No tags :(

Share it

JUBILEE 5057; MAY 1951



Over the last nine months, despite dealing with personal tragedy, The Orioles have been on something of a roll artistically with a string of releases where both sides were consistently good.

In fact by our tally they haven’t released a single below average song since August 1950 when both sides of Jubilee 5031 were subpar. Since then all four singles, plus one side of a Christmas release that ostensibly fits into the rock playbook, were all well worth hearing and included one of their best songs in their long career.

But you know what they say, all good things must come to an end.


Eyes That See Are Eyes That Know
If you’ve been following along over thirty four sides we’ve covered of this group you probably know where this is headed.

The Orioles, at times the most pop-leaning of the major rock acts of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, will inch back towards bland mainstream styles, shedding their soulfulness for a more polite spit and polished sound. The composition will be stilted and artificial, substituting shallow platitudes for passionate declarations in the arena of love.

Check, check and check.

Why they did this to themselves… and to US… over and over when the commercial returns for these ill-advised endeavors were never the equal of their more intense performances is beyond comprehension. We know they were playing supper clubs that catered to this type of music but we also know, via their only recorded live album cut just a month before in Chicago, that they didn’t go over well in those venues.

Their primary audience – the ones who actually bought their records – was younger, blacker and devoted to them because of Sonny Til’s burning desire for girls just out of his reach… not these kinds of watered down pledges of devotion that repressed white people gravitated towards which were stripped of any genuine emotional stakes lest someone get the impression they actually had hearts beating in their chests.

Yet hearing in it the siren’s call of respectability they so desperately craved The Orioles tackled songs like Would I Love You, one of the more popular tunes of the day when done by such big names as Doris Day and Patti Page.

The song though is an empty vessel, containing no meaningful sentiments besides expressing a mindless commitment to a nameless, faceless figure. Even Day, the best pop female singer of the era in terms of drawing out the underlying sentiments, can do little with this worthless tripe. For one thing there’s hardly enough lyrics to be worth the effort and what’s there is just a series of hollow statements signifying absolutely nothing.

Right up The Orioles alley when it came to this kind of thing, wouldn’t you say?


To Take You In My Arms Has Always Been My Goal
The one area of a few of the pop versions of this tune that held a little interest was the slightly exotic rhythm in the instrumental opening which regrettably The Orioles excise here, preferring instead to put you to sleep right away rather than drag it out.

They do manage to inject it later, not via instruments – since they still were barely using any – but rather vocally, which at least gives the other Orioles something to do rather than stand around watching the fern in the corner of the studio wilt in front of their eyes as they go through take after take of this.

The shifting backing vocals are really the only bright spot in Would I Love You, the one burst of creativity they had in them for the day. That tango-influenced vocal addition brings a little drama to the production but we know these guys too well to be duped by this moment of inspiration because there surely will not be the appropriate pay-off for it.

How can we be so sure? Simple, because the obvious resolution would be for a tenor sax to take that line and expand on it during an instrumental break… but The Orioles don’t HAVE instrumental breaks, because that would require hiring an actual band, instead we get just a piano playing as if he had an audience with the Queen, a stand up bass and muted guitar, none of which get solos.

Instead we have a middle eight sung by George Nelson to look forward to, all sounding identical no matter what song we’re talking about. Sure enough here he comes, his familiar baritone wrapped in gauze croaking out the same lines we already heard, adding absolutely nothing of note.

Of course we haven’t mentioned Sonny Til, the usually stellar lead, who has little to work with here but at least handles it with some understated grace. Certain lines benefit from his breathy qualities in that they’re building anticipation – for what, we never do find out, since there’s nothing worth waiting for – but other lines where employs the same technique sound forced as it becomes obvious that it’s merely a vocal technique being used for lack of any alternatives rather than something designed to highlight a feeling he’s trying to convey.

He finds similar conflict in other approaches, as it’s nice to hear him dropping his tone at times for a different effect but when it doesn’t lead anywhere because the written song is a series of musical dead-ends he’s forced to turn back and find his way out again.

They never sound bad singing this, but they hardly sound as though they’re really enjoying themselves and for a song that’s ostensibly ABOUT joy, that tends to be a serious drawback.


Sure As There’s A Moon Above
Nine hundred and some odd words in just to find out this master plan of theirs to either bring the white adult pop lover into black rock ‘n’ roll, or conversely bring black rock fans into the supper clubs where they’ll be turned away at the door anyway, is an abysmal failure.

Yes, you as a rock fan may indeed like this version of Would I Love You better than Jerry Gray’s record that was the first recording of this simplistic mess – and for the record, so do I – but that doesn’t mean it should’ve been sung by The Orioles in the first place.

If you disagree just open your damn eyes and look around you.

It’s the spring of 1951 and there are a flood of new vocal groups on the scene, all of whom are raising the stakes in rock. You have groups that are far more exciting (The Dominoes), more versatile (The Larks), more unique (The Clovers) and with a greater arsenal of vocalists in their ranks (The Five Keys), all trying to appeal to an ever-growing – and constantly more demanding – audience.

If you’re The Orioles, for all of your influence and success to date, you are seriously at risk for falling behind, especially if you start catering to an audience that will never, under any circumstances short of you bleaching your skin, find you the least bit appealing.

So stop this nonsense immediately and get back to singing songs that have some actual soulfulness to them and leave it to the Gordon Jenkins of the world to desecrate music with their renditions of this insipid garbage.


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