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DECCA 48221; JULY 1951



It’s an intriguing title if nothing else… not for what it tells us, but for what it might mean.

“Let’s come up with something new” would be a good way to finish the thought, but we’d settle for “let’s not bore you to tears” or “let’s not try and incite your rage by our weak-ass musical choices”.

We don’t expect those to be the sentiments offered here, so failing any of those here’s another one bound to fit the content, whatever it may be.

“Let’s get this over with as quickly as possible”.


I Don’t Need No Shove
It’s too late to apologize for subjecting you all to an endless stream of Ray-O-Vacs singles which don’t have the courtesy to vary in mood, tempo or in their arrangements, either instrumentally or vocally.

We’re stuck with them though because they had the audacity to kick off their careers with a hit – I’ll Always Be In Love With You which was good, if atypical for rock even then. Maybe had we been more ruthless about drawing the boundaries of the genre we’d have been wise to exclude them, but when it was covered by another group called The X-Rays featuring a prominent rock sax player in Hal Singer, it sort of forced our hand and we let them in and have been paying for it ever since.

That’s not to say ALL of their records have been subpar, they’ve actually had a handful that were interesting and fairly appealing, but for the most part their role here has been to use them as a prime example of how the establishment tried pulling rock further back to timid pop aesthetics once the majors signed up groups like these in their effort to stave off the music’s increasing presence in certain circles.

But our harsh critiques of songs like Let’s (not to spoil the review itself, but you know what you’re in for by now) aren’t a knock on their individual talents, but rather their limited aspirations, though even that is somewhat understandable.

The Ray-O-Vacs were a club act which explains how their music was intended only to keep a stagnant audience satisfied as in these places the entertainment was often secondary to the scene itself. They performed merely to provide atmosphere for what else was going on – dinner, drinks, conversation, flirting and maybe some dancing – but they weren’t singing and playing to actually be noticed by the patrons.

I know that seems strange but in some of these clubs an act who drew too much attention would be shown the door, as it’d change the entire vibe of the place.

So The Ray-O-Vacs learned to play and sing in a demure fashion, they realized it was best to stick to a moderate tempo with an unchanging vocal delivery and the same musical cues from one song to the next without any abrupt changes that would startle you.

In other words their goal was to be benignly tolerated, but politely ignored… and their records were now following suit in that regard.

All Day I’ve Been Dreaming… Which Is Bound To Happen When They Put You To Sleep
As this kicks off with a slightly quicker hiccuping pattern than usual you think this might’ve been a song that would’ve drawn some harsh stares at their usual haunts, but once Lester Harris comes in with that soft and scratchy voice you know it’s just a slight variation, not a major upheaval of their game plan.

Maybe for all we know Let’s was their rousing showstopper, the song to close out a set to ensure some mild applause as they headed to the back where they’d wash the sleep out of their eyes and try and look refreshed when they came back out for the second set.

Somehow I doubt anyone was fooled because in spite of the modest boost in energy this is still a pretty subdued affair but at least the pace allows for the melody to take hold a little more than usual, not that they really take advantage of it since they seem incapable of adjusting their playing style to suit that lurching tempo.

We get the same discreet piano, the same monotonous thumping bass, the same dry drumming and the same wheezy sax playing half notes throughout. It’s the only thing they’re comfortable doing and yet hearing it again – and again – our discomfort grows. It’s like being stuck inside an endless loop, watching the same TV commercial for 12 hours straight, or being locked in a windowless room for a week at a time.

You’d think they’d go crazy and start smashing their instruments in frustration or scream in horror while pulling out their hair, but no, they just keep plugging away, oblivious to the trance they’re putting you under.

Unless maybe that’s their plan… zombifying their audience and then picking their pockets of valuables.

At least that’d break up the evening some. Instead we get to listen to Harris sound exactly the same propositioning a lady as he sounded on the top side moaning about being left by a different girl. It’s hard to tell what he’s really feeling when he never changes expressions and even harder to actually care about.


Let’s… Get Outta Here!
As a result of this, who can blame us for giving most of their records the exact same grade? It’s the exact same arrangement, only the words change.

Speaking of which Let’s never forget that the major record companies of the day had an affinity for bland music. Maybe it was easier to control because there was never any sudden stylistic shifts to contend with. Maybe it was a government plot to keep the populace docile so there was no social unrest. Or maybe someone in charge actually liked dozing off to the records they put out.

This gets the job done in that regard just fine, which is the most praise we can muster for it. Music to fall asleep to.

Yeah, you’re right, now that you mentioned it, we probably should’ve used better judgment than to let them in here in the first place. We already knew what unexciting music we were revolting against to begin with, so rock didn’t need them around to keep reminding us after all.


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