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REVIEW - Floyd Dixon: “Gloomy Baby” - MODERN 20-727; FEBRUARY, 1950
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SavoyBG
2020-04-27 17:19:03 UTC
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https://www.spontaneouslunacy.net/floyd-dixon-gloomy-baby-modern-20-727/


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The precarious balancing act being undertaken by Floyd Dixon, the record companies he was employed by and a segment of the public still not firmly aligned with any specific musical style continues with this single… a record malleable enough to claim residency in multiple genres, yet because of its unwillingness to commit to any of them might find itself with no home to call its own.

Such was the fate of those who were either versatile enough not to be confined to one idiom, or not determined enough to want to define one idiom and thus, despite their overall success in many different realms, remain adrift in the pages of music history.

No wonder he’s gloomy.

Suits Me To A “T”
It wasn’t only that Floyd Dixon was vacillating between cocktail blues and rock ‘n’ roll but he was also leading a double life in another sense by releasing records under his own name while fronting Eddie Williams And His Brown Buddies, an association that is about to end… or rather, it’s ended already.

The breakup of the group was probably inevitable considering that they all had other occupations. Williams was the bassist in the premier cocktail blues outfit of the time, Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers which was struggling to replace their piano playing singer Charles Brown, now a solo star, and so Eddie had merely set off on his own to earn some bucks and get some acclaim under his own name while his primary group was re-organizing.

The other Buddies had gigs to fall back on as well, with Tiny Webb being an in-demand session guitarist and drummer Ellis “Slow” Walsh able to stir some interest in his budding solo career.

But it was Dixon whose prospects remained brightest. A singer/songwriter who was also a skilled pianist he simply fit the prototype for long term success on his own better than the others and with hits under his own name already he seemed poised to break out in a big way. The question though remained: in what direction would he head to capitalize on that promise?

His first single a year ago, Dallas Blues, was a country blues song that he had only offered as a composition for sale, not for him to cut it as an artist, but Modern released his demo and watched it make the charts, so that field seemed in play. Then of course there was his own love of cocktail blues and it’s only natural that with Williams he’d cut songs in the style of his idol Charles Brown.

Yet his best work – subjectively speaking of course from the perspective of a rock website – was on his unquestioned rockers like Red Head N’ Cadillac, where he showed he had the right attitude and delivery to make the arrogant declarations come alive.

Maybe thinking such versatility was an asset, he kept at it, issuing songs that veered from one side of the road to the other. It might make for some confusion on the part of listeners who never were sure what to expect from one record to the next, but at the very least he was keeping his options open.

Except when it seemed he couldn’t quite decide which avenue to pursue within the same song, such as Gloomy Baby, which has aspects of the cocktail blues approach to music while shading it with elements often seen in rock ballads, making the end result somewhat uncertain.

If You Come Halfway
Right from the first elongated notes he wails in apparent agony, you fear for Dixon’s well-being. He sounds as if he’s the one in distress and so you’re thrown for a loop trying to figure out the particulars.

When you do sort things out things don’t get much clearer. Dixon is hitting on this girl, gauging her to be a prospective sweetheart because she seems sad and – like a lion targeting a limping impala in the jungle – apparently all is fair when trying to get a girlfriend.

At least he has the decency to ask if she’s seeing someone, but doesn’t even wait for her answer before saying how hot she is. So much for showing real concern.

He then starts to list his own credentials, which apparently don’t include discretion or tact, though he tells her he’d never make her sad… something I’m sure she won’t believe because he sounds as if he just emerged from funeral. He may not be crying but he does a good impersonation of someone who is shedding tears, as his nasal passages are clogged, his vocal delivery is halting and he seems more choked up with every line he sings. Though the title infers that SHE is the Gloomy Baby you’d be forgiven if you thought that it referred to him instead.

Though the lyrics have him doing nothing more than simply propositioning her, they’re at least suitable for such a task – rather direct maybe, but not so crude they’re off-putting – but the drawback is his vocal tone never matches the sentiments.

This might’ve been a better song with a singer who used his throat rather than his nostrils for projection. An Amos Milburn could do wonders with such a premise, masking his lecherous intent with a charming soulfulness until you fell under his spell just as much as the girl in question was expected to.

But Dixon doesn’t have that ability and so he merely sounds on the verge of suicide, throwing the entire balance of the record off in the process, making what should be a hopeful song sound hopeless.

You’ll Never Feel Sad… Think Again!
The music doesn’t do much to dissuade you of this impression either. If anything it only adds to the downhearted mood as Dixon’s hands make a slow crawl across the keyboard, no spry interludes, no quirky fills, no lighthearted whimsy to bring it from out of the dreary corner it resides in.

The pace is far too slow for there to be much variety in the arrangement either, for even when the guitar comes along with a solo it has no choice but to follow the same hesitant approach. He tries to adjust the tempo slightly, which sounds nice, but there’s only so much you can do without overturning the apple cart altogether.

Because it features such a stripped down band there’s also no getting away from the same two dominant sound textures, piano and guitar. Even a similarly mournful sax would’ve given you something new to adjust your ears to, while some inventive percussion might’ve let you be distracted from the dour pall being cast over you throughout Gloomy Baby.

When Dixon comes back into the picture to wrap up the story it manages to take enough of a turn from the earlier proclamations to justify the aural despair, as he announces that if the girl he’s been focusing on all this time marries somebody else, he’ll be inconsolable.

I hate to break the news to Floyd but she WASN’T seeing someone prior to this and certainly wasn’t about to march down the aisle with anybody, but after hearing you wring your heart out to her and soaking her shoes in a few gallons of tears – and this is when you were excited at potentially winding up with her! – this girl did the only sensible thing in such a situation and looked furtively around the street and spotted an old man waiting for a bus, sidled up to him, took his hand – finding no wedding ring – and said “Yes” to a question the befuddled old timer never remembered asking.

They’re getting married next week and you’re not invited.

Her friends can’t believe their ears when she informs them of this whirlwind romance between her and a man who was born in the 1800’s, but as she tells them with the utmost seriousness that after listening to Floyd Dixon make a play for her which he sounded uncomfortably like a mortician she’d have done absolutely anything to escape his bleak outlook on life… and on music.

Leave Me In Misery
To be fair the song’s not quite as dreadful as we’re making it out to be, just badly considered for rock… or even to a degree for cocktail blues, making it unlikely to be embraced by that constituency either.

Though each genre’s reasons for shying away from Gloomy Baby may be different, the result is the same… just when Dixon, now free to go his own way, should be stating which direction he wants to head, he makes no attempt to let us know what destination he has in mind.

Maybe he was hoping the girl would be the one to lead him someplace – and if she was as good looking as he insisted let’s hope that she’d have been able to at least break through that apparent sorrow and get him smiling… even excited again – but in life, as in music, your own happiness begins within and unfortunately for Floyd Dixon he was still more comfortable wallowing in some untold misery than looking on the bright side of things.


SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT: 3/10
Mark Dintenfass
2020-04-28 18:53:58 UTC
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To be fair the song¹s not quite as dreadful as we¹re making it out to be,
just badly considered for rockŠ or even to a degree for cocktail blues,
making it unlikely to be embraced by that constituency either.
<snip>
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT: 3/10
So what he's saying is it's not really bad, it's just getting a bad
rating because it doesn't fit some genre notions he has, and especially
not into his pet "rock" genre. Sheesh. Imagine how absurd he will get
when he arrives at Ray Charles and tries to figure out what genre to
fit him into.
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--md
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Dean F.
2020-04-29 04:04:46 UTC
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So, he has been writing these reviews for three years and is only up to February 1950? For that guy's sake, I hope he's young!
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