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Considering their track record when it comes to looking for acceptable source material, it’s not surprising that Jubilee Records is reaching back into the distant past for songs for their big group, as that’s often what they’ve done ever since The Orioles’ manager Deborah Chessler stopped writing their original material.

What IS shocking however is the fact that on both sides of this single they haven’t looked to pop standards to fill their needs, but rather have dredged up two ancient blues songs in an attempt to get back to the charts.

Considering how Jubilee has always tried to position The Orioles as potential crossover stars acceptable for the mainstream market, it almost seems a bit like a classy poet with writer’s block turning to dirty limericks for inspiration.


Long As I Am Tall
Of the two titles, it’s pretty certain that the top side, Don’t Cry Baby, would’ve been the more widely known song in 1952 since it had been done more recently, and successfully, in other idioms at the time… both jazz in the 1940’s and pop in the 1950’s.

Not surprisingly it was deemed the plug side by the record label and is the better performance all things considered.

But nowadays it’s the flip side which has a broader familiarity which is largely due to the number of rock interpretations of Ma Rainey’s See See Rider, perhaps her most famous song from her Nineteen-Twenties heyday.

But its choice as one of rock’s go-to blues compositions is a little strange, not because it isn’t a great composition with a deep multi-faceted story to ponder, but because the narration is clearly from a female point of view, as Rainey moans about a Circuit County Preacher – a traveling Bible thumper – who is bedding women in each town and for whom she grows despondant about when he leaves for the next warm bed in the next town.

Because all of the acclaimed rock versions – Chuck Willis, The Animals as well as this first one by The Orioles – were done by men without much lyrical deviation, the plot takes on either an entirely different meaning, or the perspective being shown at least becomes a male vocalist recounting a story told by a female.

That the song remains so affecting is a testament to its quality as a written piece of work, but without the lurching melody burrowing into your brain in all of those versions maybe the story could’ve been completely nonsensical and still had listeners coming back for more.


Clothes Don’t Fit You Right
Reviews naturally cover both the good and the bad attributes of a record fairly equally and yet the decision on which to start with is left up to the whims of the writer.

Usually around here if the record earns an above average grade, as this does, we’ll start with – and talk more about – the positives and save the smaller critiques for last, unless those flaws occur in the song’s opening in which case we mention them to start with before seguing into how it improves as the record goes on.

Well on See See Rider the opening to the record with that aforementioned lurching left hand on the piano keys is one of the stronger moments of the arrangement and Sonny Til’s entrance a few moments later is equally appealing.

But we’re going to break tradition and start by focusing more on what doesn’t work in the rest of the song because the song itself is so well known that discussing its particulars in detail might not be as necessary for universal understanding of the material.

The work of bandleader Buddy Lucas has been good and bad for Jubilee since his arrival more than a year ago. He’s a good sax player and that’s an instrument The Orioles had desperately needed on their records for years, as the lack of it robbed them of a key complimentary sound needed to help shade their own vocals.

Yet he’s also been prone to gimmicky additions to the usual lineup, overusing an organ and Hawaiian styled guitar for awhile, both being far too noticeable to blend into what should be discreet arrangements behind vocal groups like this.

But here it’s not an unusual instrument choice that’s at fault, but rather misusing one of the staples of the idiom as after that strong left-hand piano opening, the right hand winds up intruding far too much on the keyboards behind the vocal parts.

You can understand how this came about. When rehearsing the song it’s likely there were no other instruments taking part. Vocal groups often practiced with just a piano to get their roles down as that instrument can sketch out the melody, the changes and a rhythm fairly easily. But once Lucas’s sax is on board, the drummer picks up his sticks and a bassist is chipping in, the piano is largely superfluous. Here it quickly becomes intrusive, playing notes that not only don’t add anything to the performance, but detracts from what’s already there, almost altering the familiar melody in ways that don’t do it justice.

Its presence is constantly annoying and distracting, causing you to lose focus on what works so well which is Til’s languid lead, the slightly more bopping backing vocals of the others, the crisp drumming and Lucas’s hazy horn lines fighting their way through the fog.

Those parts are all good enough to somewhat overlook the overactive piano, but that we’re forced to overlook it at all is unfortunate because we know how good this song can be with the right arrangement.

Even if you eliminated it altogether though, or at least toned it down and left it to merely add a few grace notes every now and then, the manner in which Til moans this – though it sounds really nice for the most part – draws further attention to the lyrical disconnect of the story being told from the male perspective.

In the end that means we’re left with a few more questions than any one of them is willing to answer for and consequently the decision to have this originally come out as the B-side makes a lot more sense, no matter how catchy the song remains.


You Didn’t Go Home
Oftentimes a familiar song being heard in a comparatively less familiar version, albeit stylistically similar to the hit renditions, will elicit a stronger response in people who have a tendency to sort of “fill in” the shortcomings with something from their memories taken from the classic versions.

If so that would clearly be at risk for happening here with See See Rider… in the present time of course (or any time after 1957 I suppose when Willis scored big with it).

But in 1952 while this may have still be recognizable but to the majority of rock fans coming of age in the last six years or so, it would’ve been something only vaguely known and thus your impression of it then wouldn’t have been quite as strong.

Still, it’s a good song being sung well with some nice modern touches to help it along, but while it remains a better than average release – and particularly a solid B-side – it remains historically more of an interesting curiosity for its associated connections to past and future records.

So to try and return it to the perspective of 1952 and think about it as you would have back then, the story here remains that The Orioles’ choice of material was suddenly becoming more interesting and that’s something their fans had to appreciate no matter what minor flaws were found in the finished product.


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