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When making the decision on which side of this single to cover first we went with the B-side.

That’s not a big deal unto itself, unless you’re truly pedantic about these things, but it might seem a curious choice to make since the other side presented The Royals debuting an entirely new approach, one that would go on to define them in the years to come once it was streamlined and polished to perfection.

Wouldn’t then it make more sense to start with this side instead, showing their tranquil past that was soon to be swept aside to make way for a more raucous future?

Normally, yes… for anyone but us that is. But fear not, for while we don’t always follow the predictable game plan around here, there’s usually a good reason for it that hopefully will become clearer as we dive in.


Love’s Flame Is Dying Out
So far The Royals have no national hits to show for a string of excellent records in this tender ballad style.

Their last release, Moonrise, did do quite well regionally in places like Philadelphia, and with only 10-15 spots on the national charts that was surely a record which sold enough to be considered a legitimate medium-sized hit if the prevailing methods for determining such things at the time were a little more wide-ranging.

But because technically speaking their returns on this style were underwhelming compared to their labelmates The Dominoes, who were single-handedly carrying Federal Records commercially at this point, you may assume that this is where we’ll claim that the group were on the right track with the uptempo I’ll Never Let Her Go, but simply needed to refine their approach a little and consequently that song deserved to be presented first to acknowledge their smart decision to shake things up by exploring entirely new horizons.

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth!

The fact is, this style which found Charles Sutton’s breathy high tenor thoughtfully voicing his inner-most feelings to the world in tentative fashion, as if he weren’t sure doing so was proper, still had plenty of mileage left in it… provided the songs themselves were of the utmost quality.

Unfortunately for The Royals – though maybe fortunately for Hank Ballard who got his chance down the road because of this – their best songs of this type had already been put to wax, released with the highest of hopes and fallen short of the brass ring.

Because of that A Love In My Heart can’t help but pale in comparison to what came before it, mimicking, but not living up to any of the qualities that made those other cuts stand out. Yes, it’s still a nice record that’s beautifully sung and tastefully arranged, but it’s clearly not a special song in the way the others were.

It’s a junior varsity composition called up to varsity where naturally it’s a little hesitant once it checks into the game. It understands the action on the field just fine, but the record is just too conscious of their movements rather than letting instinct take over so they can keep up with the better songs that have already earned that varsity letter.

I’ve Got That Feeling… No, Think Again
If you’ve been listening to their singles as they’ve come along, there’s a sense of repetitiveness you get upon hearing this which is rather disconcerting.

Everything here sounds too familiar. The glacial pace is the same as they’ve featured in the past, as is the accompanying halting lead of Charles Sutton. The quirky arrangement with the delicate celesta as the key aural touch is carried over from their other releases as well. The wordless harmonizing of the other Royals is similarly not making any real adjustments from past game plans, and even the bridge being sung by Henry Booth is not unusual in any way.

That’s not a good sign of course, you want artists to evolve… though surely some of their fans felt they took that adage a bit TOO far on the B-side. But even if it’s a bit troubling, it’s still not a deal-killer by any means, provided the song itself has something new and compelling about it to offset the sense of déjà vu that you get from the overall sound of the record being offered up.

This is where A Love In My Heart falls short. Though the melody itself sounds fairly nice as it plays, it’s not instantly captivating by any means. You may be able to remember it just enough to hum back to yourself five minutes later, but after talking to the girl sitting next to you on the bus, good luck trying to dredge it back up when you get off at your stop and walk the last block home.

Without finding other new ways to make an impression on you it means the potential appeal of the record is resting largely on the story (one which we can surmise by the title alone so there’s doubtless no surprises waiting) and the clever wordplay of the individual lines attached to it.

Sure enough, upon inspection this is pretty generic stuff, even though none of the lyrics are particularly bad unto themselves, unless you count the redundancy of “I’m beginning to start…”.

As a result of the unimaginative sentiments though Sutton’s placed in the unenviable position of pleading to his girlfriend, whose interest in him is waning, to stick around anyway without even attempting to make a compelling argument as to why she should, or for that matter to at least offer up a more impassioned declaration of burning desire and undying love to convince her he’s worth it.

What choice does the girl have? I’m sure she feels guilty as she’s planning her exit because it’s obvious he’s not a bad guy, he really does care for her and he may not have even done anything wrong per say, but he’s also not stirring any powerful feelings in her when they’re together and without that she knows he’s not the one.

That’s always the risk with these kind of songs… something The Orioles have learned time and time again… and that is when you’re so timidly lovestruck over a girl that your whole happiness depends upon your being together, what’s in it for HER? Is she just some object of affection that you dutifully worship? That may sound lovely in theory, but not if you want this romance to actually work. To do that she’s got to be made to feel that YOU’RE the center of HER universe and you can’t do that if you’re always just basking in the warmth of her sun.

Ideally Sutton should wind up with a girl who has never experienced a real relationship before, someone who has almost given up on this sort of thing, convinced that love is just sales pitch devised by candy-makers and greeting card companies to abscond with her money. With somebody like that his sweet and sincere devotion would be much better received and she’d be grateful for every moment of attention, no matter how docile and fawning it was.

But any girl who knows her worth, knows she’s worth more than a pretty song that’s pretty forgettable in the end.


If We Could Live Not Far Apart
I don’t want to read TOO much into the failure of this song and lay the blame?credit?… well, let’s just say might possibly be the cause of their ensuing change in direction at its feet, but it is telling that The Royals next session found the lead vocal duties split down the middle with Charles Sutton taking two and Hank Ballard taking the other two.

Maybe it was just Ballard’s personality asserting itself. It could also be he was becoming a more prolific songwriter and since he wrote those two cuts, he felt he should sing them. Or perhaps Sutton was just being magnanimous.

But I guarantee you one thing, if A Love In My Heart had been a better song and allowed Sutton to reveal some emotional vitality rather than romantic servitude, then I’m not entirely convinced that we’d be headed in the same stylistic direction with these guys down the road.

The unremitting truth in music is that you need to progress in some way each time out in order to control your own destiny going forward and for Charles Sutton and this type of fragile musical package The Royals were using, this effort was a definite step backwards.

Still nice enough to enjoy in passing, but not anything that demanded our attention.

By contrast, even though it was a weaker overall side, Hank Ballard just showed he instinctively knew how to get our attention and would continue hone that approach until he kept our attention for good… and that my friends is the reason why we started with that side instead of this one.


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