardly “bad” but is hardly worth looking for the good in it either because we get the sense we’ve all been here before.
 


 
 

I’m So Weak
The title itself, while suitably G-rated for the era (oh how I would’ve loved to have had someone discover an off-the-cuff X-rated version they cut at the time with Goddamned as the obvious substitute) is perhaps the best, or at least most intriguing aspect of the entire record, which tells you all you probably need to know about what is to follow.

I’m not sure why at a glance Every Dog-Gone Time sounds like it might be affixed to a more uptempo side, but that was the impression I got when seeing it, but silly me, I should’ve realized The Orioles didn’t do uptempo songs unless it was on a Friday night in a leap year with a full moon out.

So once again we’re forced to deal with yet another slow ballad wherein a lovelorn Sonny pours his heart out to some poor girl who had the misfortune of accepting a date with the handsome crooner who is already planning their next fifty years together.

Oh well, that’s what older brothers are for I suppose, to pound overattentive guys like Sonny into submission and send them scurrying away from their little sisters, licking their wounds.

The particulars here are nothing surprising, nor anything particularly interesting in the way they’re told. Sonny finds himself with a girl – for the sake of expediency we’ll even go along with his suggestion that she’s reciprocal to his desires for once – and is telling her how much she means to him in typically florid fashion.

But here’s the problem with that… these are the kind of sentiments that sound mawkish even on Valentine’s Day cards, let alone being spoken, or sung, to you while sitting next to the guy on the couch as he holds your hand and stares dreamily into your eyes.

How are you supposed to respond to such sentiments as “Every time I’m in your arms/I’m so weak from all your charms”?

I’d say laughter but I think that might break the mood, as well as Sonny’s spirits, so I might not be the best person for girls to turn to for advice on this matter.

Because the lyrics are so wimpy it renders Sonny’s vocal skills almost superfluous even though, once again, he’s singing this with beautiful tone, a light touch and breathy dramatic touches that come close to the edge of overdoing it without falling over that line. That Til is such a good singer – even on the worst, or in this case the least challenging material you can find – is what allows them to never fully use up their reservoir of goodwill even among those who are growing weary of listening to the same act over and over again.
 


 

Close To Me
The other area where they have to face the usual assortment of slings and arrows from us is found in the timid musical tools songs like this need to use so as not to overwhelm the balsa wood-like construction of the frame.

We can start with the pop-lite approach of that same singing we just commended, something which is delivered well and sounds nice yet also sounds painfully outdated. These are Ink Spots derived methods of singing, and while Til certainly uses far more emotional resonance than the great Bill Kenny was typically allowed to exhibit, that shift alone isn’t enough to cleanse Every Dog-Gone Time of its allegiance to past musical standards being used as as a blueprint.

Yet if they wanted to stick with that steam cleaned vocal approach they could’ve put in a stronger foundation by simply using more muscular instrumental touches. I’m not saying a pounding backbeat and honking saxes… not exactly anyway, just SOME steady drum beat delivered in subtle fashion, maybe a ticky-tack pattern on the rim, anything to keep your pulse from coming to a standstill.

Then for God’s sake just hire a sax player and let him blow a distant languid response, slow and sensual, to give poor Sonny some assistance in setting the mood. The SAME mood he’s going for in the lyrics mind you, but one which would be suggested better coming from a tenor, or even alto, sax than it would when pouring out of his throat on words that make him sound like a virgin who hasn’t been this close to a female outside of his own family since he found himself crammed into the last seat on the school bus with Margaret Devonshire, the nerdy know-it-all back in fourth grade.

(So you don’t have to ask, he didn’t get any further with ol’ Margaret than he’s going to get with his current adult girlfriend either!)

Instead of any genuine musical testosterone we get a misleadingly jaunty piano to kick this off that hardly gets your motor racing despite the unexpected tempo, before it settles back into the usual supper club accompaniment. Rather than dust off any other instruments – or the slumbering musicians assigned to them – the other Orioles are the ones being called on to add support and even there it’s only to hum and offer wordless harmonies behind Sonny for the bulk of this.

Well, at least they saved on session costs… those glockenspiel playing union members were expensive!
 

How Much You’ll Never Know
I know there are a wide contingent of vocal harmony group fans who love these records and find them both well sung, which they are, and heartwarming, which I suppose depends on the vitality of your own romantic prospects which might be something better kept to yourself.

But even allowing for such admiration for the vocal skills of the participants songs like Every Dog-Gone Time do absolutely nothing to advance rock ‘n’ roll as a whole, nor helps to better The Orioles position in the musical hierarchy.

It’s a pleasant but entirely forgettable entry in a catalog that is already overflowing with similarly pleasant and (far too many) forgettable entries over the past two and a half years.

This style may have been what The Orioles did best, but it’d be better for all involved if they simply did it less often and that would allow everybody to really appreciate the times when the material matched their skills.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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