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DECCA 48260; NOVEMBER 1951



In life there are some events that are so cataclysmic they can’t possibly be contained in one bite-sized chunk.

This is why Marvel’s Infinity War was split into two films, it’s why marriages consist of both a wedding AND a honeymoon and why supermarkets create shopping frenzies with their Buy One, Get One Free promotions.

But those impressive two-fers are insignificant next to the power of a boring song at the height of the cover era in popular music and so today, just so we don’t risk leaving anything important out of the story, we bring you the first of not one… not two… but THREE reviews of a song that is a struggle to sit through even once in any rendition.

No need to thank us.


Will Our Dreams Be The Same?
If you take the time to ponder life’s unanswerable questions it is inevitable that eventually you’ll wonder why the record industry at the Mid-Century point was so intent on churning out bland mediocrity that the various labels would trip over themselves to all come up with their own version of the most tedious of songs, such as this one which originated way back in 1927 with Guy Lombardo securing an early hit with it.

Then you see the sales and airplay they got for tunes like Charmaine in the early fifties and you ask another respectful question.

Were people DEAF back then?!?!

There were so many renditions of this song coming out in 1951 that trying to summarize them neatly in the opening section of a single review would be futile and so we’ll try and compartmentalize them and focus on those which relate best to the rock rendition at hand, in this case The Ray-O-Vacs whose demure presentation is closest to the pop ideals of the composition itself.

This shouldn’t be surprising considering the group is on Decca Records, a major label who targets the broadest and least discerning audience possible. That’s not an insult (though it’s not a compliment either) but rather a simple marketing strategy that long ago decided it was best to avoid targeting anyone with strong stylistic tastes because in doing so the fear was you’d cut off those who didn’t share that specific musical outlook.

Thus you get middle of the road performances that will never stir much passion in listeners but also conceivably won’t alienate anyone either.

To that end Decca also released the second most popular version of this song by bandleader Gordon Jenkins which features Bob Carroll’s baritone wading through a morass of syrupy strings while sounding as if the tape is running down making his vocals drag at a lethargic pace.

Vaughn Monroe has an even more sonorous voice than Carroll and while he’s singing at a slightly brisker pace on his cover version on RCA, he comes across as even more overbearing in the process, giving off an air of formality that lays bare the vapid sentiments of the tune as written.

Maybe the most stereotypical early 50’s rendition of Charmaine comes from bandleader Ralph Flanagan which finds vocalist Harry Prime trying to put it across with a fair amount of misplaced pep in his voice that is usually accompanied by a sickly smile borne from embarrassment. If not for the cheery female choir behind him blocking his path, Prime surely would’ve ducked behind a curtain as the band delivers this with a by-the-numbers arrangement that was surely interchangeable with nearly three dozen other songs that came out this same year.

So obviously it won’t be a very high bar for The Ray-O-Vacs to have to clear in order for them to improve upon the widespread futility seen before you.


I Wonder If You Ever Think Of Me Too
Of course just because their competition is lackluster doesn’t mean it will be an easy task for the group to come up with something worthwhile simply due to the contents of the song itself, both melodically and lyrically.

Because this was written back in 1926 the waltzing tempo popular at the time was modified some as the years passed but still retains a dreadfully plodding pace that The Ray-O-Vacs feel most comfortable in, much to their detriment and our dismay.

New lead singer Herbert Milliner is beset with the same stylistic shortcomings as his predecessor Harry Lester was, namely a lackadaisical approach in conveying the emotional contents of the songs. While his voice is okay his choices aren’t, for the most part sticking to a lurching delivery that is devoid of any real emotion.

Even during the best moments when he stretches out much more dramatically than Lester ever managed to do you’ll see there’s a lot of showy technique substituting for genuine feeling. The way his voice soars at the line that we’ve used for the heading of this section suggests burning desire but his vocal passion isn’t quite in sync with the message. He’s expressing words, not sentiments and as a result the listener can’t possibly be invested in him or Charmaine.

But if nothing else it’s still nice to hear a Ray-O-Vacs record show a little more life than most of them have featured over the years, a shortcoming that also besets the musical side of the equation on the majority of their records.

While the group are always exceedingly competent instrumentally, they rarely show much creativity in their arrangements or cut loose with anything that will draw attention on its own. That’s the case here as well, but even if we can’t commend any aspect of their playing we also can’t criticize Chink Kinney’s sax solo much as it at least starts off with an urgent feeling before slipping back into a hazy ambiance that is his stock in trade.

If you’re at all familiar with their oeuvre you certainly won’t be surprised by much on this record, but then again you also won’t cringe at any of it. Since that was the mindset embodied by Decca Records as the aim for all of its artists, then this comfortably meets that rather low standard.


Will You Come Back Again?
We keep thinking there’s got to be a point in The Ray-O-Vacs career when they get tired of this approach, especially because their live act must be an exercise in repetitious monotony wherein all of the songs feature the same tempo, same instrumental vibe, same vocal sluggishness and same ineffectual lyrics.

If the audience doesn’t fall asleep in a dark club while they play it’s only because they’re experiencing the act for the first time, whereas the group itself is going through the paces night after night with no respite to be found in their set list.

If you want to cut them a little slack for jumping on the Charmaine bandwagon, seeing as how they’re beholden to a major label’s worldview where this kind of thing is considered good business, that’s fine but we can’t give them a pass for not trying to at least shake up the performance in a way to make it stand out much from the ninety-seven other versions on the market.

Maybe the group itself is just happy to have jobs that allow them to hold instruments rather than hold a broom and gives them the opportunity to travel and maybe even get a few half-hearted compliments for their work, but by this point listeners who’ve stuck with The Ray-O-Vacs through two lead singers that are mirror images of one another and a dozen singles with the same musical DNA, patience must be wearing thin.


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

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
The X-Rays (November, 1951)
Maxwell Davis (November, 1951)