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KING 4533; MAY 1952



Usually we criticize artists who double down on the same basic approach on two sides of a single.

That spells trouble for The Swallows because here we have another tentative ballad with a Junior Denby lead and minimal accompaniment, meaning that there wasn’t necessarily going to be a lot to separate one side from another. If ballads weren’t your thing, or if Denby’s nasal voice grated on your nerves, then you’d be stuck with nothing you wanted to hear very much from your investment.

Yet flip sides CAN have another benefit to them even if the material or performance is rather redundant and that is to give the artist a writing credit on the back of somebody else’s composition.

That means little to the listener perhaps, but at least part of the 80 cents they plunked down for this is going to the guy who wrote and sang lead on it rather than in somebody else’s pocket and considering how much they got ripped off most of the time, surely you can contribute a few pennies to their retirement fund, can’t you?


I Never Dreamed
Junior Denby was actually a fairly prolific songwriter, especially for the era when most vocal groups subsisted on outside contributions.

We recently looked at a Sonny Til co-write on The Orioles latest release, Waiting and whether the quality of that record was due to his emotional investment in the performance of a song he had something to do with or not, the end result was it was better than a lot of the material they had pushed on them by someone else.

Denby’s contributions to The Swallows oeuvre were considerable, giving them their lone hit, Beside You, along with some of their more revered sides, but with Denby going into the service just a week after this was cut, there’s a perverse logic in including two of his compositions – both with him on lead – on one single.

If I Only Have Eyes For You became a hit (a song he obviously did not write), you’d think that King Records would want another Denby led song in the pipeline to release next. Yet maybe they were thinking that the group would get a replacement who would become identifiable in his own right, or that Eddie Rich, who sang lead on their first few sides, would reclaim that position and score hits making Denby’s leads seem out of place.

Regardless of their thought process – assuming they had one, which is far from a sure thing – You Walked In is indeed a pretty stellar composition by Denby, painting a detailed picture of falling in love and having his heart broken in the process, told with a reflective wistfulness.

Unfortunately Denby’s strengths as a songwriter don’t include finding a tempo he was more suited to sing in order to mask his greatest detriment, that nasal delivery of his which can’t help but detract a little from the impact of what he’s telling us.


Here You Are
When The Swallows began it was Eddie Rich who was the group’s primary lead vocalist and while he too sang through his nostrils more than is recommended, at least it was in a higher range which offsets that malady just a bit.

In fact though, they had multiple guys who could handle the job depending on the song. Bass singer Bunky Mack handled the lead on the suggestive It Ain’t The Meat, and the idea of having multiple lead singers in a vocal group was usually a good one. Though that would mean their records might not be as singularly identifiable as say the Four Seasons were with the “sound of Frankie Valli” out front on every side, it did ensure that you had a more diverse sound with different vocalists bringing different strengths to the table suitable for each type of song.

But what’s curious is that when it came to The Swallows producer Henry Glover suddenly began to focus entirely on Junior Denby to carry all of the group’s songs, not just the ones he wrote.

What Glover reportedly saw in Denby was a Charles Brown like quality, which is sort of understandable since Brown was one of the biggest stars in black music at this time, but it’s also perplexing considering Brown sang cocktail blues which was pretty far away from rock vocal groups.

Maybe he thought that the harmonies of The Swallows would give these songs the ability to reach both markets, but that wasn’t the case. On You Walked In the choice to let Denby lead it gives the song a vibe that tips off the ending in a way that might undercut the great storytelling devices he employs.

As the song starts amidst some intriguing guitar which immediately distances it from the flip side, Denby is recounting the story of how he and this girl met which is beautifully evocative in how it concludes the first stanza with the title line as the payoff.

Yet thanks to his vocal limitations he already sounds brokenhearted… which he WAS of course, as he’s singing this after the fact, but we don’t know that as it plays. We think it’s the story of two people blissfully in love, especially as he goes on by saying how happy he is to be “holding her near”… present tense.

But then he fast-forwards “through the years” and he informs us the relationship is over and he’s miserable. Though the images he brings to life remain really strong and certainly there is a believability in how events and emotions blur together when thinking back to such a drastic swing in your life, the effectiveness of it as a song is weakened by the fact there’s nothing to mark the transition.

The way it’s presented is almost designed to be misleading but that’s a hard thing to remedy with a voice as limited as his (nasal baritones always sound on the verge of tears). Because of this he needed to get this “before and after” premise across better in how its structured lyrically, whether added another word to denote it was well in the past early on, or to take some of the wasted space in the middle of it, where he barely gets out three words in a minute, to add an instrumental passage that can be used to suggest time has moved on.

Because he doesn’t, and because the others are relatively quiet on the subject themselves, just humming unobtrusively behind him, we have a well written song that’s not quite all it could be.


Friends Often Say, Gee Ain’t It A Shame
Reviewing anything artistic requires constantly recalibrating your perceptions based on factors which change as time passes… a perfectly good record for 1950 is no longer as acceptable in the 1952 marketplace, just as a song that fits in this year won’t be nearly as relevant in 1956. That’s one reason why this is done chronologically, not just the reviews themselves but just listening to the records in tight era-confined context while reviewing them to keep mentally focused on the time.

But sometimes trying to come up with “fixes” to those records which fall short, even for obvious reasons, is just as frustrating.

You Walked In works better on paper than it does on record, yet the normal solutions don’t seem to apply here.

Usually we’d say to drop an inappropriate pop or blues or jazz inflected part, but there are none so that’s not applicable here. We’d suggest adding or subtracting certain instruments or vocal parts, but that might just be a band-aid solution. Changing lead vocalists might strengthen one aspect but detract from another.

There’s no easy fix, but maybe the most radical idea would come closest to solving it and that would be to speed the tempo, adding appropriate musical and vocal flourishes in the process, making the music sound upbeat which would give more of a euphoric rush to the meet and fall in love section, yet would also make the pain of the breakup more profound because then the anguish in Denby’s voice is playing off something that doesn’t mirror his feelings, drawing attention to the change.

It works well most times it’s tried, but because we’ve never heard the ballad-oriented Swallows on that kind of approach it becomes almost too hard to envision and for all we know it might sink like a stone.

So we’re stuck with a record with obvious flaws which don’t entirely negate its strengths, but still taints your reception of it which means this is bound to be largely passed over.


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