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If ever there was an appropriate title for an artist’s release, this would surely have to be it.

It’s amazing how quickly one’s impression of a group can changed based on another ill-advised cover of a pop record which was found on the top side of this single and so it’s only natural to be a little gun shy when it comes to a group who are capable of great things yet are recording for a label who clearly wish they could get out of this tawdry rock market.

For a kid in 1952 eighty-nine cents is a lot of money to blow on a record they might only listen to once if it’s bad, so it’s a fair question to ask just who would take a chance on these guys without some assurance that they were going to head in the proper direction again.

So here’s a free tip for ya, kid… save your money.


I Know I’ve Done It Before
Taking a talented group to task who’ve given us plenty of great records over the years is not as enjoyable as some of you may think. (Criticizing Jerry Blaine, the misguided owner of Jubilee Records on the other hand has its kicks, but even that gets repetitive after so many brutal attacks on his character).

It’s one thing to dissect the shortcomings of those who clearly don’t know what works, trying to pinpoint why they can’t seem to properly assess the market around them, but when the artist has more than enough evidence to see that pop aspirations are a dead-end, that’s when it becomes not just frustrating to watch, but a chore to keep repeating the same criticisms over and over again.

Making things worse is this doesn’t even allow us to chart the progress of The Orioles in typical fashion as they’re stuck in a never-ending cycle of callously trying to leave us behind and then, when they find no takers for their brand of sterile pop, they come crawling back to us in an effort to win us back.

Now they’re clearly back in their “we’re too good for you” mode with I Don’t Want To Take A Chance a belated cover of an Ella Fitzgerald song from last winter, which they actually recorded last April and then sat on it for seven months in the hopes that everyone would forget Ella’s performance by now so they wouldn’t be embarrassed when this got compared to it.

Why anyone at Jubilee thought it was a good idea in the first place to venture outside their division for a rumble with The Queen Of Jazz, who without even trying could knock them senseless, is a mystery, but then again so are most of Blaine’s musical directives for his artists so why should this be any different?

Since we can’t possibly do anything but praise Fitzgerald who can turn anything into a thing of class and beauty – and definitely does so on this tune, which I didn’t think possible after hearing The Orioles first – that means we have direct our fire at an all-too familiar target in the hopes that they might eventually take enough shrapnel to stop these excursions altogether and get back to doing something that might actually help their career rather than potentially destroy it.

I Don’t Want A Broken Heart… Again!
In Billboard’s tepid review of this side, they mentioned it had a “flexible beat”.

Yet when the record starts in typically monotonous fashion there’s no drums to be found, no hint of rhythm, or even a pulse for that matter, and you assume that the author hadn’t bothered listening to the song or else was submitting his copy from the day room of the sanitarium on the day they let them have access to writing implements.

For the first section you are fighting off sleep. Sonny Til sounds fine, but he always sounds fine. He’s got a great voice, good control and by now has enough experience in turning away from the microphone so as to not to be heard retching while singing lyrics that are as vapid as the ones found on I Don’t Want To Take A Chance.

With its porcelain piano opening, the wavering harmonies behind him and a melody as slow as waiting for the closing bell to ring in school when you’re eight years old, it’s all Sonny can do to keep us from walking out on them. He rises and falls, drifts off mic, stretches out some words and doubles up on others, all in a futile attempt to make this palatable.

But then we hit the mid-section that finds Johnny Reed’s bass voice responding to the others and that causes it to pick up just enough to keep things interesting and which seems inspired by the horns picking up the pace slightly on Fitzgerald’s original.

It’s a nice adjustment to make, but it’s still not anything that would prepare us for what comes the next… an utterly original shift coming out of that section where the pace quickens considerably and George Nelson’s foggy baritone enters for a double-time lead vocal that is the one and only moment of true inspiration in this recording, showing for once they weren’t simply going through the paces for once. Heck, it might even show they’re grasping the idea that livening things up wouldn’t be the worst thing if you wanted to connect with the rock fans you foolishly think are still loyal to you!

The curious aspect of this however is how they use Nelson whose drinking problem was making him increasingly unreliable. We’ve heard Reed’s bass taking the bridge at times, as he does for the first go-round here in response to the others, and it was also him who took the bridge on You Belong To Me. Since that one had been the only song cut in Philadelphia back in October when they were on tour and wanted to get it down on tape while the original pop versions were still hot, it suggests that perhaps Nelson was… umm… indisposed.

Intrigue aside though, truthfully Reed’s the better singer and a bass singer provides a better contrast to Til, as Nelson’s perpetually stuffy voice combined with the usual slow tempos they sing, isn’t the best combination. But here he seems to really take to the faster tempo and it provides the best section of the record.

But then again, that’s still not saying much, as instead of it merely being a dull ballad not appropriate for them, it’s now a dull inappropriate ballad with a surprising twist that does little to change your impression of them on the whole.


More Than You Ever Know
If you want to cut the detestable Jerry Blaine some slack for more bewildering song selection, you might start by saying that while The Orioles had some good output during 1952 they weren’t rewarded for it, as nothing they released became a verifiable hit and so heading back in another direction couldn’t produce worse commercial results… could it?

Then again, when you’ve flushed the good will of the fans down the toilet so many times by returning to the same desultory game plan year after year, it’s hardly surprising that they’d say I Don’t Want To Take A Chance on any record by this group on this label.

Of course that means they’ve missed some good stuff over the past few months, but even while this shows their creativity isn’t completely dead and buried as we feared, the end results are still not enough to qualify as “good stuff” on their yearly scorecard.

Tellingly the very thing which makes it at least interesting is the fact that it takes the template we’ve grown to detest and leads you to believe you’re getting more of the same only to shake it up by the end.

When the company knows this kind of slight of hand trick will catch you off guard, maybe they should also know that it shouldn’t take gimmicks to get us to stick around and listen to a record until the very end… especially since all that means is we’re just going to pan it in a slightly different way when all is said and done.


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