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Oh no… did we speak too soon when congratulating The Orioles for finally changing up their tactics by cutting a racier uptempo song rather than their usual heart-tugging yearning ballads?

It would appear so.

We also may have jumped the gun when saying that side was a success – having charted immediately in Miami – because it wouldn’t be long before THIS side, the slower side, wound up overtaking it, rising quickly in Virginia and then residing in the Top Ten in New York for weeks on end while interest in the more rousing side faded fast.

Oh well, it was a nice dream while it lasted…


When The Fun Is Done Bring Your Love Back To Me
Old habits are hard to break I guess and with the ensuing success of this – as well as future ballads later this year – maybe you can’t criticize them too much for sticking with what had gotten them this far… no matter how mind-numbingly repetitive they could be at times.

But fair is fair and they obviously knew their audience well. Besides, we’re always saying how it’s best to offer listeners two distinctly different songs on each single and since the other side, Hold Me! Squeeze Me!, was an enthusiastically fast paced song of lust, then it’s only appropriate that they revert back to a timid longing ballad on the other half.

Making this more interesting than its contents might otherwise suggest was the return of the group’s manager, Deborah Chessler, as songwriter. Her bowing out of the creative end of their careers seemed to have come at a cost to the group, as it was her early efforts that made them stars and she did have a way with lyrics, coming up with some choice couplets along the way that have more than stood the test of time.

She was still managing them, still going on the road, dealing with promoters and definitely had a say in choosing their material, but she’d put away her pen and paper for quite some time and maybe the extended sabbatical from writing had made her skills a little rusty, for I’m Just A Fool In Love is a more pedestrian effort… at least lyrically.

Where it tries to make up for that is with a vocal arrangement that is interesting to say the least… and to say the most it is downright shocking to hear coming from a group as set-in-their-ways as The Orioles have been.

Yup, there’s no two ways about it, times were changing and somebody in their camp must’ve realized that they had to try and change with it, even if this was hardly the direction that held the most long term promise.


I Cried My Heart Out Every Night
As this record cues up you may groan at the seeming reversion to the mean The Orioles show with the return of Sonny’s submissive persona in matters of love, but you aren’t tipped off that something is amiss until it gets its feet under it and even then, as Charlie Harris’s piano seems to conflict with the gentle melody, you might feel he’s just a bit overeager… or maybe is too high in the mix.

Everything else about it at first seems to be standard operating procedure. Sonny is in love (again) with someone who could care less about him and while he sounds really good singing about it, he remains too insecure to take matters into his own hands and put his own happiness first and so he’s resigned to dreamily wishing things will change because surely the girl doesn’t KNOW the torment she’s causing him!

Yeah, I’ll bet. What a sap!

Anyway, the other Orioles are fluttering around him, adding a nice vocal cushion to his sentiments without intruding… for the time being anyway. Our first sign this isn’t their usual technique though comes when we hear the more prominent bass vocals of Johnny Reed in their blend, a nice but unexpected turn of events since usually he was used much more discreetly – if at all.

But then the vocals switch up with a wordless double-time refrain in the middle eight. It’s constructed with a more pop-oriented mindset but its appearance does indicate that they weren’t averse to shaking up their formula. Though this hardly is as radical as adding a honking saxophone would be (we can still hold out hope, can’t we?) it’s at least giving I’m Just A Fool In Love a more unique identity than most of their material.

We’re not done yet though, because following that they really start to let their voices go, particularly Alex Sharp’s soaring falsetto which highlights their best stretch on the record as a group.

From there however their reach exceeds their grasp as George Nelson delivers a more uptempo bridge than usual which is a great idea in theory but not here, not singing these downhearted lyrics and not when the backing vocals revert to the pop-slanted deliveries which makes it sound almost gimmicky, simply because those approaches conflict too much.

The biggest problem though is the melody is all over the place. It just never flows naturally. The vocal swells are stilted and uncalled for in relation to the plot, the transitions are clumsy and awkward and when you throw in the fact that the story itself is one we’ve already heard a few dozens times coming from Sonny Til’s mouth, it’s hard to be really invested in the outcome.

It’s Shameless I Know To Admit That It’s So
On one hand their attempts – on both sides of the single, but even just confining it to this one – should be applauded, for stagnation in music is like being diagnosed with a fatal disease… it’s not IF your career will die from it, but only when.

Yet they clearly aren’t quite capable yet of knowing just how to go about enacting those changes. They want to sound livelier, yet doing so on sad material that mines the same ground as most of their more traditionally constructed songs is probably the wrong way to experiment because it can’t come off looking great.

Even so we run the risk of signalling our disapproval with the attempt itself if we criticize them too harshly for their missteps in carrying those changes out. There IS enough to like here, from Sonny’s typically emotive lead to moments of sublime backing by the others, particularly the more visible presence of Reed early on and the brief flight of Sharp later, but ultimately I’m Just A Fool In Love suffers from trying to combine two incongruous ideas into one performance.

But try telling that to their fans who still showed their love for a dejected Sonny Til by making this a strong seller up and down the Atlantic coast all fall, in the process giving the group and Chessler enough evidence to stick with the same basic tenets they’d made their collective names on.

So just to make sure that we’re not lumped in with acquiescent masses, we’ll nod our approval at the attempt while offering just modest discontent with the results.

Keep trying though. It’s the effort that counts.


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