Wednesday, November 9, 2016

SHG: Gary Lewis & the Playboys: "Count Me In"

Gary Lewis & the Playboys: “Count Me In”
Entered the chart on: 4/17/65
Peaked on: 5/8/65
Weeks at #2: 2
Song at #1: “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” by Herman’s Hermits

Not to celebrate meaningless milestones, but we’ve hit Review #100 in the Second Hand Goods series. If I’ve learned anything in doing a hundred entries in this series, it’s that the pop charts are a horrible indicator of musical quality. It seems like half the reviews have me wondering why the song I’m reviewing only hit #2, when it seems more deserving than what was #1 that week. The rest have me wondering what the general public must have been thinking, voting with their dollars to have such a song rise as high as #2.

All that said, let’s talk about nepotism. The Playboys were a Disneyland house band discovered by talent agent Snuff Garrett. Someone at Liberty Records “discovered” their drummer was the son of famous comic actor/movie director Jerry Lewis and thrust him into the spotlight (I’m certain Jerry Lewis had nothing to do with this, hence the quotes). The younger Lewis wasn’t exactly comfortable with this decision, by his own admission not the best singer in the band. I understand “studio trickery” was involved in their records when recording his vocals. I’m guessing they used the same technique they used with the likes of Fabian and Shelly Fabares; i.e.: a harried studio engineer sat there “punching” in notes on the multitrack tape as Lewis sang the same note over and over until he got it right.

Nonetheless, Gary and the boys managed to shoot to the top of the charts with their debut hit, “This Diamond Ring.” Part of this was due to the built-in name recognition, part of this was due to the quality of the songwriting. Reportedly, co-writer Al Kooper was none too thrilled with what they did to his song, envisioning it as an R&B song suitable for the likes of the Temptations. He described Gary’s rendition as “bubblegum [expletive]” (wow, two songs in a row?).

I remembered this song as being similar; a song with potential let down by poor singing. Let’s see if it holds up:

Well, that’s some kind of amazing intro! I like how the piano and celeste kind of syncopate, offering counterpoint to one another. The celeste glissandos add a nice hook to the tune. The keyboard playing altogether is excellent. I assume that’s band member John West providing the proto-Benny Andersson-style piano playing on this (and there’s a little organ in the background near the end). Actually, it might be multi-instrumentalist Leon Russell, who arranged this.

I do remember this being a good song and it definitely is. I can’t rate it too highly, though, because it has one drawback, and predictably that’s Lewis’ voice. To be fair, he’s not awful, just thin and lacking in range. It’s just disappointing that for all the brilliant production that was lavished on this record, it just could have been so much better with a stronger singer to sell it.

So...yes, something of a wasted opportunity, sadly.

Rating: 3

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