Sunday, 16 July 2017

Flamingos # 8: Hurry Home Baby

Hurry Home Baby is the only song from the Flamingos' first session yet to be discussed in this series, although Robert Pruter's succinct dismissal has already been quoted:
... an imitation Ravens number that made nobody forget about the Ravens.
I'm guessing Mr Pruter is referring not only to Jake Carey's bass lead but also that "doo-doo dooh- doo, doo-doo dooh-doo" backing refrain, characteristic of such Ravens records as Summertime and Careless Love. Rather corny to today's ears - mine, anyway - I assume this was employed by the group partly as a means of being quickly identified.

Unlike most Ravens records, however, where Maithe Marshall's high tenor provides a dramatic contrast to the fathoms-deep bass of Jimmy Ricks, Hurry Home Baby does not have two alternating leads, and is more of an ensemble piece, with a few solo lines parcelled out here and there. A voice I can't identify - perhaps Zeke Carey or Paul Wilson? - is prominent during the opening vocal section ("I'm down at the station ..."); Sollie McElroy can be heard later among the voices singing the "Don't stay away" response to the bassman's "Hurry home" plea before Dick Davis goes into his sax solo, ably supported by pianist Prentice McCarey, whose looseness is entirely appropriate and exciting here.

Later on, Sollie McElroy gets a line to sing solo, but the show belongs more to the unidentified singer, be he Wilson or Carey, Z.,  who is given his brief chance to shine on this record. (I don't think it's Johnny Carter in this instance although I could be wrong.)

Sadly, Mr X doesn't quite make it to the end without incident. As the song nears its conclusion he sings:
If you don't come home, gonna ride that train myself,
Gonna look for my baby, I don't want nobody else.
Or rather he sings the first line, momentarily forgets about the second, then picks it up a few words in. As mistakes go it's hardly major, and you could say it fits in with the loose feel of the performance generally, reminding me of Johnny Keyes' remark that in the doo wop world the master is the take which is "virtually mistake-free." Odd, nevertheless, to think of the Flamingos in connection with the notion of a casual approach.

As lyrical complexity goes this isn't, in truth, all that much of a song: stock blues phrases. Words and music are credited to King Kolax, but it could have been made up on the spot, more or less. (Then again, who castigates Big Joe Turner for a lack of verbal invention?) Those more schooled in the blues will probably recognise the lines in the chanted bridge:
I give her all my money,
I buy her plenty of clothes,
I give her a red cadillac
Cause I love that woman so!

Still, you can feel the musicians' freedom within the song's simple structure, and the playing is good.

That is to say, I think it is. Of all the recordings covered so far, this is the one I can't quite decide on. Some days I like its lilt (if that's the correct musical term); other days the same track can feel a bit leaden, a bit obvious.

Yet I can say that one impartial critic of my acquaintance liked it. In a house far away, more years ago than I can easily remember, this song was playing on a tape in the background when someone who wasn't particularly a fan of doo wop felt impelled to grab me and start whirling me about, leaving me with no option, m'lud, but to submit - a clear case of voting with your feet.

And that memory, perhaps, provides the answer: this lesser-known Flamingos side is more for dancing than listening or analysing. In fact, to hurry the point home, here's the Charly LP from which that fateful cassette derived:

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
King Kolax Discography - Robert L Campbell, Armin Buttner, and Robert Pruter

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