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KING 4466; AUGUST 1951



Two years ago a new act on rock’s vocal group scene would’ve practically had an open field in which to run. The sound of a couple of guys harmonizing was already a cornerstone of rock ‘n’ roll thanks to The Ravens and Orioles, but just two groups, no matter how popular – especially two with such different and distinct styles as they – could hardly corner the entire market on those records and so had The Swallows been around back then, their stock would’ve soared.

But in 1951 there was a glut of vocal groups all vying for attention and while most of them were immensely talented, there was still a limit to how many artists representing one rock subgenre could capture the attention of the broader fan base when there was so many to choose from.

All of which is to say that just because you’re good doesn’t mean you’ll always be recognized for it at a time when it was all too easy to be lost in the shuffle.


Won’t Let The Sun Come Out Again
Time has been slightly more kind to the legacy of The Swallows than the charts were at the time.

Though their debut, Will You Be Mine, was a well deserved hit – actually it had yet to make the national listings when this follow-up was released – they’d score just one more hit after that over the course of their career.

Since the classic lineup had their final session for the label in March 1953 their records were well in the rear view mirror when rock started to cross over to white audiences a year after that and so they didn’t start to get broader exposure – if you can call it that – until early crate diggers unearthed their classic King sides of this era, attracted to their vocal fragility on ballads and racier material on some uptempo numbers.

Yet without that one transcendent side, particularly when it comes to their specialty ballads, to act as a magnet for rediscovery, The Swallows have been relegated to sort of a forgotten status everywhere but the vocal group cult whose numbers are rapidly diminishing due to the inevitability of age and time.

Because they were so good however, what any rock fan wanting to ensure that they get proper credit winds up looking for are a song or two that might act as a rallying point for collective re-evaluation.

Since You’ve Been Away shows signs that it could be just such a song at times… but then at other times you want to quietly slip it back on the shelf, hoping that nobody noticed you took it down in the first place.

Of course maybe that helps to explain The Swallows problem with getting more recognition over the years… their work could be startlingly beautiful and somewhat sloppy within the same performance.


Tears On My Pillow I Weep
Although lead singer Eddie Rich has a voice that may sound unusual when this starts up (he was sort of Little Anthony of The Imperials before Anthony Gourdine had grown up enough to even be little) once you orient yourself to his unique slightly nasal tone that at times is closer to a soprano than a tenor with that “metallic” sheen to it which gives it such a distinctive shimmering quality, it’s hard not to be captivated by him those first few lines.

The melody is beautiful, the backing vocals are sublime and the lyrics are ambitiously poetic, far more so than most songs of any style in 1951 as it uses vivid descriptions of the sky as an analogy for his love leaving him.

But then it falters just a little in the crevices of the song. For starters there’s the fact that the melody drops a little too awkwardly for Rich to handle smoothly with his vocals. Henry Glover, who wrote and produced this, throws an extra word in each time through that clearly crosses Rich up – “sunny day” the first time around and “again to stay” – which makes it sound far too clunky.

Drop the words “sunny” and “again” from the song and he’d be able to slide down the scale naturally instead of having to do a stutter step along the way. It’s not Rich’s fault, that’s just bad writing from a musician of Glover’s caliber.

Then there’s the bridge of Since You’ve Been Away which is handled by bass Bunky Mack who was really good on other songs from this April session, but here is mostly lost. You know they were trying for a dramatic contrast between Rich’s high voice and Mack’s low tone, but it’s not the kind of song for him to be haltingly delivering these lines, they require a more soulful ache where the melody doesn’t drop out as much as it does here. Junior Denby’s baritone might’ve been the better choice for this duty.

Of course it’s also not helped by the fact that the backing vocals during this section are a little spotty as well, as if the other Swallows were freelancing rather than having worked out the blend to perfection.

But wait a minute, this is making the record out to be some kind of discombobulated mess when in fact it’s anything but that. Rich’s primary lead is excellent, the tenderness in his voice is disarming and if he stumbles ever so slightly on a line such as ”dear lord up above” – another extra word (“up”) does him no favors here either – and jumps the gun on the last line when he comes in too soon on the word “since”, he more than makes up for it every time he’s asked to go up and hold the final notes before downshifting again which shows a light touch even at full volume.

As for the arrangement it’s very sparse with a semi-acoustic guitar getting a little too frisky at times, though Sonny Thompson’s piano fares much better adding just enough color to give it something different to catch your eye, but mainly this is relying on those backing vocals to carry the load. If their discipline tends to come and go along the way showing some inexperience or nervousness on their part, when they nail it – as they do with that almost choir-like close – they can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.


All I Do Both Night And Day
While this is not quite the lost classic that should serve as their calling card to the uninitiated, it IS a good testament to their abilities overall… abilities that were not yet fully polished in case you forgot.

This was their first session and although Glover had auditioned them months earlier and thus knew their style fairly well, he hadn’t yet acquired the comfortable familiarity that can only be gotten through long hours in the studio trying different things and fine-tuning performances, re-writing songs to smooth over their weak points and accentuating their strengths.

Yet for a group and producer who were just getting acquainted, Since You’ve Been Away is a really nice record, certainly something that has you wanting to hear more from them. They obviously can all sing, their backing vocals – as was the case for this second generation of rock vocal groups – were much more pronounced than that of The Orioles giving them a fuller sound with more options to draw from, and though this song wasn’t one of their own creations, it was a good story with some poignant lyrics.

Still though, the search for a truly flawless performance from top to bottom that would tout their credentials and maybe belatedly elevate from also-ran status in the history books, continues.


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