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IMPERIAL 5198; JULY 1952



Like anything else, successful music is about blending multiple distinctly different elements together in order to create one unified and pleasing whole.

If any one of those components is a little bit off, the record suffers.

If one of them is drastically falling short, then it doesn’t matter how good the rest of the song may be, you’ll never be able to appreciate it because you probably won’t subject yourself to listening to the record very often.

Any guess where this review is headed?


Don’t Worry About Nobody Else
We’re not going to waste much time before diving into this, not because we’re gluttons for punishment and want to get right to the bad stuff for sadomasochistic reasons, but rather because trying to dance around the glaringly dreadful subject only prolongs our agony.

Besides, we already covered Tommy Ridgley’s return to Imperial Records once his friend and producer Dave Bartholomew was re-hired by the company who admitted they’d done him wrong in early 1950 and so we’re up to date on his travels and with the top side of this single making the local New Orleans charts neither Bartholomew or Ridgley have anything to worry about no matter how much we skewer them for this one.

Let’s start by saying everything about this song as written is really good.

The message itself should be employed by everyone in their own lives, as Ridgley states I Live My Life“to please myself”. Good advice. Trying to constantly satisfy others and live up to someone else’s expectations at the neglect of your own needs is a losing proposition.

That’s not always easy to remember in the heat of the moment however. It’s only later on when you realize in hindsight that those who were constantly making judgmental comments about your decisions really didn’t care about the outcome, only about interjecting their own views onto you, allowing you to see what a waste of time it was to pay them any mind to begin with.

So Ridgley’s message here is supremely confident, defying those who disagree with his choices. He even brags of “I like to ball every night”, singing with a smirk that is bound to get some more straitlaced people upset with him for being so shameless in voicing his desires. He then goes on to tell us he doesn’t shirk his job, but would much rather go out and play and doesn’t care if you think his priorities are backwards.

Who in their right mind can find fault with any of that, both as a mindset and a record designed to reach those who are at the stage in life where they are most likely to share that point of view? Certainly not us, renowned slackers and party-animals ourselves, which leads you to wonder… when exactly is the bad part coming along?


Live It Until You Die
Well, hold your horses, we’ll get there soon enough, but we need to state for the record that it’s not the music that’s at fault for the shortcomings here either.

In fact, though it’s a relatively simply constructed song with an almost nursery rhyme quality to the melody, that melody is really enjoyable… just fast enough to keep you swaying along to it, yet still mesmerizing enough to lull you into a pleasant trance.

Even the methodical churning intro is addicting as piano, drums, guitar and horns play the most basic of patterns which nevertheless hit the spot, locking in and turning themselves over each time through to make you want to keep hearing it play over and over again until you’re practically hypnotized.

The sax solo coming after Ridgley’s sleepy-eyed “Oh yeah” interjection is also carried off without any frills but the lack of something more exciting doesn’t detract from the spellbinding qualities it possesses, almost like a snake charmer if the snake had a female serpent to slow dance with in the brush.

Okay, okay, you’re probably saying, you suggested I Live My Life was a train wreck in the making and so far the locomotive is humming down a smooth track. When are we going to get the grisly crack up you promised?

Alright, you asked for it.

Over the course of a half dozen records that Tommy Ridgley has released we’ve been alternately complimentary about his vocal skill, such as on Lavinia on the top half, and we’ve been critical of it at other times when he fails to get a firm handle on a song from start to finish.

During parts of this he sounds okay, but unfortunately those aren’t the parts you’ll remember because it’s the primary focal point on the verses where he’s giving new and even more unpleasant meaning to the word Caterwauling.

His higher-pitched whiny tone is struggling to find the right key at times, he strains far too much when he goes up in his range and holding those notes only compounds the misery he inflicts on listeners. He’s also trying to harmonize with the band members who aren’t professional singers and not surprisingly their blend is abysmal which doesn’t help matters any.

Even if you were to take the position that they all might be drunk which is reasonably suggested by the lyrics, it still wouldn’t excuse this performance unless they got YOU drunk before listening so that it wouldn’t be as likely to be noticed by you.

Instead it’s just about the only thing you can notice and because it’s so grating on the ears it renders all of the positives we just celebrated essentially meaningless.


All The People Say I’m No Good
Though on the surface this seems a pretty easy song to put across – it’s got no tricky melodic twists and holds its tempo in metronomic fashion – the truth is a lot of singers we like just wouldn’t be equipped for it.

Wynonie Harris would butcher it… too undisciplined. His labelmate and Bartholomew’s most famous collaborator Fats Domino would be wrong for it as well… the in-between pace wouldn’t give him anything he could latch on to and the attitude shown here wouldn’t fit well either.

If you tried it with a proper vocal group to alleviate the issues with the harmonies, chances are it’d fail as well, since it’s not dynamic enough for The Dominoes, nor suggestive enough for The Clovers while the confidence aspect of the story would surely throw off The Orioles.

Ironically the one who might be ideally suited for I Live My Life is Ivory Joe Hunter, someone who could thrive at this deliberate pace, deftly showcasing the melody with his warmer tone, all while buttressing this with his own piano. The consummate technician that he is, he’d also be sure to resolve each line by taking the last notes down rather than up which would also play to his natural reflective qualities as a singer.

But Tommy Ridgley, though he wrote the song, just can’t figure out what to do with it when push comes to shove and as a result we’re the ones wanting to shove him out of the way to let somebody else take a pass at it instead.

They say two out of three ain’t bad, but when it comes to recommending a record the missing third looms large when it obscures the other two successful pieces so much.


(Visit the Artist page of Tommy Ridgley for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)