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JUBILEE 5028; JUNE 1950



Replacing the odious string section found on the top side with a supper club piano brings rock’s dominant early vocal group no closer to the style they made their name on, leaving you to wonder if they weren’t long for this world.

Okay, that might be a little harsh considering that at their best few vocal groups in rock brought as much genuine heartfelt emotion to their records, but unfortunately no other act saw such wildly divergent swings in their output which means you encounter each new release of theirs with trepidation rather than high expectations.

The Orioles were usually either scalding hot or bitter cold and far too often in their careers they seemed determined to venture into the icy tundra hoping to thaw out types of music best left frozen.


It’s Tragic To Take That Chance
Besides running out of patience at these attempts at courting pop acceptance and presumed respectability of the mainstream music market, we’re also running out of new ways to try and describe this ongoing folly.

Just when The Orioles should’ve been reaching their commercial peak with a string of big hits to their credit they continually undercut their appeal by forsaking their core audience in search of one who would never give them the time of day no matter how much they pandered to them.

What’s worse is that they’re not simply offering up these milquetoast songs on one side of each single, hoping maybe to open some eyes to what else they can do while still providing the deeper more soulful rock songs to satisfy their hardcore fans, but rather they’re constantly doubling down on the wussiness thereby guaranteeing that should they be unsuccessful in breaking through to a new audience their original fan-base will be more likely to grow disenchanted with their direction.

All of this should be easy enough to see and easy enough to self-correct. The Orioles were practically the only act on Jubilee Records keeping the label afloat (although owner Jerry Blaine drew most of his income in the business from his distribution company) and when judging by sales and chart placements the more emotionally intense records were the bigger hits while this kind of lightweight trifle had much less impact and what did exist could probably be explained by fans of their earthier sides buying them on name recognition alone.

Yet they never seemed to catch on to this in spite of the evidence so here we are facing down yet another record clearly designed for different sensibilities than our own with You’re Gone, a title that had the potential to be ominously prescient if the rock fan finally had enough of this and told them off once and for all and went looking for their fix elsewhere.

If so The Orioles and Jubilee Records would have no one to blame but themselves.


‘Til The Music Went Wrong
The piano is particularly noteworthy in that it’s an instrument with a fixed set of parameters that don’t really differ from one to another, no matter what style of music it’s being used for at the time.

Whereas different model guitars have slightly different sounds and there are multiple ranges of saxophones which produce widely different moods, pianos manage to be just as diverse depending entirely on how they’re played.

On You’re Gone the piano is being played as if it is aural wallpaper – polite but unobtrusive. We used the term supper club piano earlier which is really the key description, for supper clubs thrive on maintaining an elegant atmosphere without drawing much attention to the means with which that atmosphere is achieved.

There the music floats discreetly through the room, able to go completely unnoticed by those who are mingling and engaged in conversation, but the presence of which has a subtle calming effect, filling in the awkward moments of silence as well as keeping the communal volume of the parties to an acceptable level, for if anyone were to raise their voice enough to break the piano’s spell it could hardly pass unnoticed and would likely draw harsh stares all around.

So while it has a well-appreciated role in such settings, in other settings, such as records by artists like The Orioles, it has the opposite effect as it becomes SO conspicuous that it upends whatever message they’re trying to impart.

It’s so docile and ineffectual that it hamstrings Sonny Til in his approach. If he tries digging too deep and agonizes over the lyrics as we might otherwise hope he does then he will clash with the musical ambiance, whereas if he soft-peddles the sentiments as this arrangement calls for then it will all just blend together and disappear like smoke from a match as it’s dropped in an ash tray and forgotten.

I Can’t Carry On
Maybe it’s the cynicism and disgust of hearing their output compromised so many times at work here, but Til doesn’t sound invested in the words he sings in the least here. He’s mailing this one in and you can’t really blame him.

There’s no new perspective being offered up for the perpetually rejected dreamer he’s repeatedly being forced to embody, no sign of life in his actions to inject him with any vitality or even just some smoldering hope that he may turn things around when it comes to romance, and instead he’s left to pitifully cry about his misfortune once again.

As for poignant lines, clever plot twists or unexpected shifts in tempo, there are none. You’re Gone is as devoid of structural, lyrical and thematic inventiveness as could possibly be envisioned. It’s true there’s at least a melodic thread to follow in Sonny’s reading, not that it alone is anything to be captivated by, but it’s not supported by anything other than the halting unemotional piano framework and some indistinct breathy harmonizing by the rest of The Orioles.

Lacking any incentive to plow new ground they follow their usual pattern which by now has been set in stone, wherein they let George Nelson handle the vocal bridge – maybe so Sonny could look for a window to crawl out of – and that hardly does anything to stem your discomfort and disgust over something so lazy and unambitious as this.

For those making the argument that Sonny Til’s voice is still pleasant to hear and that you could use that as a template to imagine a better story being imparted, it’s going to be hard to convince anybody who’s suffered through so many of these interchangeable songs that this is one worth pulling out of their collection intentionally to hear again, let alone trying to suggest that it’s a record that’s meaningful in any conceivable way.

Now I’m Forlorn
There’s no suspense heading into these kind of records any more, no real hope that they can – or will even attempt to – breathe some life into the stilted material and so our grades are a forgone conclusion.

If they merely adjusted their approach a little, injecting a little more rhythmic swing to these songs, boosting the harmonies to give them a bigger role, throwing a little optimism into the mix, they could possibly come away with something worthwhile even with substandard compositions.

Instead The Orioles have increasingly whittled their own style down to the barest essentials, stripping away anything that might catch your ear or provide a glimmer of surprise and with You’re Gone it may have reached its nadir.

They say that some voices could sing a phone book and make it sound appealing and Sonny Til was among those who at one time might’ve earned such praise. But here he makes painfully obvious that isn’t the case, for no matter how good a singer someone is you still need strong stories and lyrics to stimulate your imagination… you require lively melodies and catchy rhythms to invigorate your senses… and you want some unexpected quirky touches in the arrangement, be they musical or instrumental, to keep you just far enough off balance to continually keep you focused as you listen.

Without them… without even ONE of them… you might as well just go ahead and hand Sonny Til that phone book and tell him to start at whatever letter he wants and make up a song because it’ll surely be a lot more captivating than this.


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