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APOLLO 1166; JUNE 1950



It probably goes without saying, but singing is tough.

Not just is it somewhat rare to have a good enough voice to display it on record, but even for those who have the natural ability to do so, there’s the technical side that remains a constant struggle to master.

Judgement on what constitutes good singing however shouldn’t be at such a premium, especially in the record industry, where the ability to discern what’s got aesthetic appeal and commercial potential would seem to be a prerequisite to succeeding in this business.

Unfortunately that’s not always the case and too many records which should’ve been held back or done over because they’d missed their mark, instead are too often issued in spite of their obvious flaws.


I Won’t Believe You
Having just thoroughly praised The Rivals for their all-around stellar vocal performance on the flip-side of this record it’s rather awkward to have to turn right around and focus on their shortcomings in the same departments on this side of that single.

But it’s also instructive to be able to do so, just to show how the lack of critical judgement is more to blame here than their own shaky performance as this was something that perhaps could’ve been corrected by simply assigning it to somebody else in the group because the song itself was serviceable for their purposes.

Aside from the names and vocal parts of the personnel we have no additional information to go on when it comes to the group’s abilities… bass singer Ira Mumford who handled the lead on the tremendous Rival Blues, joined by first tenor Chandler Tribble, second tenor Booker T. Weeks, and baritone Johnny Smith who I’ve seen written was the usual lead and is apparently is taking the reins on this song… much to its detriment.

You can say that the choice of leads is what’s wrong with Don’t Say You’re Sorry Again, but you could also chalk it up to the more deliberate pace the song has which seems to result in some uncertainty in how to handle this which in turn undermines the confidence the others have in their roles, something that had been such a strong point for them on the top side track.

Then again, there’s also the fact that the song requires a bit more range than any one of them seems comfortable handling by themselves and while the upper register that (presumably) Smith begins each line with isn’t awful by any means, it’s clearly something he’s got to fixate on to pull it off smoothly and when he drops back down the descending title phrase (misspelled on the label, as they apparently aren’t aware of the difference between your and you are… though at least the ads got it right), that’s where the trouble begins.

Of course it’s possible that it’s actually Mumford singing lead throughout, but if so it’s hard to believe because where he struggles most is in the bass range, as the tempo is too drawn out for him to ride comfortably and as a result he’s tentative in his delivery, robbing the lyrics of whatever impact they might have because he’s being so careful in how he sings them. It becomes an unnatural performance, stilted and awkward for him which in turn makes it uncomfortable for us to try and immerse ourselves in.

If That’s What You Want
Once you hear him struggle to adjust on the studio floor the producer should’ve stopped the take, came out into the room and had an informal confab with the guys to see if this was something they routinely did on stage and find out if the others might handle it better.

The song as written requires this parachute drop delivery, the high to low progression forms the cornerstone of the melody, so your options were decidedly limited.

Maybe the best bet would’ve been to split the chores up to let each take the part that suits them even though it’d mean some tricky switching off in the middle of lines and could’ve come across as gimmicky even if they’d managed to do it smoothly.

But had they worked at it and had Tribble handle the higher opening while the others joined in one at a time, moving closer to the microphone as Tribble moved back as the line progresses to give a natural blend as it also shifted the focus from one member to the next, ending with them all harmonizing on the conclusion of the line perhaps with Mumford only adding a wordless hum to give it a suitable bottom, it might’ve worked… or blown up in your face!

As it is they chose the simplest solution and as a result Don’t Say You’re Sorry Again comes up decidedly short, especially when compared to the near perfect performance on the top side, which I’m sure Apollo Records hoped might distract listeners from the flaws found here.

But the lead vocal is hardly its only problem, as the more languid pace further undermines their backing parts by giving them just bland “OOOHS” for much of the track. It’s doesn’t sound bad, but it’s hardly is adding anything to alleviate the pressure on the lead as it just sort of lays there and plays dead for much of the song.

When they DO get a chance to step out on their own however they sound fine, Tribble’s higher voice is crystal clear and has a nice natural vibrato to it even though he’s suffering slightly from the Maithe Marshall effect in that he’s over-enunciating his lines to give it more of a pop sheen which of course was the downfall of many a Ravens track, all of which shows that there still no consensus on just how to pull these things off without a hitch.

I’ve Heard You Say It Before
Okay, so now that we’ve picked apart the vocals to within an inch of their life, how about the content of the song itself? If they HAD figured out a more compatible lead for the record, would the material had held up and served to reinforce the positive impression they made earlier, or would it too have fallen short and been ill-suited for their case as rock prospects?

Well, the answer is it probably would’ve been pretty neutral… it surely isn’t a great composition that can stand as something worthwhile on its own, but it’s also not totally without merit either.

As you can probably tell by the title Don’t Say You’re Sorry Again puts The Rivals in the position of having been done wrong in romance and at least gives them the backbone to voice their displeasure with the circumstances.

Yet just showing disgust is not the same as walking out the door and not coming back and here’s where they tend to lose us because of their willingness to swallow their pride and self-respect, presumably because the roll in the hay they’re getting every once in awhile is something none of them can conceive they’d be able to get from a different, more kindhearted, girl.

Right there you see the conflict a dyed in the wool rock fan would have in appreciating this record, even with a stronger lead vocal. The perspective is just not something that you want to embrace. Even if you can identify with their plight because the same has happened to you, your empathy will be offset by your natural reluctance to admit you’re used to being treated like a doormat by someone you loved.

On the other hand if you’ve been consistently on equal footing with your partners then while in a theoretical sense you might have some sympathy for those who haven’t, in the rough and tumble real world you aren’t likely to have much tolerance for their lack of a spine in dealing with it by merely asking this girl to behave more generously to them with the vague warning that someday down the road it might become too much for them to take and THEN she’ll be sorry when they finally walk out on her.

Sure, Jan, let us know when that happens.

So while the plot does have a believable quality to it and the lines themselves in that context are perfectly suitable, there’s just not much emotional attachment you can build up for such pushovers as these four ineffectual men.

You’ll Be Sorry Someday
Despite its many misfires there’s still a glimmer of competence you can hear from The Rivals in this… and that’s without the knowledge of how good they could be in their element when a song and its arrangement were more ideally crafted to play to their strengths.

But if Don’t Say You’re Sorry Again was the first you heard of them, it’s doubtful you’d go out searching for more without a stronger recommendation than simply “they sound as if they might have a clue of what they’re doing”.

As a result this was a song that better explains their lack of future opportunities, and if Apollo Records themselves were guilty of using this uninspiring take as their way to measure their long term potential it’s no wonder they never seriously vied with the stronger independent labels when it came to conquering rock… or even just carving out a more indelible niche as a great imprint in the smaller vocal group realm.

They’d do okay in the long run, but if they had been more on the ball then maybe The Rivals would’ve been a group we’d get to meet again rather than seeing them fade into oblivion once this release came and went without a trace.


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