Tags

No tags :(

Share it

NATIONAL 9098; AUGUST 1950

 
 

 

Déjà vu usually hits us when it’s least expected… that strange sensation out of the blue that something we’re encountering in that moment has happened to us before.

The feeling is hard to describe but easy to spot and it can leave you with a lingering sense of unease, as if your life is a game being controlled by some unknown entity.

The fanatics of this website, of which there are surely many… possibly as many as three or four intrepid souls… probably experienced some déjà vu when scanning today’s record, wondering why it looks familiar and perhaps wondered if maybe they’re still asleep and dreaming of something they’ve already read around here.

Well, you aren’t dreaming, you’re not imagining things and if you’re feeling that unmistakable sensation of déjà vu creep over you, it’s because you have read about this very release on these pages before.
 

 

Pecking Order
This exact record first got reviewed here in May of 2019, erroneously as it turns out, and so it’s simply been re-slotted – albeit considerably re-written in the process – here in April 2021.

To explain this it probably helps to tell you that the method for sequencing records around here is fairly simple in theory but sometimes far more convoluted in practice.

When covering releases more than seven decades in the past it’s often hard to accurately nail the exact month they came out since the record companies are long out of business and few kept accurate records even while still in operation. So over the years people have used a variety of method to figure out exactly when these singles hit the market, mostly going by when they were reviewed in the trade publications.

But that’s not always the best bet for early rock since Billboard and Cash Box were lax in their coverage of most black styles with fewer overall reviews than pop music (in part because the major labels paid for more ads, giving them precedent in their editorial decisions) meaning there was often a backlog of a month or two… or even six… when it came to reviewing these records and far too often a lot of them weren’t reviewed at all.

So we prefer use the record label’s own ads (if any), or at the very least their numbering system to pin down the dates of other records in the same general are and go from there.

Where we ran into unexpected trouble with this record, National 9098, was that numerically it fell in line with their other releases for December 1949 and since the next Ravens record, National 9101, I Don’t Have To Ride No More, definitely came out in early January 1950, as we have the ads for it from then, it seemed fairly obvious to slot this one a month or two earlier.

But that’s where we should’ve realized something was wrong because of all the independent labels, National Records was the one company who were very reliable when it came to placing ads in the trade papers, usually even printing the date of the records’ release in the ad itself. Yet their December ads didn’t have this record among the records they were pushing and considering The Ravens were their best selling act, this should’ve raised red flags left and right.

Now, nine months later, we finally figure out why.
 

The Choicest Worms
Throughout August there were new ads promoting National 9098, even though they’d already gotten into the 9100 line, including two tracks by The Ravens.

When seeing this release come up now the first thought here was they simply re-issued it because The Ravens were about to fly the coop when their contract was up and probably weren’t going in to record new material any more, so why not re-issue a good, but lesser selling, earlier release and hope to stir belated interest in it?

Maybe that’s indeed what happened but there’s a far more likely story that explains it all: Those December ads all DID have a Ravens record being promoted, except it was a record that was already a year old, namely their two sided Christmas release Silent Night backed with White Christmas, something that makes perfect sense since they could easily get more sales for those – even a year later – because of the holiday season.

What wouldn’t make sense (not that companies wouldn’t do it anyway) is to release a NEW record to compete with the re-released Christmas records they were heavily pushing at the time.

So the logical explanation is that they’d scheduled Get Wise Baby for late November of 1949, going so far as to print up the labels (thus explaining the numbers), but then had second thoughts and decided to pull it back and re-issue the Christmas songs instead.

Now the smart thing to have done would’ve been to simply issue THIS record in January, but for whatever reason they didn’t, maybe because they had a better record to put out instead. But then when another song began catching on across music in March they had The Ravens come in to cover Count Every Star to take advantage of it while it was hot, further pushing back THIS record.

Now that The Ravens time on the label was nearing an end National reached back and finally pulled out this for their summer release, promoted it as usual, making no note of the slightly out of sequence numbering, and figured nobody would notice or care.

For the most part they were right until lunatics like us far in the future noticed the incongruity and wondered why… and there’s your answer.

But now that we know why we can get back to the contents of that record and all just pretend you haven’t already read some of what follows…
 


 
 

Everything That Was In The Book
In many ways this was a third act of a very specific – and profitable – play for The Ravens, although they managed to disguise that fact by removing the most overt aspect of it in the title.

That may not have been… umm… “wise” however, because Write Me A Letter, and its first sequel Send For Me If You Need Me were now more than two years old and so it’s doubtful a lot of their fans would be able to make the connection unless they heard the contents since the title here is lacking any clear reference to those earlier installments.

That being said however, once you do hear Get Wise Baby it manages to surpass our expectations as the third part of a trilogy right out of the gate.

The rhythmic delivery with a back and forth exchange between the other Ravens and lead singer Jimmy Ricks is familiar enough where we don’t have to think hard to be reminded of the similarities to their aforementioned two biggest hits. This one is slightly faster, which helps to give it enough of a wrinkle to let us feel we’re not being handed recycled goods, but the basic vibe it gives off is the same and showcases their vocal interplay in ways we miss on their more sedate pop-styled songs.

The rapid fire piano intro, guitar accents and even the steady ticking of the drummer’s brushes on the snare during the verses keeps this moving at a steady clip. The group itself doesn’t get quite enough to do outside of harmonizing on the title line and a few moments at the edge of the spotlight in the bridge where they sort of echo Jimmy Ricks, but at least they’re audible in the background singing in an animated way that can’t help but feel reassuring.

But this is still mostly Jimmy Ricks’s show and he seems freed by the opportunity to cut loose again and let his musical mojo have full reign over his delivery.

As always Ricky’s right at home on songs like this, injecting so much feeling into each line with his judiciously timed shouts, cries and moans altering the mood in ways that might seem cheap and exploitative coming from anyone else but when done by him it merely comes off as a natural form of self-expression. It’s great hearing him unbound by convention again, exhibiting the attributes that separated rock singing from other forms of music from the very start.

Which is why it’s such a shame that WHAT he’s saying is so meaningless and contrived.
 


 

Come Back Home To Me
As already stated the general idea, or at least the overall perspective shown in the story here, is pretty solid. If you want to take this as the de facto third part of the saga of Jimmy and his beloved then it holds up in that regard fairly well.

In the first chapter he was horny for a specific girl he has some history with. Apparently she ended the relationship at some point, though presumably not over anything major, and he was asking for a reprieve so he can see if the sparks that he senses still exist between them can turn into an inferno again.

Apparently she was game for this because in the follow-up from May of 1948 – which today’s record has the most in common with structurally – the girl in question replies that “she’s been lonesome too”. The two are about to reconnect as it unfolds and the confidence Ricky exudes was probably a major factor in her reconsidering their arrangement.

Yet on Get Wise Baby he’s been dumped again and is now chiding her for throwing him over “for a guy named Burt” before she had her own heart broken when that dude turned out to be no great shakes as a boyfriend either.

Aside from perhaps giving the impression that they both should try and remain single for awhile to shore up their own deficiencies, I’m sure you can see the problem with all of this… the story has become flimsy and unremarkable because it was designed just to artificially prolong this soap opera rather than expand on it any substantive way.

Take for instance this other fella. Burt (or Bert… your choice). Why does he deserve a name dropping? So they can rhyme it with the revelation that “all that you got was your feelings hurt”.

Jeesh! Telegraphing the punchline so artificially is never a good idea and sadly that’s emblematic of the rest of the song as well and since Jimmy Ricks also wrote this he’s got no one to blame but himself, which leaves us with a great performance of an wholly unoriginal concept.
 

It’s Too Late
Having already taken an earlier look at this on these pages we can’t help but get a sense of déjà vu when listening to this now, but even back then – whether December of 1949 or August of 1950 – that would still be the case because of how much they tried to recycle earlier efforts hoping to recapture past glories.

The fact that sounds really good in spite of that makes the whiff of commercial desperation it exhibits all the more distressful, especially considering some of their best work lay just around the corner, showing they weren’t in danger of becoming irrelevant and didn’t need to start looking backwards any time soon.

As a pure sonic experience Get Wise Baby delivers enough of what we want from The Ravens to condone many of its flaws, but it’s hard to truly praise when the composition itself comes up woefully short on the creative side of the ledger by trying to actively capitalize on the déjà vu feeling it was designed to give you.

So chalk this up as a nice casual listen wherein the less you know about everything surrounding it the better you’ll like it.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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