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For most artists, regardless of their success in the current environment they help to shape, there remains an affinity for the music and styles that immediately proceeded it… music that they listened to coming of age and convinced them to try and turn this love into a career.

They all find when they get there though that music never remains still, it’s always moving forward and the ones which remain more interested in getting ahead of the pack and being the first to find and claim new territory for their own are the ones who tend to be most revered when all is said and done.

Those who are less creatively ambitious but realistic enough to continually adapt to the changes around them and deliver solid work in whatever style currently in vogue. They may never be all that influential following trends rather than setting them, but they can consistently successful and long remembered after their careers end.

But then there are those who keep looking backwards to when they first became enamored with music and try futily to maintain those styles in face of mounting commercial indifference. These acts are rarely known at the time and as result there’s nothing to forget, they simply didn’t make any discernable impact.

Doc Pomus would’ve fallen into the latter category if not for his later success as a songwriter, but as this record shows if you were going to resist adapting to changes around you, occasionally it could still be done with the utmost class.


I Want To Have Me A Home
This is a modest record with modest aspirations yet it might just be the best record Doc Pomus ever made. Certainly it’s the most comfortable he ever sounded singing, which is something of a surprise because it wasn’t how he usually approached a song.

Pomus had idolized Big Joe Turner, a singer whose vocal projection and ability to ride the rhythm of a song were legendary, and that’s the template that Pomus more often than not tried to emulate.

But Turner was equally proficient with introspective ballads where his phrasing and his emotional depth and intelligence came to the forefront and for some reason Pomus mostly sidestepped that kind of material… until now.

No Home Blues is a classically structured song with deceptively deep storytelling qualities. He’d yet to show much proficiency as a writer, preferring then to take a standard blues-based arrangement and hastily compile lyrics to fit, almost as if he were afraid that if he put too much effort into his compositions and they failed to connect it’d prove that his aspirations were a pipe dream.

But here Pomus sheds that inhibition and comes up with a carefully plotted narrative. Though the basic scenario is familiar, the manner in which it unfolds and the small details along the way combining with his own more intimate delivery make this something that, if not for the year it was released, might’ve been a legitimate hit.


Ready To Settle Down
It’s not fair to call this record outdated, even though it has more in common musically with something from 1946 than 1950, so a better description of it might be “not beholden to current trends”, a more legalese way of saying “timeless”.

Trading in his usual rolling rhythms and underpowered shouting for a crawling tempo and subdued vocals No Home Blues is a fully mature performance. Whereas before he always sounded like an enthusiastic amateur unable to keep his emotions in check, this finds him introspective and in total control after a somewhat shaky opening where he lets his voice go just a little too much before quickly reining it in. Once he does however this is nothing like the Doc Pomus we’ve met before and that’s definitely a good thing.

Insecurity reveals itself in strange but predictable ways. Though it took a lot of guts for a heavy, short, white kid on crutches to sing in black venues Doc Pomus’s confidence apparently disappeared inside a studio where he’d quickly dash off unpolished songs and rushed through them even faster than they were designed to be played, burning off his nervous energy and trying to get through them so he could go off and get high or get drunk and not have to think about the results.

But here all of that vanishes. He slows everything down, keeping his delivery in check and giving the impression he’s lost deep in thought as he unveils the best lyrics he’s come up with to date,. It all may be presenting a fairly standard plot about a wandering ne’er do well deciding to finally settle down, but it’s given added gravitas by his surprisingly tender reading of the material.

Maybe he’d come to grips with his own broken dreams by now and was ready to explore his own feelings rather than presenting himself as a character based on what he envisioned his own musical heroes to be, but regardless of the reasons the results are impressive as he modulates his voice in accordance with the sentiments, investing himself – and thereby investing you – in the outcome.

Helping him with this tall order is the equally delicate musical backing that for once in his career finds everybody on the same page.

A Whole Lotta Self Control
Though the arrangement is for the most part exceedingly simple, that simplicity benefits the song, as they play with the intent of of establishing guardrails so that Pomus has to stay in his lane, not speed things up and use their collective ability to draw such an atypical performance out of him.

Because No Home Blues is so low-key you need to focus on each element individually to really grasp their effectiveness, such as the sax wheezing its six note refrain after Doc’s lines, making sure not to utilize the full tone of the instrument which would overwhelm the sentiments, but instead to merely hint at them as if they were fading details from a dream just after waking up – still visible but already fleeting in your mind’s eye.

Reggie Ashby’s piano is similarly subdued, playing little melodic snippets that at times seem almost randomly chosen, yet which keep the mood intact as Pomus wearily confesses his tribulations.

When Doc starts to raise his voice a little to impart more urgency the horns split up to offset this, the trumpet providing the primary responses while the sax answers it. Neither one is necessarily the best choice for this part, the point-counterpoint action becomes a little distracting especially with their differing tones, but they don’t overstep their roles here and when Doc jacks up his delivery even more for the middle eight the trumpet’s more assertive response is hardly out of line, giving the song momentary visceral impact before settling back down.

If by the end of the track it gets a little too whimsical you can overlook it because of how restrained they were for the bulk of the record.


I Wanna Have Me A Home Before I’m Too Old
Though there was no alternate universe in which Doc Pomus was ever going to be a star, this is proof that his presence on the scene was hardly just an odd quirk either.

In fact No Home Blues shows that he had it in him to be more than the low-rent journeyman novelty performer he was shaping up to be. If he’d worked at crafting songs that suited his limitations while exhibiting the kind of emotions he showed here he’d have been… well, I suppose a higher rent journeyman, but at least a more widely known and highly respected one.

This would be a GOOD record for any artist and when considering how few natural gifts as a singer Doc Pomus had to work with you might even call it a very good record, certainly one that beat even your most optimistic expectations.

Unfortunately though this would be the last time he’d appear on a notable label, meaning the rest of his career as an artist would be conducted with the fly-by-night companies where such things as professional studios and engineers were probably as likely to be found as champagne and caviar for their mid-session snack.

But lest anyone think that Doc Pomus, future Hall Of Fame inductee as a songwriter for hire, didn’t at least give himself one decent composition, this record stands as an achievement for which he should be genuinely proud.


(Visit the Artist page of Doc Pomus for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)