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JUBILEE 5082; APRIL 1952



Writing, like exercise, is something you really have to do every day, not only to stay sharp but also to stay motivated.

Take just one day day off and it can easily become two and then three. Before you know it you’ve gone three weeks, three months… three years even without writing anything.

Ask Deborah Chessler.

It was her songs, just as much as it was her persistence in getting them heard, which launched The Orioles career and while she’s remained their loyal and trusted manager, her songwriting after that early flurry of hits has dried up completely.

Though Chessler continued to have a hand in picking the material they recorded, the quality of the songs has fluctuated greatly in the last few years without her crafting them to their specific talents and perspective.

This single unfortunately didn’t represent a full-time return to songwriting, but – with no apologies for the pun – it was nevertheless something The Orioles and their fans had to have been waiting for.


Keep On Hoping That You’ll Come Back
No doubt you’ll note another familiar name on the writing credits, that of lead singer Sonny Til, an infrequent contributor to The Orioles catalog.

We still haven’t reached the point where most rock artists’ material is self-penned, though by 1952 it was at least becoming increasingly common… but the one field in rock ‘n’ roll that lagged behind in that regard, even into the 1970’s and beyond, were vocal groups.

Now some, like Jimmy Ricks of The Ravens, had been a prolific writer from the very start, and certainly down the line the likes of Harvey Fuqua of The Moonglows and much later Curtis Mayfield of The Impressions, Smokey Robinson with The Miracles and others took a back seat to no one as writers.

But it was never the norm, whether because the vocal group scene still had some labels thinking pop crossover, or maybe because it was easier working up a new arrangement of an already established song than trying to write four or five parts from scratch, the vocal group output tended to come from outside sources… or inside outside sources as it were, such as managers like Billy Ward with The Dominoes and soon Buck Ram with The Platters. But in that regard Deborah Chessler beat them all to it.

Waiting certainly wasn’t a timeless classic from Chessler but it’s at least promising that she and Til collaborated on it simply because you’d think he’d be better equipped to understand what approaches worked best for his voice, while her experience – and success – writing for them would make her the most sensitive to their strengths and weaknesses.

Even more than that unexpected collaboration though, give them credit for one more vital thing – stylistically this is a lot different than their usual output.


I Get So Tired Of Waiting
One of the constant complaints with The Orioles records has been their inability – or unwillingness – to deviate much from their bare bones arrangements which had only become their trademark sound because the musician’s union recording ban prevented them from using a lot of instrumental support early on.

When those initial records became hits they stuck with that formula come hell or high water, preventing them from ever eliciting that magical “Who’s this?” response when even a hardcore fan of an act hears something different for the first time. But it also restricted the types of songs they were able to do, as it had to conform to the acoustic guitar chord intro, slow pace, dry sound with wistful or mournful vocals and a baritone led bridge which leant itself to heartfelt ballads almost exclusively.

Finally they began breaking away from that, unfortunately maybe in part because guitarist Tommy Gaither had been killed, but even with a little more variety in terms of instrumentation, they hadn’t made very many improvements outside of Baby Please Don’t Go which featured Ralph Williams’ guitar out front.

Here on Waiting they finally make some concessions to the current sounds with Buddy Lucas’s saxophone getting a major role and displaying a great metallic tone over piano and drums… wait a minute, drums on an Orioles record? Wow! They really ARE taking chances here, aren’t they?

As a result the backing arrangement is fairly nice in a low key sort of way, giving us a hint of rhythm and some melodic accents that go a long way in fleshing out the group’s normal sound.

But hold on… IS this The Orioles normal sound, because the backing vocals have a hint of pop style to it, the way they ease in and out of their lines, holding the words without much emphasis. It’s a pleasant sound, but not a sound that is is in any way pushing the envelope in rock ‘n’ roll.

Actually what it almost sounds like is a better Ray-O-Vacs record, even though they were NOT a vocal group, but rather an instrumental group with a lead singer. Here Sonny Til’s raspier lead gives you some idea of what that group might’ve sounded like if the rest of them had opened their mouths behind either Lester Harris or Herb Millinder, because this has that same sort of laid-back mellow vibe with the tenor sax support and the middle-eight in particular is a dead-on imitation of other that group.

But Til, even a slightly compromised Sonny Til, is still a first rate singer when it comes to expressing emotions in the crevices as he goes. On top of that Chessler’s melody is good, Lucas’s sax solo is strong, the drums and hand claps give this an energy that a lot of their records are lacking, while the other Orioles add just enough vocal color to keep this interesting to hear.

What’s even more interesting however is to contemplate their reasons for finally shaking things up at long last.


Keeps Me Longing
Years ago when we’d call something a hybrid record it’d usually mean the old and the new – or the jazz or blues and the rock were vying for supremacy within a song which usually did it no good.

In 1952 hybrid records still can mean that of course, but now there’s other things that are factoring in, such as how pop music is starting to draw elements FROM rock, which then at times get re-filtered back through a rock ‘n’ roll lens.

But Waiting is one time where it actually works, almost in spite of itself.

Maybe that’s because we’ve been longing for The Orioles to try something new, so much so that even something that might be called stylistically questionable is a welcome sight.

Perhaps knowing they were bound to have people doubt their intentions in terms of who they were trying to appeal to with this, The Orioles seem to put that to rest with an ad-libbed cry of “rock ‘n’ roll” just before the two minute mark, maybe just to assure us of their loyalty.

We appreciate it, but honestly they didn’t even have to do it for us to respond positively to this one. As long as they give us something – anything – new when it comes to their approach every so often, we’ll stick by them.

If that means Deborah Chessler’s got to pick up her pen and paper a few times a year, all the better.


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