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COLUMBIA 39408; MAY 1951



It had the makings of an all too predictable disaster. A major rock vocal group who had spent the last three balancing their earthier rhythmic sides with lighter pop sensibilities on each single were heading from an independent label to a major label… and not just ANY major label, but Columbia, the oldest and most conservative of them all.

Surely this wasn’t going to go well. The Ravens were bound to have their wings clipped by anti-rock producer Mitch Miller, forced to abandon all vestiges of authentic rock in favor of some watered down “pop with a mild beat” which the company would try and pass off as being legitimate, alienating old fans while failing to pick up any new ones.

Discouraged the group would start to grumble, the executives would realize their mistake in signing them and trying to venture into rock ‘n’ roll – even moderately – and promptly cut them loose, blaming everyone but themselves for this failure.

And that’s exactly what seemed to be shaping up when they first joined them last fall, but then a funny thing happened on the way to ignominy… The Ravens started flying again, rocking unapologetically while Columbia wondered how they’d been hoodwinked into giving this music a chance.


A Lot Of Things You Can Rearrange
Not for nothing but this would be the final Ravens single on Columbia… except it’s not what you think. The company didn’t get all huffy about them staying true to themselves and released them from their contract or stuffed them in a closet somewhere, refusing to issue any more music.

Instead The Ravens… or rock in general is more like it… forced their hand and got them to see that Columbia Records was a detriment to selling rock ‘n’ roll – none of The Ravens singles for them charted – because what rock fan would dare trust such a company as this in the first place?

So Columbia acknowledged their inability to compete in this field and created a subsidiary label and soon shifted The Ravens there along with all of their other recently signed rock acts and more or less washed their hands of them.

Before we say hello to OKeh Records though we have these final sides on Columbia to deal with as this one finds Jimmy Ricks doing what he does best on Honey, I Don’t Want You, a record with an all too appropriate kiss off title which makes for a fitting farewell to their time with the stuffed-shirt brigade.


No Use Trying To Do Like You Did Before
You always worry about Columbia’s musical arrangements when they were trying to tackle rock ‘n’ roll. Were they going to have string sections, blaring trumpets and Mitch Miller’s oboe prominently included or would they allow these songs not to be smothered in class and give them the chance to actually achieve their aesthetic goals instead of some high-minded executive’s conception of what “good music” entails?

Luckily here they stay out of the way with just a barreling piano and subtle ticky-tack rhythm to set the pace… the rest is all Ravens for most of the first minute, their tight clipped harmonies backing Ricky as he wails without restraint over a girl he’s callously casting aside.

He’s being pretty blunt about it too, admitting this girl likes him and he’s just dumping her without a second thought, although as it goes on he does reveal she’s treated him wrong in the past, lying, cheating… the usual checklist of offenses. The difference is he’s clearly not emotionally devastated by these actions, he just picked up the pieces and headed out the door without looking back.

Good for him. Maybe we can get these guys to have a talk with Ivory Joe Hunter to see if they can help him to grow a pair the next time his latest flame betrays him… but I digress.

The arrangement fills out a little when horns respond to Ricky with a tight economical riff behind the chorus, like a small burst of fireworks to add some color to the sky. The horns get a little more of the spotlight leading into the tenor sax solo which is the right instrument with at least some of the right attitude, especially as it gets warmed up, but if he’d started off slightly more aggressively and really laid into a dirtier sound we wouldn’t have protested.

We can debate whether the discreet trumpet after the break behind a subversive guitar is an attempt to inject some refinement into the song, but by that point it’s cruising along with such a confident air about it that it hardly matters, Columbia was powerless to stop this train now.

Besides as with all Ravens records of this type Honey, I Don’t Want You is primarily about Jimmy Ricks who not only acts as the lead actor in this play but essentially is doubling as the rhythm section as well. With his deep penetrating voice rolling from start to finish with a shoulder-grooving pattern he carries the record with an infectious spirit that’s hard to resist.


Say It And Then Goodbye
With their Columbia tenure – major label releases that is – coming to an end after only eight months, you wonder what Miller and the gang felt about their highest profile attempt to horn in on rock now that The Ravens would be relegated to a junior varsity imprint with different commercial goals than they had here at the parent company.

Since the group had been unable to score any hits did they feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth and were frustrated that they were unable to bridge the gap between the rock audience and the pop listener., or were they relieved that it was now somebody else’s problem to deal with?

Frankly it’s hard to tell. Surely Columbia had to have had some thought going in that they’d be able to better capitalize on The Ravens’s pop inclinations than National Records had, where the rockers had always gained a much bigger audience than the pop sides ever could. Instead the stigma of the haughty Columbia label kept the rock fans away from giving a chance to quality sides like Honey, I Don’t Want You while the pop audience turned a deaf ear to their more mannered attempts.

If the major labels were to learn any lesson from this venture, that was the important one to take away from all of this… you can’t bring rock artists to pop audiences and expect them to like it, nor can you bring rock fans into pop circles and expect them be comfortable.

Rock ‘n’ roll had shown there was a much larger market than the ones that the major labels had long targeted and if record companies wanted to compete in this new field they had to do it on rock’s terms, not their own.

Unable to adapt to these new realities Columbia threw in the towel and before long their days at the top of the record heap would be coming to an end faster than they ever dreamed possible.


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