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Normally when a song comes along that will become more famous in a later version we try not to mention it as we’d rather not look ahead.

The whole point of this website is to chart the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll in the moment, as it happens, not as it will eventually happen down the road. Besides, we’ll get to those subsequent versions in due time and it always is good to have something to look forward to.

Occasionally however there are extenuating circumstances to consider and this record and the tangled story behind it definitely qualifies in that regard.

But if you’d rather not read about the original until we get to the remake of the song by a former member of this group that will become a big hit later on, feel free to bookmark this review to go back and read when we reach 1955.

In case you want to mark that day on your upcoming calendar, then I’d say based on our somewhat accelerated pace around here we should be getting to that record sometime in… ohh… 2027 I think.

But then again if you’re too impatient to wait…


Although I’ve Done You Wrong
This is the final time we’ll be seeing The Sultans who unfortunately had only the one recording session for Jubilee in early 1951 and saw their debut come out that spring while this, their second and last single, was inexplicably held back for nearly a year.

That the two sides we’ve covered prior to this have both been very good (the third was their attempt at pop, the less of which we say, the better), which makes their all-too short career as a group that much more disheartening.

Anyway, The Sultans came from North Carolina and had begun as a gospel group – The Selah Jubilee Singers – before moving into rock ‘n’ roll like the nearby Larks. Two of that group had even started off in the Selah Jubilee Singers, as did another singer named Napoleon “Nappy” Brown.

Brown’s cousin was Clyde Wright who recruited him into the group. When they switched over to rock rock ‘n’ roll and changed their name to The Sultans, they worked up songs that would be appropriate for their new style and the decidedly secular direction they were now set to record in, one of which was Don’t Be Angry, written by Wright.

By the time they recorded the song however Brown had left the group, but clearly he had been around while they’d rehearsed it – and since nobody seemed to remember the full name of the guy who replaced him, only that it was Clarence something or other, that shows you just how short-lived the professional career of The Sultans was… a matter of days rather than years.

Wright himself never even was aware their four song session had been released, as he’d been drafted into the Army in 1951 soon after they cut the songs, but four years later, now a member of the legendary gospel group The Golden Gate Quartet with whom he remained for a half century, he couldn’t help but be aware when Brown cut this same song as a solo record and had a huge hit with it – albeit changing the arrangement considerably, from the ballad it began as here to a rollicking uptempo song.

Wright’s name was nowhere to be found in the writing credits, but Brown’s was. Maybe neither of them had gotten to the part about “Thou Shall Not Steal” in that book gospel singers tend to reference all the time and so despite this theft Wright didn’t sue his cousin and Savoy Records over the song.

If he had done so however, it’d be hard for any judge or jury in the land not to see that this is where that song originated.


Give Me One More Chance
We should be fair and grant Jubilee Records this much credit… for all of their ineptness in withholding The Sultans second release as long as they did, they were smart enough to pair ballads with uptempo cuts on both of their singles, allowing everyone who bought either one of them to see the full range of the group’s abilities.

If you were around in 1952 when this came out you’d never envision that it could be done so successfully when sped up with an almost unhinged vocal attached to it as Brown would later do, because The Sultans here are the picture of control and moderation.

The melody here is delectable, slowly unfurling like a ribbon, each note being held to maximize its impact. The voices are exquisite as all five of them take turns on lead in what stands as one of the better trade-offs in rock so far, flowing into one another naturally rather than jumping haphazardly between them.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the purity of the voices themselves and let yourself be carried away by the melody that you may not even think to focus on the equally strong story which is presented here as a plea rather than as a protest as Brown re-imagined it.

As must be clear with a title like Don’t Be Angry they’re trying to make up with a girl they were involved with (maybe she’s mad they all took turns with her!) and while these kind of hat-in-hand apologies can come off as mawkish if you’re not careful, the way in which they take their time, as if they’re being sure to find the right words to say while using the hesitation between lines to convey their uncertainty and concern, makes it sound completely sincere.

They manage to sidestep any pop connotations outside of the hint of it on the piano lead-in and higher vocal fade to close it out, but even those are sort of ambiguous stylistically. While there’s little more than just instrumental shadings behind them for the duration of the song their wordless harmonies fill in the sound and the tentative climb on piano to mark the transitions is a deceptively catchy little hook to throw in.

The entire record seems fragile as a result. Their hopes are tinged with the fear that this mea culpa and promise for devotion, protection and happiness if they should get back together may not be enough to win her over. Whereas Brown’s later solo effort was in effect laying the blame at the girl’s feet for overreacting to whatever problems arose between them, The Sultans take responsibility without merely begging for her forgiveness.

They seem to sense she overreacted too – hey, it happens in love, where strong emotions are concerned there’s always bound to be some self-inflicted turbulence – but they know that challenging her on it to prove a point won’t solve anything and so they offer just enough humble rectitude to pacify her… and in the process offer more than enough musical beauty to satisfy all but the most hard-hearted of listeners.


Please Let Me Stay
Groups like this who didn’t make an impact commercially or influentially are destined to be quickly erased from the account of rock’s deep and murky past.

More than most The Sultans, by virtue of having just two singles with nary a photograph of them together and no hits to their credit, are particularly at risk for this fate as they were probably known only by a small and ever shrinking fan base of ancient doo wop aficionados who are dying off by the day.

But the music they made can still be heard and as long that remains a possibility great records like Don’t Be Angry still have the power to turn heads long after they should’ve been forgotten.

Not that this is going to be relevant even a week from now, but this review is going up as the last one before a short break for the holidays which was an intentional choice because the entire hope of this impractical project is to re-expose every record, the good and the bad, that went into making rock ‘n’ roll the cultural force it has been for seventy-five years and counting.

This is one that slipped through the cracks then and has been mostly ignored since, but it’s as good as human beings gathered around a microphone singing can possibly sound and as such makes for a great Christmas present for any music fan to discover for the first time.

If those readers can in turn tip someone else off to songs like this, that’d make an even better – if belated – Christmas gift for The Sultans who never got to unwrap a single present for their efforts at the time.


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