Friday, 14 July 2017

Flamingos # 5: Someday, Someway

As pulpit denunciations of faithless lovers go, Someday, Someway is rather lighthearted, which suggests that Sollie McElroy is buoyed up by the thought that retribution must surely follow:

You treat me like a fool, Dear,
How mean can you be?
Well, somebody's going to treat you
Just like you treat poor me ...
I say "pulpit" only half in jest, as handclaps give the song a gospel feel to reinforce the sense of righteousness in the lyrics - which happen to include the phrase "see the light". These are details worth noting because, as we have seen, the Flamingos did not have the gospel background of so many doo wop groups. The number is not unlike material recorded by the Dominoes around the same period, and it would have been interesting to hear how Clyde McPhatter might have tackled the song.

But the Flamingos have their own considerable virtues - and besides, it's possible McPhatter might have made too much of a meal out of this breezy account of betrayal. Discussing Carried Away, I implied that the Flamingos' inability to let go with such wholehearted abandon as the Dominoes was a failing, but now I'm wondering why I felt the need for comparison. The Flamingos bring something else to the table in their uptempo numbers: a lightness of touch more attuned to jazz than gospel, particularly well suited to songs with a degree of wit. Carried Away, written by Charles Gonzales, is a jokey story-in-song, and Someday, Someway, also by Gonzales, borders on the gleeful - no intense suffering here, folks, move along.

Talking of jazz, the reservations expressed earlier about one musician's playing on If I Can't Have You do not apply to this sprightly number from the same session. Here the whole Kolax band sound well drilled, with pleasing details in the arrangement which must have been worked out in advance: the trumpet behind Sollie McElroy's lead, for example, offers precisely the right kind of support. And the microphone placing, or the positioning of musicians, seems to have been readjusted or more carefully considered: they are loud enough to do the job but don't compete with McElroy. No need for an elaborate group vocal arrangement on this occasion, although Johnny Carter's falsetto is employed sparingly but effectively, its placing during the song  suggesting the deceitful one's tears.

Someday, Someway may not be the most ambitious composition ever, but at around 2 minutes and 15 seconds it doesn't outstay its welcome, and there is even time for a saxophone solo to provide some musical contrast, its tone a little darker, as though hinting at feelings still churning away inside the seemingly untroubled McElroy.

That last detail may be taking interpretation a step too far but what I can state with greater certainty is that throughout the performance band and group can be heard working as a team and there can't have been much doubt in the studio that this infectiously lively and swinging take would be the keeper.


Charles Gonzalez, aka Bobby Prince, was a "golden voice jump-blues vocalist" as well as a songwriter, who recorded his own composition Tell Me Why Why Why for Chance in October 1952. According to the Chance label website:
He apparently entered the recording studio with the Al Smith band as Charles Gonzales and left as Bobby Prince. Tell Me Why Why Why seemed to garner the singer some acclaim, and Chance tried to push the single with some of the largest trade ads in the label's history. Bobby's unannounced appearance on "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," [credited to Al Smith] which he scats in a spooky falsetto while Eddie Johnson decorates the melody, is also memorable. Chance made considerable use of Prince's compositional talents, using four of his songs for Flamingos sessions.
Alas, I can't find Smoke Gets in Your Eyes on youtube, but here is Tell Me Why Why Why:

Gonzales' other two songs for the Flamingos were You Ain't Ready and If I Can't Have You - the latter the only ballad he wrote for the group. You Ain't Ready will be the subject of a later post.

Other posts in this series here.

Doowop: the Chicago Scene by Robert Pruter
Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks page on the Flamingos
The Chance Label (website) - Robert Pruter, Armin Buttner and Robert L Campbell

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