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FEDERAL 12087; JULY 1952



When a group positioned as a rock act but with their credentials having yet to get full clearance by a jury of their peers… or rather of the fan base who have a much higher high standard for inclusion… there’s always the fear that they’ll revert back to something more tame in order to sort of hedge their bets.

That’s kind of what The Four Jacks do here and normally that kind of move would seem to confirm everybody’s suspicions about them.

But while we can’t excuse them for veering outside the main thoroughfare of rock’s highway, we might find in ourselves to say they carry off this bad stylistic choice with a fare amount of grace and class for whatever that’s worth.


Though I’m Away
Listening to this unfold, with its mild harmonies, pleasantly unchallenging melody, light instrumentation and very passive subject matter, you might assume this was a cover of a recent pop song, but no, it was penned by Federal’s prolific – as of late – tandem of Mario Delagarde, the bassist in Johnny Otis’s group, and Rick Darnell, which tells you that even committed rock minds were not immune to being influenced by more sedate pop after being inundated with it for years.

But while we might dismiss pop attributes left and right around here when they intrude on more legitimate rock aesthetics, that doesn’t mean they aren’t appealing for what their goals are and if at times those goals sort of blend with a rock group trying to find its commercial footing…well, maybe we shouldn’t be TOO harsh on them.

Since The Four Jacks were basically an imitative group, covering The Orioles back in the late 1940’s for their only hit, then taking a page – if not a whole chapter – from their fellow Federal labelmates The Dominoes on The Last Of The Good Rocking Men on the top half of this, it’s probably not too surprising to see some elements of The Ravens on this side, even if they’ve chosen a rather compromised version of that group.

Rather than hone in on the lecherous eroticism of Jimmy Ricks on the uptempo sides that group specialized in, they instead focus on the weary resignation of some of the slower numbers they cut.

With Ellison White’s bass holding its own on I’ll Be Home Again it’s hard to complain even if this is not the type of song that contributes much of anything to rock’s status in its own kingdom.

Yeah, it’s nice to hear they’re capable of being more subdued, but I don’t think that was ever in doubt, so what we get in the end is best described as a rock interpretation of pop music on an original song written by faithful members of the rock ‘n’ roll fraternity.

Be still my beating heart!

Oh Don’t You Remember Me?
The tricky part about fairly evaluating something like this is trying to keep it in context.

Pop music obviously exists on a different plane than rock – or blues, or jazz… you name it – and what works well for one does not necessarily pass muster for the main goal here, which is rock appeal.

So even though the simple waltzing melody here is really catchy, we know it’s not meant for us specifically. We’re sort of peeking into somebody else’s parlor through the window, or at best are guests at their party and thus can’t pick the music. But while you might not think I’ll Be Home Again suits us, the fact is there’s a gentle rhythm to White’s singing that works its way into our rock addled brains.

Maybe the same melodic line in another voice wouldn’t have the same effect, we’ll grant you that, but in a sonorous bass vocal it takes on slightly different shades that give it some cache which will allow us to enjoy it at face value rather than dismiss it out of hand for clearly being for someone else’s ears.

Of course our appreciation of it would be helped if the others were more in line with that thinking, for instead of giving it a harder gospel-edged harmony, they ease off the intensity so much that only the warmth of their voices themselves – not the way in which they sing – can be modestly accepted… and even then with reservations.

The musical side of the equation isn’t aiding their cause much either. It’s a discreet track with some nice touches, including some liquidy guitar notes and a few brighter moments on the drums, but while it’s well judged for the record, it’s not well chosen for the audience if that audience is comprised of rock fans.

We’re therefore left with the same impression that we began with, namely this is a lyrically vapid song that gets most of its mileage on a melody that’s charming enough not to complain about, some professional vocal support and a lead that might not suggest anything deeper in what he’s singing, but the voice that he’s singing with still holds us in its sway… in spite of our better judgement.

A Little Later, Back To Stay
There’s probably no way to win here with whatever grade we bestow upon this record.

For those who demand that rock records make a concerted effort to adhere to, if not advance, rock ‘n’ roll’s primary goals of violently overthrowing bland pop music, this will seem like an affront to those efforts and any generosity shown it will be offensive to everything we claim to stand for.

For those who want to give credit where credit is due for a record being well sung, melodically sound and instrumentally adroit, then you may think we’re actually being too stingy in our assessment of I’ll Be Home Again.

So naturally we’ll split the difference.

It’s not that we care about raising anybody’s ire over meaningless grades one way or another, but rather both sides have valid points.

Usually pop leaning songs by rock vocal groups are the epitome of wimpiness, sung in a flowery inoffensive manner and wrapped in a ribbons and lace arrangement.

This does not fit that description however, even if it also doesn’t fit the bill for a more exciting, more challenging and conceptually deeper rock record as we hoped it would.

But it IS a pleasant way to spend three minutes and while that isn’t quite enough to recommend as a way to help you understand the scope of rock music in 1952, we aren’t going to say that it’s the complete antithesis of it either.

Compromised by intent, but none the worse for that charge being leveled against it.


(Visit the Artist page of The Four Jacks for the complete archive of their records reviewed to date)