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DECCA 48181; NOVEMBER 1950



Can something be well done, achieving the very goals someone was aiming for when they attempted it, yet still be a disappointment?

Maybe the better question considering the song topic, can a kiss with the one you really want be… boring?

If so, what exactly do you DO about it?


Beyond Dreams
As we know by now The Ray-O-Vacs are never going to vie for the title of rock’s most exciting group. In fact, their idea of a wild night on the town was probably to swipe some coins from a fountain to put in their parking meter… and the next day they’d go back and pay back the coins they took with interest.

This easy going style was reflected in everything they did on record which tended to make their output rather one dimensional.

Now they were good at this laid back approach which takes some sting out of the repetitiveness, but the more they tried drawing water from the same well the less receptive audiences were going to be.

The flip-side of this, Got Two Arms (Waiting For Me), is cut from the same cloth – both sonically and in terms of Lester Harris’s delivery, and it’s only the racier subtext brought to the table by that slinky saxophone behind Harris’s boasts that elevates it over the designated A-side we’re looking at now, as it gave us something else to consider on that song which may not have even been intended by the group themselves.

With A Kiss In The Dark we don’t even get that mysterious vibe to contemplate, making this a very straightforward declaration of Harris’s love for the girl on the receiving end of that kiss.

No erotic surprises here, kids, but as harmless smooches go this at least sounds enticing, even if we know full well that there was absolutely no tongue, no groping and no clothes being shed once the lights went out.

Just A Lark
Listening to both sides of this record back to back what disturbs you is the similarities in their pacing and instrumental components. This one is slightly more methodical but not nearly enough to set it apart from other song and since the band is using the same techniques on the same instruments – a mellow sax, piano, acoustic bass and light drums – there’s no chance to add anything new to the arrangement.

A Kiss In The Dark does have a fairly nice melodic gait to it, slow but with a bounce in its step, yet once established they don’t deviate from it and Harris’s vocals follow suit, letting the two components alternate but overlap just enough to keep them from distinguishing themselves.

The slow pace of the vocals means that the story doesn’t have quite enough time to give us a lot of twists and turns, though there is an undercurrent of melancholia here as Harris is speaking to his girl about their (presumably) late night lip-lock and is saddened to know that it didn’t mean as much to her as it did to him.

Rather than explore this further though it’s left hanging. He’s convinced that it signifies they’re a perfect couple while she’s forgotten about it entirely by the time he drives off three minutes later and unfortunately the rest of the song doesn’t even address that conflict.

T’was A Thrill
We’ll be glad to address it for them however!

The scenario itself of course is easy enough to follow. They went out on a date, probably their first, and had a decent time. No real sparks, but nothing to complain about. He drops her off, moves in for a kiss with the lights off – I’m positive all four of their feet were firmly on the ground and at best they were just inside her front door rather than the living room – and she consented to a quick kiss… a peck… and he overreacted and thought this meant she was madly in love with him.

Ol’ Lester Harris probably didn’t get around much.

Filling in the blanks of what probably follows A Kiss In The Dark, we have to assume that he called her incessantly, she promptly changed her number… he came to her house with flowers for her, she snuck out the back… he proposed marriage, she fled to another state and changed her name.

That’s a more interesting song, but one totally unsuited to The Ray-O-Vacs and their turn of the century views on romance.

But don’t let it be said this record doesn’t have SOME charm, actually quite a lot, much of it found in the sax solo by Chink Kinney which may not be sultry or suggestive, but which is the textbook definition of “alluring”.

It’s really a style more suited to the War Years and a USO girl dancing in some cabaret with a soldier she’ll never see again, a dance tinged with sadness, mercy and a feeling of trying to hold on to a moment that was never meant to be preserved. Yet it’s so perfectly played, so evocative of the feeling someone has who’s yearning for contentment, that you are almost completely won over by it, wishing it wouldn’t end.

Clearly that is meant to convey the feelings of Harris, who is already picking out wallpaper and naming their children in his mind, but if he was smart he’d have Kinney go play this outside her window to convince the girl that such a future was worth settling down for… or rather “settling for”.

But this is rock ‘n’ roll and girls like that, ones who discarded their chastity belts at 16, have no taste for this old fashioned polite romance and so she’ll leave Lester Harris and his friends to wile away for somebody more their speed.

Kiss Off
While we can criticize the simplistic viewpoints shown here and wish they explored the aftermath of his overreaction to this moment of mild nocturnal bliss once the girl set him straight, it’s really hard to find fault with the performances themselves.

Harris, as always, is measured and sure-footed in his vocal delivery, the band is on the same page and playing with their customary class and restraint. Kinney’s sax solo is superb and worth a point, if not two, on its own, yet as a total package A Kiss In The Dark is nothing more than polite and pleasant.

Some kisses are full of fire, a burning passion that’s ignited as soon as your lips meet for the first time and whose sensuous touch you can still feel days later.

Others are simply meaningless courtesies, something to show mild affection without suggesting anything deeper.

That Lester Harris confused the second for the first is his problem, but luckily we have a lot more experience telling the difference between the two and won’t make the same mistake when grading this.

Sometimes a kiss IS just a kiss and nothing more.


(Visit the Artist page of The Ray-O-Vacs for the complete archive of their records reviewed to date)