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ALADDIN 205; DECEMBER, 1947

 
 

 

I don’t know what box singers and musicians check off on their official documents as it pertains to their careers – my guess is it’d be the catch-all “Entertainer” category – but maybe the better category would be Sales.

Singers are essentially selling themselves to the public. Yes, their songs, or rather their records, are their specific product in a sense, but they’re not peddling those door to door, nor even trying to push them on retailers or jukebox operators themselves… those are the jobs of others in the industry.

But the singer is selling themselves… their voice, their songwriting ability, their stage presence, charisma and general appeal… to the masses, hoping that it’ll draw in customers to buy their records, to see their shows, to deposit their spare change in jukeboxes or request their songs on the radio. The better the performances the better your chances at succeeding.

But sometimes they were hampered by the very companies that stood to benefit off their salesmanship, as this record shows all too well.
 

 

There Ain’t No Love At All
The label for Aladdin 205 shows this record is credited to Lady Blues, which I assure you is not the given name of its artist, just in case you were thinking she was the long lost sister of Jake and Elwood Blues of Joliet, Illinois.

No, this was Tina Dixon, a singer who never fully broke through but never stopped trying, eventually gaining far more lasting notoriety for some X-rated comedy records in the 1970’s than for her straight vocal work in jazz, pop and rock throughout the 1940’s.

She was by all accounts a good entertainer on stage and as this record will show a better singer than she’s usually given credit for, but she seemed cursed throughout her career, a victim of terrible timing as much as anything. It was if she spent a lifetime reaching down to pick four leaf clovers and grabbed poison ivy at every turn instead.

Dixon began her professional career in earnest by singing for Jimmie Lunceford’s band on stage in the early 1940’s, which was about the top rung of the ladder you could get for an artist in that era. Except her stint happened to coincide with a period which fell squarely in the midst of a long recording ban, thus preventing her from capitalizing on her association with one of the best bandleaders of all-time.

Strike one.

Then she wrote a song that would become a big hit… albeit for others, as she wasn’t able to record E-Bob-A-Le-Bob until other artists had beat her to it and (by changing the spelling) also managed to take some added credit for it, thereby setting her career back further just as it should’ve been taking off.

Strike two.

Now a few years later with those styles fading fast she finds herself with an opportunity to record just as rock ‘n’ roll was getting off the ground and in need of artists who could convincingly put this music across, particularly women, who were lagging well behind the men in the ranks of vocalists thus far. Dixon had the qualifications to fit the bill. A decent songwriter, a versatile singer and as evidenced by her later forays into smut, someone who was not averse to being a little suggestive in song if it was called for… and as we know rock frequently called for just that.

Considering her past luck, or lack thereof rather, it’s nice to see she actually got a chance to record early on in rock’s existence and while content wise Don’t You Know I Want To Love You wasn’t a daring choice on the surface – a torch song which conceivably could fall in multiple genres and therefore didn’t fully commit her to the upstart brand of music – it also wasn’t out of place by any means in rock and as long as she handled her business well then Dixon should’ve been in prime position to take advantage of the wide open field with little in the way of female competition.

We’re happy to report that she carries out her role with aplomb but unfortunately the same can’t be said of Aladdin Records who screws her over by issuing it under the totally insipid moniker, Lady Blues, thereby ruining any chance for Dixon to reap the rewards for her efforts.

Strike three.
 

If That Don’t Mean I Love You
All of that explains in part why the record and Dixon herself never really got the credit they might’ve earned otherwise – an important issue to be sure, but not the primary one in a review of the record in question. After all, every song has outside factors to consider when assessing their commercial returns and though in this case those are particularly interesting (and frustrating) our main task here is still to review the actual record.

Don’t You Know I Want To Love You is a heartfelt plea from a woman to an unnamed man – and by virtue of the “You” in the title we, the listening audience, are cast in that role and will have to be won over – as she attempts to convince him that she is worthy of his time.

Normally however such a pitch would require ample evidence to her qualifications which she’d be delivering via the lyrics, possibly telling us how devoted she’d be towards him, or how their past, assuming they HAD a past together, either as lovers or merely friends, showed they were compatible if only he’d recognize that and accept it.

Maybe she’d use a more blatant approach and try appealing to his libido as she made suggestively erotic overtures towards him, covering everything from mere flirtation to propositioning him in public. Or perhaps if she was a bit more demure and inexperienced her attempts to catch his eye would be awkward and uncomfortable – both for her and for us which would presumably get us to sympathize with her thereby actually increasing her chances for success if the object of her affections had a similar reaction to her shy and nervous persona.

But Dixon chooses none of those methods. This isn’t a spoken version of a personal ad listing her attributes and promising she’ll work hard to meet his expectations. She’s also not coming across as meek and unsure of herself, hoping to play upon his nurturing instincts. And, despite of her future claim to fame as a purveyor of raunch, she’s absolutely not in the process of unbuttoning her blouse and offering herself to him as merely a play thing to have his way with whenever he wants if it’ll mean that she’ll be his for the foreseeable future.

Instead Tina Dixon delivers a remarkable example of emotional longing that is utterly captivating in spite of the lack of almost anything outside of that naked emotion to bolster her case that they belong together.

In other words this is almost avant garde in its minimalist approach.

 
 

I Gave You My Affection
Dixon is the song’s writer and the lyrics are – to be kind – just a few words (the title line) that merely get repeated ad nauseum, almost to the point of farce.

Except HOW she delivers them is anything but farcical.

She’s stripped the story down to the barest of essentials (that would be her overwhelming desire) and is using that simple direct sentiment to show the intensity of her feelings. One listen and you realize she HAD to know how she’d deliver this when she wrote it. There’s no way it could possibly be sung without that knowledge unless you were purposefully mocking the very theme in the cruelest way imaginable. In each stanza she sings the title line, the same eight words, five times in succession before repeating the ”Don’t you know?” tag-line another THREE times!

The next stanza she changes things up… by merely swapping out the word “love” for “kiss”, but otherwise keeping the exact same structure, pacing and emphasis in place. Fear not though, because then she returns with the original title line back in full for the next time through and closes out the song itself with the identical refrain thereby making it one of… oh hell, let’s eliminate the possibility of competition for this honor… making it THE most repetitive songs we’ll likely ever encounter.

Oh, don’t get me wrong there IS some opportunity for her to sing something else in the two bridges, though here she only repeats the exact same bridge the second time through following a sparse alto sax solo.

The only thing that doesn’t get repeated at least once is her spoken ad-lib before that solo, which hardly qualifies as lyrics.

So given this intentional repetitiveness, and then throwing in the fact that outside of a slightly anachronistic droning horn intro and a sax solo that is so stark it would qualify for government relief, then you must think that Don’t You Know I Want To Love You is either a shallow underdeveloped idea that they were attempting to pass off as a finished product knowing that few people would ever hear it, or you’d assume it was a parody of something that had more meaning but which wasn’t executed well enough to be more than a misfire.

If you thought either of those things from reading the description of the record I wouldn’t blame you, but OH BOY, WOULD YOU BE WRONG!
 

At Your Beckon Call
Dixon is brilliant here. Her emotions are genuine, her single-minded yearning for this guy is almost frightening at times. The way she subtly alters the inflections of the same line each time through might not change the meaning much, but it changes the reaction you have to it, creating a sense of anticipation and almost anxiety as you listen to her bare her soul like this.

If the bridge, which serves as the more standard explanation why she feels this way, can’t match those more direct appeals, well, that’s to be expected. When you’re truly in love with someone, especially early on, you can’t really put it into words without risking having it sound forced and artificial.

Love, at its most essential, is about feeling. An emotional urgency to be together that’s so strong, so overwhelming in its intensity, that the idea of being apart is too painful to even contemplate.

Dixon gives us that without any frills on Don’t You Know I Want To Love You, bolstered by – rather than hampered by – the bleakly somber arrangement. As a result you’re left to deal with your own similar emotions that you’ve worked so hard to keep under wraps all this time until you recall how at one point in life you felt precisely the same way about someone and could never express the power of those feelings.

The more closely you listen the more potent her delivery seems, as she’s focusing on that overriding theme with such controlled force that it weakens you, leaving a feeling of almost indescribable tranquility, of knowing something is taking over your soul without being able to fight it or even describe it, but being completely at peace with it as its happening.
 

Blow Daddy
What is most striking about this performance is that Tina Dixon clearly doesn’t need, and isn’t looking for, our approval. She may not even be expecting the object of her lust in the song to respond to her declarations of love but she has to speak it out loud just to set those thoughts free, to unburden herself from the weight of those feelings before they consume her.

Don’t You Know I Want To Love You is one of the sparser records we’re likely to come across over time and can take a few listens before it starts to reveal itself for what the kind of punch it delivers. Yet when it does it is captivating, perfectly showcasing the almost transcendent force a song can have over you if you only let it.

Music at its best can reach you in sometimes unexpected ways, locating a dormant thought or emotion and prodding you until you’re forced to confront it. When that happens it can be startling and your initial tendency is to pull back and try to slip out of its clutches before it exposes too much of your soul.

But if you don’t resist its grip and instead you willingly give in to its power then you have the ability to be momentarily transformed by a three minute record and that’s a feeling unlike any other. When you get right down to it that’s the reason why people everywhere still listen so intently to music – the hope that something magical will happen out of the blue.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Tina Dixon for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)