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See See Rider

La Vern Baker

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Album Review

See See Rider was LaVern Baker's last official album for Atlantic Records, released in 1963 in the wake of her late-1962 hit with the title track. The album was actually an assembly of mostly unreleased tracks, some dating back nearly eight years, while others were totally contemporary to early 1963. There was a little something for everyone on See See Rider, starting with the raunchy "You Better Stop," highlighted by Sam "The Man" Taylor and Dave McRae's tenor saxes and a three-man horn section of Emmett Berry and Shad Collins on trumpets and Lawrence Brown on trombone, plus a hint of blues guitar opening the whole song — very much period "big band" R&B-cum-rock & roll, complete with an uncredited male chorus and vocal accompaniment that deserved better. Jump ahead three years to the smoother rocking, uptempo "He's a Real Gone Guy," a high-speed story of seduction driven by King Curtis' tenor sax and Ernie Hayes' guitar, and then the music takes a leap to the decidedly newer pop/R&B strains of "Story of My Love," built around its achingly beautiful melody and a hook-laden chorus, backed by a string section that could have been lifted out of the nearest Drifters session or a Phil Spector rehearsal. "You Said" was cut from similar cloth, its slightly lighter pop strains (highlighted by a Mickey Baker guitar solo) and its focus on romantic disappointment aimed more at the teen market than the hardest sounds here. Baker's cover of "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes," from 1960, is an above-average pop/R&B hybrid, but only because of her singing — the backing vocal arrangement is sort of embarrassing, but she saves it. "Trying" is another pop digression, and elevated mainly by Baker's vocals. "Half of Your Love" gives Baker less to overcome, her vocals meshing well with Mundell Lowe's guitar accompaniment and the horn overdubs, if not the string overdubs. "A Little Bird Told Me So" is as close to a disaster as Baker ever got as a recording artist, a hopeless pop number that nothing can save — luckily, it's the third to last number here, and the soaring "Endless Love" helps make up for the waste of a perfectly good recording session and song slot on the album. "All the Time," which closed the original LP, wasn't the best song here, but it gives Baker enough chance to stretch out so that it's a more than decent finale, even if it's a little too much of a pop number.

Biography

Born: 11 November 1929 in Chicago, IL

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

LaVern Baker was one of the sexiest divas gracing the mid-'50s rock & roll circuit, boasting a brashly seductive vocal delivery tailor-made for belting the catchy novelties "Tweedlee Dee," "Bop-Ting-a-Ling," and "Tra...
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See See Rider, La Vern Baker
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