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Coming down the home stretch in 1951, four full years into rock ‘n’ roll, we’ve had more than enough time to separate the wheat from the chaff as they say when it comes to artists.

Some acts are constantly seeking to capture your attention with records designed to surprise and excite you in equal measure. Other artists are simply trying to keep your attention by repeating a successful formula, not wanting to offer anything not already given the stamp of approval by the public.

The Ray-O-Vacs would appear to belong to the second category, a group who succeeded out of the gate with a laconic vocal style backed by their warm combo playing, efficient rather than proficient.

But in fact they’ve done this so often that they’ve slipped into a third category… that of artists who are now losing your attention by putting you to sleep with their mind-numbing repetition.


Just Leave It Alone
One of the more gruesome sayings that has entered into the collective consciousness of man is the term “beating a dead horse”, which refers to the practice of doing something repeatedly until there’s absolutely nothing left to be gotten out of it.

As of late we can’t help but wonder if that expression was conjured up with The Ray-O-Vacs in mind. If we find out they were avid equestrians with a sadistic streak in them there’d be no doubt, but even without that definitive proof we’ve got plenty of evidence they were the models for this colloquialism, at least when it came to music, because of their repeated attempts to issue the same exact record under a different title for going on three years now.

Okay, so the lyrics DO change along with the titles each time out, and I suppose the melodies are altered enough to avoid plagiarism, but if you’re listening to What’s Mine Is Mine I defy you off the top of your head to describe the differences between this and any of the previous half dozen releases they’ve had.

But rather than simply re-post the same review we’ll attempt to break down its failings using new and more colorful adjectives for your reading pleasure.

I Try To Do Good
I suppose we can start with a conditional mild compliment before skewering the group for their voluminous offenses by saying that the saxophone intro by Chink Kinney sounds pretty decent with its lazy gait and slightly buzzy tone.

Of course it also sounds remarkably similar to a dozen other sax lines he’s churned out and so while the overall effect is okay, it’s not anything new and asking us to plunk down more money for the same old thing is rather cheeky of them.

From there the similarities to past “glories” abound. Lead singer Lester Harris’s stuffy baritone emerges from its slumber, still yawning and stretching as his feet hit the floor, singing with the same ambling pace as always, rising and falling with predictable regularity, like a man snoring.

Oh wait, that describes the listener too, doesn’t it? Well, just to keep things straight, Harris is the one in the suit and tie.

The story of What’s Mine Is Mine is about the only thing that can be said to have some life to it, as Harris is insisting as firmly as he can with such a mellow delivery that he’ll object to anyone moving in on his girl. He hardly sounds as if he’s going to back up his statements with a show of force, but considering we weren’t sure he was conscious for the last few recording sessions, this at least proves he’s got a pulse.

Beyond the set-up itself the lines he’s using are fairly redundant by design, there’s no conflict presented outside his vivid imagination that has him believing others are looking to hit on his girl, and so there’s no resolution either… a trifecta of eternal boredom.

Of course the music has the same ambiance as always, the kind of thing heard in a dark smokey club that easily blends into the conversation and the clinking of glasses. Kinney’s sax solo might get you to glance at the stage, but won’t get you out of your seat, though by this point they might prefer that you remain seated because if you get up the natural assumption will be that you’re leaving the club altogether to go play in traffic.


What’s Wrong Is Wrong
You’d think that just once before their career is in the books The Ray-O-Vacs might want to try to cut a livelier song, maybe not something that they’re hanging on for dear life as they go careening around the curves at 80 MPH, but at least a record where they can get out of first gear.

Early on they at least had some interesting material thrown in and maybe added a few wrinkles to make it seem innovative, but as time’s gone on they’ve gotten more conservative and doubled down on the same components on both sides of each release and as a result they have nothing much to show for it.

With that in mind maybe the best thing about What’s Mine Is Mine is the title, as they’re owning up to this image and claiming it for themselves, seemingly unaware that nobody else in rock ‘n’ roll would want to be saddled with it.

Maybe if you’re being exceedingly generous you can say they’ve perfected this approach, as at least their records have a very consistent quality to them… no missed entrances, no sloppy playing, no cracked vocals…

But that consistency also manifests itself with the same draggy tempo, the same somnolent vocals and the same need for their audience to consume prodigious amounts of caffeine to keep you awake until the end.

One more thing that consistency assures them of is it’ll get the same middling score in the end.


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