No tags :(

Share it



It’s a natural pairing in many ways… the older music vet whose own brief career renaissance as one of rock’s earliest stars has largely gone by the wayside now that the genre has fully come into its own, and who is now hiring a young up and coming vocal talent who’s ideally suited for this music but who has yet to find the right songs – or the right instrumental support – to facilitate her bid for stardom.

Though it might make sense on paper, matching his experience with her stylistic instincts, it probably won’t work out because each side is bound to trust their own outlook and fall back on what comes natural to their acquired sensibilities.

Still, doomed though they may be, you can’t fault either side for figuring that the other was just what they needed in their attempt to be embraced by rock fans.


I’ll Let You Sit Me Down
This might just be the record that marks the point of no return for Todd Rhodes’s rock career. If he’s going to remain a legitimate presence on the scene, he’s gotta come through now… or it’ll likely be never.

He was an unlikely success story in the field to begin with but his tight-knit band and the right attitude he managed to pull it off and have a second, or was it third, career wind as a result. But it was always a tightrope walk for him because his own jazz leanings meant that when he missed his mark on a song he’d always fall to the more sophisticated side of the ground which did not provide a cushier landing for his reputation among rock fans.

Whereas somebody overdoing the hedonism and using an arrangement that was too sloppy would never have their rock credentials questioned, Rhodes’ tendency to tread lightly at times was always going to cast him as an outsider by nature. Some of it was intentional, such as cutting Blue Autumn for the flip side of this, as he still hoped to find favor with older, more sophisticated listeners, but even his blatant rock attempts often failed because of that fatal flaw.

His one chance to really turn the tide and become entrenched as a viable rocker into the 1950’s came when he enlisted Detroit club singer Kitty Stevenson, maybe the most explosive female vocalist in rock to date, to sing on his non-instrumental sides. When she died of cancer soon after, it looked as if Rhodes’ time had passed.

So after first trying out Connie Allen as a replacement, it was great to see him turning to LaVern Baker, an equally skilled singer as Stevenson, but one who had been terribly mismanaged when it came to her recording career. That decision suggested Rhodes understood just what Stevenson had brought to the table and why it was so important to find that kind of star power again.

Instead, as evidenced with Pig Latin Blues it also showed that he DIDN’T understand that it doesn’t just take a young, dynamic and forward looking vocalist to make you relevant again, it requires good songs and better arrangements to highlight her.

But whose fault is that exactly? Was it Rhodes, or Baker herself?



It Ain’t Gonna Be Like That
Even though we’ve already criticized Todd Rhodes musical mindset for the failure of this record to re-assert his relevance in rock ‘n’ roll, maybe we should take a closer look at the writing credits and lay the blame at someone else’s feet.

Namely producer Henry Glover, along with cult singer Sax Kari and LaVern Baker, who co-wrote this under her married name Delores Williams.

Whoever is responsible for the concept, it’s a bad one, as not only does this fall short musically, both in arrangement and just melodically, but the storyline, though it makes sense in relation to the Pig Latin Blues title, is frankly kinda silly and guaranteed to be confusing to anyone listening.

Pig Latin is a term referring to nonsensical sounding words used to disguise their true meaning by switching letters around (the first syllable becomes the last after which you add an “ay” at the end), which is more annoying than clever when spoken, and even worse when sung.

Baker’s message therefore has to translated as you go along and trust me, it’s not worth the effort. Now for those of you who claim not to care what a song’s lyrics are, this must be a favorite record of yours, for at least Baker maintains a credible rhythmic drive to her vocals for much of the song and which swings rather nicely at times.

But without knowing what she’s saying, or forcing us to read the unabridged text as we go along, it’s far too frustrating to really enjoy. If you were to take the scansion of the lines themselves and plug in more appropriate lyrics and rhymes, and then have her sing it, you might have a pretty decent record, which I think does prove that WHAT you say is equally important to HOW you say it, or sing it.

Then again, with Rhodes and company taking their roles far too easy, content to have the horns play a modest droning riff while the bass and drums maintain a steady, but hardly exhilarating, pulse, this is decidedly tame in most respects, like they intentionally dampened the wick to prevent it from going boom!

Even the sax solo following Baker’s most vibrant – but incomprehensible – vocal riff, eases off on the histrionics, forcing LaVern to try and ramp it up from there to get you invested. But by now you’ve lost all interest in this gibberish, so while the next solo improves things slightly over a more prominently displayed beat, the verbal scatting which takes the record to the fade sounds more like she’s having a mental breakdown than a musical epiphany.

Of course she’s not the only one at risk for a breakdown over Pig Latin Blues, as the more you try and follow along, the more you want to bludgeon yourself with a hammer in the hopes that in your brain damaged state all of this might start to make a little sense.

I guess the demise of Todd Rhodes’s career, at least in this case, can’t be blamed on Todd Rhodes after all.


(Visit the Artist pages of Todd Rhodes and LaVern Baker for the complete archives of their respective records reviewed to date)