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KING 4402; OCTOBER 1950



As we all know full well by this point Wynonie Harris was truly in his element when he was churning along at a steady clip, singing suggestive lyrics that employed heavy cadences while drums kicked him in the ass to keep him at the proper pace.

Provided everything around him was in tune with the stylistic requirements of the era all you had to do was give him some straightforward boastful lines to sing and make sure he’s sober and you were halfway home.

As of late King Records were able to do just that and the results speak for themselves.


If You Don’t Love Me Now You Will When I Get Through
Okay… about what was just said about the arrangements being in tune with the era… not so fast.

As this record kicks off you’re taken aback momentarily because it sounds sorta… “odd”.

Not in terms of containing any experimental ideas, off-kilter performances or unusual topics, but rather because it sounds like something pulled out of the dusty back corners of King Records vault from a few years back. The horns are locked into an old fashioned squalling riff, all of them – saxes, trumpets – blaring together in a way that was your primary means for conveying excitement in say early 1947.

Now Harris didn’t sign with King until that December but was this something leftover from back then only getting put into service now?

Nope. I Want To Love You Baby was cut in July 1950 and it doesn’t seem to be a rushed session either where they’d need to whip up something quick to serve as the B-side to a better more current sounding song as they waited three whole months before releasing both sides.

Luckily for you, them and us however it’s being backed by something distinctly modern, namely a crackling back-beat and some lusty shouting by Wynonie Harris himself. But while those horns persist in acting a little out of date for awhile longer we quickly learn to ignore them simply by focusing on the star of the show rather than the somewhat stale early fanfare he’s saddled with. As a result it won’t take long before Wynonie simply overpowers them in your mind, which is always the benefit of working with somebody who is so attuned to the rhythm and the beat.

Once they do change gears forty five seconds in with a thoroughly up to date tenor sax blowing like mad – thank you Big John Greer – then the accumulated dust on the rest of the horns gets shaken off entirely and everybody can finally start focusing on the present without stealing glances in their rear view mirror.

Good thing too, because from there on in everyone is looking dead ahead.

If You Like The Way I Rock, Then You Like The Way I Roll
First a disclaimer: Though in the song’s lyrics Harris clearly name drops a certain smart and dashing historical music reviewer from the future in an effort to boost his grades, it’s going to have absolutely no bearing on the final results. No money changed hands I assure you and though the attempt is flattering it’s also not really necessary. He doesn’t need to resort to bribery to win me over, Wynonie Harris is doing just fine on his own.

The good news for his prospects can be boiled down to the simple fact that there’s nothing complicated about any of this. Writer/producer Henry Glover knows Harris’s strengths and are playing to them perfectly for the lion’s share of I Want To Love You Baby which means unless he swallows his tongue in the middle of a take his end of the bargain is going to shape up nicely.

The first half of the song gives us a pretty standard lyrical set-up as he’s doing little more than declaring his intentions to win over a girl, bragging about how he has strength “everywhere” (I believe this is what’s called dodging the censors because surely he’s referring to a different kind of strength than merely the ability to hoist sacks of grain on his shoulders) and of course he’s publicly staking his claim on the object of his affections in the process to keep away other suitors.

Nothing fancy, but still effective.

The second half shows a little more creativity on Glover’s part, the bridge in particular is not just amusing but also well planned, giving Harris the opportunity to drop in volume and deliver the lines in an off-handed conversational tone that is meant to seem ad-libbed. It’s funny, altogether in character and really well constructed to boot and Wynonie pulls it off with a light touch, showing once again that he was more than just the balls to the wall belter as his reputation suggests.

All Day And Night
The early stylistic misdirection by the band aside, this makeshift studio group locks in and keeps this on the tracks, utilizing a good balance between controlled noise and natural space with the judicious use of pauses from the horns giving their presence in the second half of the record that much more kick.

Overall this owes more than a little to his earlier hit I Like My Baby’s Pudding in how it’s structured. But while that song is definitely more notorious, this one is flat-out better because of how everything that was too tepid that time around gets emphasized on this song to drive the points home.

For instance, notice how Greer’s first solo appearance on sax here comes in right after the line “love you with all my might” which leads directly into the first raw urgent note, essentially giving additional meaning to the word “might”, a subtle but brilliant touch to double down on the image the line conveys.

Later when Glover has the drummer halt for the only time on the entire track it creates enormous anticipation for what is to follow, namely Harris at his most emphatic on the word “BAY-BEE”, adding a good deal of power to something that otherwise wouldn’t stand out much.

In the end we can forgive Henry Glover for falling back on his own past experience in big band arrangements on the opening because of how he manages to transition so seamlessly to the present day realities on I Want To Love You Baby. In fact the more you listen to this record the more that steady beat will be seared in your mind thereby preventing the horns from breaking that spell when they kick this off and as a result you’ll probably wonder what the initial fuss over them was all about.


Drive A Man Insane
That’s the kind of attention all songs deserve when trying to rate them for posterity and in that spirit we’ll go with the accumulated response after multiple listens – as is usually the case on ALL reviews let it be said – rather than the initial impression after the first spin.

Yesterday Mr. Blues Is Coming To Town didn’t get that benefit – the unfortunate curse of an early morning rush job to get it posted after a night Mr. Harris would certainly approve of – and after that first listen for some reason it was on the border between (7) and (8). Yet both the review and capsulized recap of the record on his Artist Page clearly describe a better record than what it ultimately received. So while it doesn’t happen a lot around here that one’s getting a belated boost in the scoring.

But the real beneficiary of that change is I Want To Love You Baby which because it’s not quite as good as yesterday’s top side would’ve been forced to settle for a lower number itself but now, with wrongs having been righted, it gets a more deserving verdict… for whatever hollow credit that’s worth.

Yes, stripping it down piece by piece this still would be sitting precariously between two (still above average) scores itself, but rather than penalize it for what it does slightly wrong we’ll give more credit for how seamlessly it turns things around and winds up giving us plenty of what they’ve learned to do absolutely right over the past few months and years.


(Visit the Artist page of Wynonie Harris for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)