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Maybe we shouldn’t expect independent record companies whose businesses are often surviving paycheck to paycheck – or more accurately, one release to the next – to be particularly ambitious, daring and even reckless when it comes to trying to push the envelope with their output, but if any indie label could risk it, surely Jubilee was the one.

Since owner Jerry Blaine’s primary income derived from his record distribution network, meaning he was the one responsible for getting his competitors releases to their destination, a steady reliable business if ever there was one, the question has to be asked why he didn’t use that leeway to attempt to break the mold every so often with his best group.

Instead we get another one of… these… a pop cover song with a gender switch besides.

Surely this isn’t going to end well for any of them. Is it?


Photographs And Souvenirs
Rock vocal groups being forced to cover white pop records is always at risk for becoming an epidemic in the 1950’s as record companies seek the so-called insurance of recognizable titles to give them peace of mind that there will at least be shallow awareness of their acts latest releases. Of course that practice virtually ensures there’ll be far less deep interest in the records themselves by fans who want more authentic representation from the artists they give their money to.

Label execs like Jerry Blaine are slow to catch on to this, fueled in part by their open admiration… more like unbridled lust… for the status of major labels. Since the majors all are sleeping in one another’s beds via their shameless covering of everybody else’s hits, then it’s hardly surprising when the indie labels spread their legs in the same fashion no matter how many times we call them all artistic whores because of it.

Mind you, the problem isn’t the covering of a single song that you… or better yet the artist themselves… think would be great for them to reimagine in their own way. That can be a very rewarding endeavor every now and then, showing their creativity in trying to make something their own. Rather it’s the constant blind groping for each and every song that finds itself rising on the charts, hoping to get a modicum of spins for what will be – in most cases – little more than a carbon copy of the original simply carried out by different voices.

So… how’s THAT for a build up for the review of our second look in the last few weeks at a pointless cover of You Belong To Me, a sappy and spineless pop song that Jo Stafford and Patti Page have both scored massive hits with over the last few months.

Annie Laurie’s attempt on OKeh was… a mistake. A record which betrayed the supposedly tender story it contains with an ostentatious arrangement which forced Laurie to follow suit. Can The Orioles, who seemingly have been groomed for this kind of wussy transformation from the start, somehow do the impossible and come away with even a shred of their dignity and self-respect after tackling a song like this?

Well… if they haven’t lost it yet with so many bad song choices, there’s no reason why one more will make them hide their faces in shame.

(Crash And Sink Into) The Ocean In A Silver Plane
As stated in the trashing of the Annie Laurie attempt, the composition itself, regardless of any arranging missteps, is not worth a whole lot for anybody seeking a weighty song with an honest depiction of feelings and a plausible setting to express them.

Granted the melody itself is catchy… like the clap… which means it’s not something you want to hear. It’s far too dainty and cloying which marks it as a stereotypical pop song with all of the baggage that comes with. As for the story, it’s romantic pap on a stale cracker, utterly devoid of taste.

The interesting thing about The Orioles taking a whack at it however, is the gender change required, which isn’t a big deal in the 21st Century, but back in 1952 any situation where the guy was the one sitting passively at home while the girl he loved was off having a string of adventures around the world was considered downright subversive. The next thing you know women will want to have control of their own bodies and be allowed to get educated, compete in the workforce and (gasp!) stay single. Where will it all end?

But we’ve seen plenty of examples of Sonny Til successfully contorting himself into other traditionally female perspectives of the era, so You Belong To Me was probably seen as the last step in the transformation.

To his credit Til pulls that part of it off well enough. His best move is to slow things down, a good tactic just to set it apart from most of the pop versions (albeit it Dean Martin also did and it was the best of the male-led covers). That also allows the sentiments have more resonance, as if he can barely get them out because the fear he has that she’ll forget him as he recounts her jet-setting lifestyle almost overwhelms him.

The problems with that approach though is that Til forces some pauses – and frankly dead stops – into the lines which no doubt has you thinking he’s reading the lyrics off a lead sheet and isn’t very happy about his task. His voice is as stellar as always, but without being able to add much to the emotional stakes of the storyline, or to take liberties with the rigidly constructed melody, which gets thrown for a loop when he tosses in a few extra words along the way, there’s a limit to what he can bring to the table.

Improving it slightly however is the presence of the other Orioles whose voices at least give this rendition another way to stand out from the pack, as their harmonies behind Til, and especially the bridge being sung by Johnny Reed, keep the record from sounding too one-dimensional. Then again a song like You Belong To Me is more or less designed to be one-dimensional.

That of course is the fatal flaw of it no matter who tries to sing this tripe. The song’s greatest con job is that it manages to sound classically ornate only to find upon closer inspection it’s hollow behind the façade.

There’s no substance to any of it. The melody rots your teeth, the lyrics give you indigestion and the fact that so many versions of this were successful, both now and a decade in the future, is bound to make anyone who likes heartier meals feel sick to their stomach.


See The Marketplace… In Tears
We’ve now had five years getting to know The Orioles and it’s both amazing and a little troubling how many releases they’ve had over that time.

The deluge of singles, which lately has been exacerbated ever further by Sonny Til’s solo sides and his recent duets with Edna McGriff, is a double edged sword for The Orioles historical recognition. On one hand with the sheer number of songs in their catalog it’s easy to pick out a dozen great sides, slap them together on a playlist or a Greatest Hits collection, and sing their praises while forgetting how much dreck they put out in between those gems.

But on the other hand the non-stop releases meant there were going to be far more records like You Belong To Me which couldn’t have done their reputation much good at the time (even Billboard called their rendition “schmaltzy”). As a result this becomes yet another dismissible effort that most weary fans wouldn’t even have to bother buying to know that it doesn’t contain anything of value for them.

By contrast the top rock vocal groups of this past year, The Dominoes and Clovers, have been so judicious with their releases that you eagerly anticipate the next one and cherish it when it comes along. That selectiveness also let those groups records be more painstakingly tailored to their specific skills rather than grabbing these inappropriate sides just to get another single on the market.

Of course even as a record like this undermined The Orioles appeal, it quite possibly remains – save for Santo & Johnny’s languid instrumental version down the line – probably the BEST rock version of this song ever issued. The fact that it still isn’t any good tells you all you need to know about the decision making capabilities of the label in question.


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

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
Annie Laurie (October, 1952)