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Though National Records had a roster that at times included such luminaries across the music world as Billy Eckstine, Charlie Ventura, The Ames Brothers and Wini Brown, along with comedian Dusty Fletcher, when it came to rock ‘n’ roll they were virtually a one man show… or four man actually.

That group was The Ravens, their biggest sellers and the faces of the label when it came to rock fans.

Now the group was gone (as was Wini Brown, both to major label Columbia) and National was left to struggle on without them while still hoping their remaining sides from the group might sell enough to keep the bill collector from their door.


Never Stay In Any One Place Too Long
Having already covered their initial release on Columbia Records, Time Takes Care Of Everything, the story of their departure – just more money and a perceived bump up in class – is well documented.

What’s still unsettled though is whether or not the decision itself was a productive one from a creative standpoint.

With The Ravens that’s always up for debate. There are many out there who feel their pop ballad output is the equal to, if not greater than, their rock sides and so in theory a move to a company who valued that above all else could do nothing but improve their recordings.

But then again National Records hardly dissuaded the group from cutting pop material and yet none of it – not a single moldy standard – made the charts, whereas their rock sides were consistent best sellers and jukebox hits.

As for The Ravens themselves, they didn’t seem to have a preference… or at least didn’t object to either avenue. They’d never been forced into trying to cross over, nor did they seem to have to be urged to keep cutting rockers because those are what sold best as it was often Jimmy Ricks himself who wrote those sides for them.

On this, their second to last National release, the coin flip between the two styles still hasn’t produced a clear winner in their objectives, as the pop novelty side was a rendition of the ridiculous Phantom Stage Coach, a Vaughn Monroe release from this past summer. It did nothing for him and would do the same for The Ravens.

Which left it to this side to try and make up the difference. I’m Gonna Take To The Road was a rather prescient title considering their heading down that road in real life to find a new home, but whether it had any magic in it was another story.


If There’s Anyone Who Wants To Join The Fun
This is a hard song to put your finger on. It’s uptempo, has a noticeable beat to it, features Ricky singing with a bouncy optimism in his voice and has the other Ravens singing in full voice behind him, echoing his lines in the chorus while providing wordless padding on the verses that’s certainly not too demure for rock’s aesthetics.

Yet I’ll be damned if I’d say you’d place it squarely in the rock arena. But then again it’s even less comfortable in pop and if the squalling horns are faintly reminiscent of bandstand jazz that feeling is definitely not being accentuated much.

If anything with its jaunty supper club piano you might call I’m Gonna Take To The Road a cabaret song better suited for a visual performance on stage (Lotte Lenya anyone?) Yet the song was a new one, written for the group by Aaron Schroeder who’d go on to pen seventeen songs for Elvis Presley in the late 50’s and early 60’s, five of which topped the charts.

Like The Ravens who vacillated between pop and rock, so too did Schroeder as he wrote for Perry Como, Rosemary Clooney, Pat Boone and Nat King Cole, but also Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, The Isley Brothers, Lesley Gore and Duane Eddy in the rock field. Maybe his dual interests can best be seen in the fact he produced Gene Pitney’s biggest hits, taking him from the fledgling rock singer he began as and shifting him to a melodramatic pop sound.

That duality is sort of present here, though this is in no way a serious performance, full of angst and turmoil, as it’s a song about somebody chucking responsibility and living life to their fullest, consequences be damned.

But the thing about it is… I don’t really buy The Ravens enthusiasm here, even though I can’t tell you why exactly. They’re singing with an eager joyful tone, not in any way struggling to sell their carefree personas, but it just doesn’t ring true.

Maybe it’s because The Ravens haven’t ventured down this particular road before, their uptempo songs in the past have had much different themes than this so it’s an alien characterization we’re being asked to accept, but that shouldn’t matter much if they hit their marks and aren’t mocking the tune behind their backs.

Yet for whatever reason there’s no authenticity with this. It sounds like a really skilled group working on commission. Who knows, maybe they already knew they were leaving National Records when they cut this in August and the subject matter cut too close to the bone for them. Whatever the case, there’s nothing wrong with the performance, but nothing special beyond the voices themselves.


I’ll Find Happiness, That’s My New Address
Because they were already releasing their first records for Columbia when this came out, there’s always the question of just how much effort went into promoting and distributing this.

Surely National Records would’ve loved to get a hit and make some money, especially since they owned the publishing on it, but to do so would’ve also helped the group that spurned them and a rival label whose success over the past half century made National’s brief flurry of big sellers in the late 1940’s seem like chicken feed.

If they agonized over it, they needn’t have worried, even though most listeners didn’t keep up with who was recording for which label and most of The Ravens fans were far more likely to pick up the familiar blue National label release than one coming out on Columbia for the group, I’m Gonna Take To The Road didn’t move enough copies to soothe the pain over their loss, nor to make that pain worse because they’d soon run out of material if it had been a hit.

But this was what happened all the time in the music business, except usually it was the record companies telling the artists to hit the road rather than the other way around.

Turnabout is fair play I guess.


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