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OKEH 6907; AUGUST 1952



Yesterday we kicked off this look at Titus Turner’s latest single by focusing on what technically was the B-side… a cover song rather than one he wrote no less.

We went into it full of skepticism and after it was half done were ready to rave about it before they faltered somewhat down the stretch. Still good overall, but something that clearly could’ve been so much better had they stuck with what worked for a little longer.

Today we focus on the plug side, a song Turner wrote and therefore probably believed in a lot more than trying to demolish a country song with feral rock ‘n’ roll energy.

Ironic then that the reverse is true here… we started off not thinking much of this at all before coming around on it a little before it ended.

Funny how that works out sometimes, isn’t it?


I Didn’t Know I Needed You So
In time Titus Turner will go on to be more well known for his songwriting than his singing, penning a number of enduring hits for a variety of major artists.

One listen to him trying to sing in his first professional efforts as a teenager and you’d think that it’d be hard for him NOT to be more acclaimed for his writing, or his driving, his manners or his penmanship than his crooning ability (or lack thereof) but he’s rapidly improved his technique and truth be told, he’s singing better than he’s writing as of now.

Still, he’s not a virtuoso at either yet, he’s simply a hard-working pro, trying to break through and give the public reason to seek him out. Please Baby, despite the title seeming to beg for a positive response, is not quite it.

Like many melodramatic songs, it’s a little over the top as he’s asking us to be invested in a story we know nothing about without any justification to giving him that response based on what he tells us… or fails to tell us… over the course of the song.

Also, as with a lot of singers who try too hard to emote in this fashion, it can be a little off-putting because we human beings tend to prefer discretion when somebody begins telling us about something meaningful to them, but insignificant to the rest of humanity. Since Turner is going over–the-top in his telling of this tale, we naturally start to back away and look for a place to duck out of sight.

But while he may not ever get to the reasons for his feeling so low, besides the standard “girlfriend issues” that plague so many rock artists, he does manage to show he’s got some control over his presentation, especially when he and the band start to click and remain on the same page throughout the record.

It’s still something you might hope no outsiders are eavesdropping on as you try and figure out what his problems are while listening to him blather on, but at the very least you’re no longer trying to wriggle free of his grasp and dive into oncoming traffic, which has to be considered something of a minor victory after the way it was shaping up at first.


You Got My Soul To Take
There’s a difference between noisy and sloppy, though in music the two are often mistaken for one another.

On a first casual listen you’re apt to find this whole production an unfocused mess, not because instruments are clashing or the singer and band are heading in opposite directions, but rather because there’s not much refinement found in either one’s projection. Both are operating near the top of their volume and yet because it’s not a barn-burning adrenaline fueled track, but rather a more methodical mid-tempo song, it just sounds unnecessarily cluttered.

Yet everything here is indeed working in tandem to try and show Titus Turner’s inner turmoil over his sinking love life as the acapella moaned intro leads into droning horns, steady drums, sympathetic piano and scolding guitar in equal measure.

The parts all fit at least, though it may take a few spins to come to that conclusion.

Turner’s lyrics are clearly the weak point of Please Baby as he’s unfortunately replaced thinking – and thus telling a story – with chewing the scenery, hoping his pouring his heart out in such a fashion will convey enough of a plot to get by. He’s not altogether wrong in that regard, we DO know what he’s upset about more or less, but it doesn’t give him a way to win us over other than with the sheer performative power of his voice itself.

He’s got to learn however that when you want to really capture somebody’s attention and compassion you have to dial things back, not ramp them up which tends to keep them at arm’s length, if only to avoid being inadvertently soaked with his spittle.

The band on the other hand are more free to let themselves go, and yet they play their part in this drama using a fair amount of restraint without sacrificing intensity in the bargain. The steady pace works to their advantage, letting each note – especially the guitarist’s slowly unwinding “solo” behind Turner – slowly work its way into your consciousness for maximum effect.

Even the sax solo in a more traditional break escalates the volume and the squeals but not the pace, giving the drummer’s cymbal crash after the beat even more power in driving this point home.

Turner manages to come around nicely after this, at one point sounding a whole lot like Ray Charles before Ray himself actually discovered that particular brand of Ray Charles even existed!

It’s still a little chaotic sounding all things considered, but that’s more of a reaction to the vibrancy of recording itself, where everything is dialed to ten, rather than a repudiation of the performances within.


Make Everything Alright
In life we love to make snap judgments about all sorts of things, music foremost among them.

Certainly songs that grab you on first listen tend to be ones we keep returning to, even with diminishing returns over time. Just because they had the power to captivate us so completely right away leads is to think we’ll get that same feeling each time around.

But since records are typically so short it isn’t hard to let them reveal aspects of themselves to us a little at a time. A second spin is apt to be received a little differently than the first, while the third might confirm that new response or even build on it as happened with Please Baby.

Now that only goes so far mind you. This is still just going to have to settle for an average score. The lack of a more well rounded story with vital plot details and the overall harsh vibe it has which may suit the subject matter but doesn’t always lend itself to an easy listening experience in many situations, have to factor in.

Still for a song to jump two full grades in the course of just a few listens shows that, unlike books where first impressions are usually the most reliable, music works differently on us and this record serves as a reminder to not give up on anything, or anyone, unless repeated listens give you no choice.

This time around Titus Turner gave us a choice and ultimately we’re glad we took it even if all it did was keep us from rashly dismissing it, and him, out of hand.


(Visit the Artist page of Titus Turner for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)