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DECCA 48226; JULY 1951



It helps to have friends in high places and in 1951 rock ‘n’ roll, Dave Bartholomew – though largely unknown to the public – was pretty high up the ladder thanks to singlehandedly putting Imperial Records on the commercial map with his writing, arranging and producing of countless artists he recruited for the label.

His reward was to be disrespected by the company when handing out bonuses last Christmas and so – since he wasn’t under a recording contract with them – he marched out and signed with major label Decca.

He took with him Tommy Ridgley, the first vocal act he cut for Imperial, and their first effort became a hit… albeit in a cover version by The Griffin Brothers… so Decca wasted little time in putting out another release, this time under Ridgley’s own name, hoping to finally move their company a little higher up the rock ‘n’ roll totem pole in the process.


I’ll Give You Anything
We’re not really sure how Dave Bartholomew got on the radar of Decca Records, a company that had no real interest in rock ‘n’ roll in its purest form and had mostly been trying to use older, more manageable artists to infiltrate rock audiences… and not very successfully at that.

Still viewing Black America as a docile secondary market at best, content with older established acts in performing in archaic nonthreatening styles – gospel or country blues, with a few jazz-derived pop crooners scattered among them, they were now stunned to discover they were completely out of step and while Decca had done very well in that market during the 1940’s with such visionaries as Louis Jordan, times had changed beyond their ability to comprehend and so they were forced to try and catch up on the fly.

Instead of jumping in wholeheartedly though they instead tried some rear guard maneuvers just to stave off the inevitable. But even this was bound for failure as they were old white men who were utterly tone deaf to new sounds in general, and particularly those coming from a world in which they had no desire to ever enter.

That’s why even when they managed to secure the services of someone as skilled as Dave Bartholomew they had no idea of how to capitalize on that. Had they simply handed him the reins and stepped aside, letting him sign the artists, then write and record their material and simply deliver the finished records to the parent company for the next five years, they might’ve been able to keep pace.

Instead they were left with stray releases like Anything But Love, a good enough record to show the company they should’ve continued and expanded this partnership, but which instead wound up being the swan song of Bartholomew on the label, leaving them to suffer from their neglect for years to come.


I Feared No Man
I never recall stepping foot on a proper farm in my life but I can tell you exactly what a sick cow sounds like because Tommy Ridgley was kind of enough to imitate one for us on his opening line here.

Therein lies the one regrettable detriment that Bartholomew was facing during his years away from Imperial – a lack of vocalists on par with those he left behind.

Ridgley wasn’t awful – he improves greatly on Anything but Love after that wayward first stanza – but he also was decidedly second tier as a singer which means that Bartholomew was always working at a slight disadvantage when he turned to Ridgley to carry out his ideas.

But Tommy was a good songwriter and this is another collaboration between the two of them which is pretty solid lyrically as it presents him as a guy who is reluctant to put his heart on the line again after being burned by love multiple times in the past.

A few of the lines are clunky, but others more than make up for it thanks to some inventive wordplay even if one of the better lines – “I’ve had so much trouble, I don’t even trust myself/So if I don’t have no confidence in me baby, how can I trust somebody else?” – is mangled a little by his uncertainty on the word confidence (an ironic coincidence in a way, isn’t it?).

But Ridgley’s job mostly is to just keep things on track, give you a clearly defined character for the plot to make sense and then step aside and let Bartholomew do the rest.

I’ll Never Love Again
Everything Bartholomew has a direct hand in here is of sterling quality… from the group horn intro which shows how Dave has turned away from the older jazz inflected horn charts he favored a few years back, to the jittery piano of Salvadore Doucette which acts as the jolt of caffeine in a mostly slow arrangement.

Most impressive of all are the grimy tenor sax responses of Clarence Hall which have the kind of tone that all rock producers for the next few years would simply try to cut and paste into their own arrangements.

Along the way Bartholomew throws in small touches on Anything But Love that no lauded producer employed by the major labels could’ve hoped to have come up with themselves, the highlight of which is the mid-section where Ernest McLean plays a simple riff on guitar that stands out because his instrument had been mostly held back up until then which helps to set off the contrasting tonal qualities between electric guitar and reeds.

But Bartholomew doesn’t stop there, for rather than just answer it with those horns as you’d expect, he uses a very innovative stop-time percussion which is gotten by combining Earl Palmer’s dry drums with echoing hand claps in perfect time, creating an effect that reverberates in your ears. Palmer might even be using his own bare hands to slap the drum skins in time with the others two-beat clapping to give it a flatter sound, but however they did it the result is distinctive and instantly memorable.

Bartholomew then follows this with a judicious use of his own trumpet to add a mournful tinge behind Ridgley’s weary vocals and though the track contains no extended solo the entire thing is picture perfect from start to finish.


Playing It Safely First
This certainly wasn’t helped coming out of Decca, despite their admirable promotion for it, though even had they gotten into the right stores and jukeboxes there’s no guarantee this would’ve connected.

After all, Anything But Love is a good song with a great arrangement and only a fair vocal and there’s nothing startling about the record on first listen.

But you’d have to be completely deaf and dumb not to hear this and realize who the major talent was, especially if that was your job to be able to appreciate quality music production, regardless of style.

Yet Decca Records let Dave Bartholomew walk away from them too, probably so conceited about their position in the music world as a whole that they just assumed if he couldn’t give them a hit they’d either find someone else who could, or that he’d have no other offers and would take whatever they were handing out in order to return for another session.


Two weeks after this was released at the tail end of July, Dave Bartholomew was in a Cincinnati studio cutting tracks for King Records. Meanwhile the geniuses at Decca wondered why companies like THAT were ruling the charts in this field while they couldn’t seem to strike oil even when they were practically standing on the X in Texas.


(Visit the Artist pages of Dave Bartholomew and Tommy Ridgley for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)