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Pledging My Love

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Album Review

Sadly, the name Johnny Ace is indelibly linked to his untimely self-inflected demise. This inevitably led the vocalist to being revered as rock & roll music's first casualty. In the wake of the tragedy, Ace's tremendously expressive voice has criminally been all but dismissed. However, as this material demonstrates, Ace provided what is nothing short of a framework for practically every R&B and soul-inspired singer who followed. His legacy is evident throughout his plaintive intonations, as well as the accentuated phrasing that graced his delivery, which was often given slightly behind the backbeat. At times, the instrumental support takes on a decidedly jazzier inflection with copious echoplexed piano runs, such as those that chime throughout "Pledging My Love" and "Never Let Me Go." Similarly, the full-bodied vibraphone tones on "Saving My Love for You" and the affective "Anymore" have become sophisticated distinctions, presenting Ace as a more mature and developed artist than the otherwise run-of-the-mill rhythm and blues crooner. The brassy shouter "How Can You Be So Mean" is the greatest departure in terms of style, with Ace really cutting loose for the first time. "Don't You Know" sports a comparatively quick tempo and the cyclical vocal lines draw distinct parallels to Chicago-style bluesmen Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. Although this exact title might prove difficult to locate, the dozen-side Memorial Album includes all of these cuts and is available on compact disc.


Born: 09 June 1929 in Memphis, TN

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '40s, '50s

The senseless death of young pianist Johnny Ace while indulging in a round of Russian roulette backstage at Houston's City Auditorium on Christmas Day of 1954 tends to overshadow his relatively brief but illustrious recording career on Duke Records. That's a pity, for Ace's gentle, plaintive vocal balladry deserves reverence on its own merit, not because of the scandalous fallout resulting from his tragic demise. John Marshall Alexander was a member in good standing of the Beale Streeters, a loosely...
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