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OKEH 6853; JANUARY 1952



“Finally”, you say to say to yourself upon seeing this single hit the market, “the most rambunctious group of musical agitators on the scene are going to dive headlong into rock ‘n’ roll and show everybody how it’s done. It’s about time!”


No… C’mon, is that really our expectation? I mean, these guys – as intriguing as they’ve been to date – haven’t exactly been a reliable source for delivering the perfect rock attitude so far.

Rock energy? Sure, absolutely. But that snarling, feral aggressiveness that has defined the entire genre from the beginning? No, not yet they haven’t.

So maybe this will be like their coming out party.

Or maybe it’ll be Exhibit A in our presentation on the need for Truth In Advertising laws when it comes to song titles in rock ‘n’ roll.


Man It Really Moves.. But Which Way?
Okay, let’s start with this… The Treniers were a very important group in rock’s early evolution. Their showmanship on stage was unrivaled, they had two equally skilled frontmen in twins Claude and Cliff Trenier, a top notch band and an irreverent sense of humor which could be a welcome respite from more serious fare at times.

All of this enabled them to make inroads into mainstream popular culture that wasn’t afforded any of the other rock acts in the first half dozen years of the genre and while we can definitely debate whether letting proper society present them – and by extension rock itself – as a gimmicky novelty was worth the trade-off for exposure, one look at The Treniers bouncing around the stage as if possessed by caffeine swilling demons should put to rest any thought of people finding rock harmlessly acceptable after encountering these guys.

But on record it’s been a different story. The Trenier Twins came up with Jimmie Lunceford’s swing band and though they’d practically overturned the apple cart with their antics back then, they still retained a lingering reverence for music that swung more than grooved.

Maybe that’s why we should be the ones at fault for focusing on the first two parts of It Rocks! It Rolls! It Swings! rather than the last part and getting our hopes up too high in the process.

But can you really blame us? Now that they’re on OKeh Records rather than the staid Mercury or London labels, you’d think they might be encouraged to go for broke… until you remember that OKeh was a subsidiary of Columbia, the oldest and most conservative major label on the planet and usually rock acts have to forcibly pull them towards something more appropriate for our brand of music.

Yet it’s not that ominous connection to the establishment which is at fault here, but rather when it came to The Treniers maybe OKeh needed to push THEM in the right direction because when left to their own devices these guys were bound to be peeking back over their shoulders at where they came from as much as they were looking forward to where we wanted them to go.


Everybody Sing This Song When You’re Feeling LOW!
One way to look at this, if you want to be really generous, is as a trap set by The Treniers to lure in the unsuspecting middle-of-the-road listener who may have caught their act somewhere, or even heard some tawdry gossip about this rock ‘n’ roll business and wanted to see for themselves what the fuss was all about.

If you were to hit those people in the face with the sledgehammer beats and grinding rhythms rock usually subsists on you’d either cause them to flee for their lives or you’d be facing involuntarily manslaughter charges when most of them dropped dead of shock and fear.

So instead It Rocks! It Rolls! It Swings! eases you into the song by telling you they’re doing all three of those things without actually following through on any of them.

But that explanation is a reach because we’d first have to ask just how many adults and all-around squares there were who might be enticed into checking this out on a lark to make it worthwhile. A few dozen around the country at best? That kind of elaborate subterfuge hardly is going to pay off for the return it’ll get.

Which means of course that it was The Treniers who were timid about jumping into rock with both feet and instead wanted to soft-peddle it, perhaps to avoid being directly associated with something that was still on the outside looking in on the mainstream entertainment circuit they were already playing.

As a result the song starts off satisfying no one, certainly not us with their melodic sing-songy instructional delivery that is far too cloying to be taken seriously. They may not be condescending in how they present this, but they’re clearly intending not to offend those who look down their noses at people like The Treniers – and us – in their everyday lives.

Luckily the band lead by Gene Gilbeaux’s piano and Don Hill’s saxophone are on hand to keep them within hailing distance of rock’s more organic substance with a decent rhythm and some intermittent atmospheric passages on the horn, though not even they are fully committing to the necessities of the genre.

But before we lose all hope, remember these ARE the Treniers we’re talking about, two guys who can’t help but get worked up any time they open their mouths and as the song nears the midway point they start to get a little more insistent with what they’re singing. It’s still not great, nor is Hill’s solo that follows – at least in terms of grit, sweat and passion – but they’re hinting they have more up their sleeve.


You Think You Need A Lift
The change comes, ironically enough, when they mellow out heading into the second half, backed by faint handclaps and softly repeating the title line as if trying to gently rouse a sleeping child.

As they go on they become more invigorated, their voices rising, the clapped beat swelling in volume to match their tone, all while Hill’s alto starts whining like a car engine winding out, finally fluttering and then peeling out, hitting some notes intended for canine hearing more than humans as Cliff and Claude get more carried away in response.

it may never get off the rails as we’d like, but at least they show they aren’t completely avoiding rock’s uncouth image down the stretch.

Now is that enough to fulfill either of the scenarios we laid out… the luring of unsuspecting straitlaced listeners into a song without them realizing it’s going to be a rocker until it’s too late, OR to convince us – the faithful rock constituency from the start – that this is fully intended for our sensibilities?

No, it’s definitely not. It Rocks! It Rolls! It Swings! is still pulling its punches, trying to be tolerated by the haters while marginally satisfying the true believers.

They’re good enough singers and musicians to get away with it to a degree… in other words there’s nothing here that is betraying rock’s entire raison d’etre, but it’s also not throwing their entire weight behind the movement and defying skeptics to resist the allure of the music.

As a result this is easy enough to resist, even if it’s also fairly easy to go along with passively if you choose.

What’s not however is something actively dragging you in deeper and that’s the kind of record – not to mention the kind of artists – we reserve our greatest praise for.


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