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The thing about the singles era that was fascinatingly unpredictable was with two sides available to choose from you were never entirely sure which song – if any – the public would gravitate towards.

Sometimes they’d surprise you.

Sometimes they’d downright shock you.

Sometimes they’d might just mke you wonder if they were hard of hearing.

But that’s actually the good thing about music, no two tastes have to be – or should be – exactly the same.


My Heart Once Told Me
In the previous review for the better flip side, we mentioned that it failed to chart anywhere across the country, whereas this side, significantly compromised though it was, managed to make a number of regional charts over the next few months… New York, Washington D.C. and Fresno, California.

Strange, I know.

Whereas I Miss You So was a beautifully sung, melodic and poignant song with some really strong vocal work from the entire group, this side has more of Jubilee’s meddling to content with.

And while it was faintly suggested the other side had a deeper meaning with which to pull in listeners, nobody was suggesting this side was much deeper than its somewhat saccharine title.

But before anyone gets their panties in a bunch over these {Start official disclaimer} entirely subjective opinions, none of which should be treated as anything more than one person’s views, the same premise which goes for every single review on this entire site {End disclaimer} – let it also be said that there IS a good song buried in You Are My First Love.

The problem is with yet another attempt at bestowing class on The Orioles, that good song gets buried rather deep.

So get out your shovels boys and girls and start digging.


First And Last
On the surface violins are the antithesis of rock ‘n’ roll.

Rock music was often wild by nature, whereas violins are used to make music sound elegant. Rockers had a reputation as unruly egotists, while string quartets by comparison are usually the model of decorum.

Yet over time violins will add immeasurably to rock’s sonic palette when utilized in ways that bring an added dimension that can’t always be gotten with your more streamlined bands.

But whenever you’re dealing with something from outside of rock’s basic attributes, particularly when that addition comes from more modest and traditional brands of music, you’re always at risk for watering down the songs in question until they lose what makes them appealing to rock fans.

Apparently that wasn’t entirely the case with You Are My First Love as evidenced by its positive reception in various outposts across the country. Maybe Orioles fans were getting used to this sort of intrusion, as it’s not the first release of theirs to incorporate strings.

Let’s start by wholeheartedly agreeing that it is much better than their first attempts in this realm, I Wonder When and Everything They Said Came True, the latter of which was a surprising hit throughout much of the country a few months back.

All of these were cut at the same session way back in the winter of 1950 with one of the four sides featuring Sid Bass’s Orchestra going unreleased and this one being shelved for a whole year, which is more surprising because it’s just a much better song underneath all of the lace and ribbons those violins add.

If you can ignore the fiddles you still get more of the same slow crooning that The Orioles specialized in as Sonny Til is thankfully not bemoaning another girl who doesn’t want anything to do with him, but rather is pronouncing his undying love for a girl who is actually returning his calls for once!

Progess is thy middle name, Sonny!

His performance is really good, his voice is light and airy, he’s singing just a hair behind what’s expected, adding a surprising amount of tension for a song whose lyrics have no suspense to them, and his use of space is really well judged. The others aren’t quite as active as they were on the other side, but aren’t left out altogether and add enough ambiance to elevate this beyond the rather stuffy aims the label seemed to be banking on.

Here You Are So Close To Me
But what about those strings?

Are they actually adding anything of value to the record, or are they simply alerting the audience that when the group comes to your town you might need to save your money to afford a ticket if they’re going to be playing higher end joints from now on.

Well, that’s not an easy question to answer, so let’s re-state it a different way. The strings aren’t really detracting from the song as much as you’d expect. You might even convince me to say they’re a (gulp) fairly neutral presence all things considered.

The reason for this isn’t necessarily HOW they’re playing, or what else in the arrangement balances them out, because frankly there’s not much else there, if anything.

Instead the reason why You Are My First Love works as well as it does, in spite of (or because of) the strings, is that the melody is so good. Not quite as good as the other side, but certainly good enough to hold your interest.

In fact, a little more than a decade after this came out The Shirelles would release a huge hit called Soldier Boy that shows its writer, Luther Dixon, was one of those who bought today’s record. He even made sure to lift one of the lyrics intact so that even non-musically educated listeners can hear the obvious melodic similarities.

By 1962 rock acts like The Shirelles and great producers like Dixon had figured out how to better make use of string sections, adding colors more to a much more vivid picture than The Orioles try and paint here. But that said, while there are a few moments where they get carried away on this side – the pizzicato plucking of the strings and the fade are the most egregious oversteps – on the whole this one actually… works.

More or less.

Seems I Always Knew
Eventually all music goes through changes and not all of it is for the best but music is remarkably flexible and resilient and can usually figure out these self-created problems in time.

When it tries to conform to the standards of other existing genres of music, particularly those deemed of higher quality by the industry, it tends to fail, because after all, if you want classy pop records then why not buy classy pop acts who churn out that stuff on a conveyor belt and just leave rock artists like The Orioles alone so they can meet the far different needs of an entirely different audience.

But along the way it becomes a challenge to take certain elements that seem ill-suited for rock and find some way to make it work.

Musicians love a challenge and though the intent of Jubilee Records with You Are My First Love was shallow – and somewhat insulting even – the results this time around kind of justifies the attempt.

At the very least it shows that with a little more effort it might just possible to have these two unlikely elements find some common ground.

Just don’t make a habit out of it or anything.


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