THE GENIUS OF CLYDE MCPHATTER includes not only his solo hits, but his work with the Dominos and the Drifters.
Clyde McPhatter possessed one of the most powerful voices of any R&B performer of his generation, and he could seemingly twist it in any direction he chose -- McPhatter sounded gloriously lascivious when he sang a sexy number like "That's What You're Doing to Me," heart-tugging and forlorn on weepers like "These Foolish Things," and like the baddest cat on the block when he took on a rocker like "Money Honey." McPhatter was also a key member of two of the most important R&B acts of the 1950s, Billy Ward & His Dominoes and the Drifters, before striking out on his own as a solo act. McPhatter's trail-blazing career certainly merits the box set treatment, or at very least a career-inclusive compilation CD, and The Genius of Clyde McPhatter unfortunately isn't that disc However, it does offer some potent highlights from his tenure with the Dominoes (seven tunes, including the wild "Have Mercy, Baby" and the bizarre "The Bells") and 20 great songs with McPhatter fronting the Drifters, adding up to as good an introduction to the man's work as you're likely to find. What's most impressive about this collection is how consistently strong McPhatter sounds regardless of his context. The ethereal holiday tunes "White Christmas" and "The Bells of St. Mary's" prove the man never lost touch with his gospel roots, while "Whatcha Gonna Do" and "Three Thirty Three" make it clear he could handle worldly matters just as well as the sacred. And for sheer show-stopping theatrics, "Gone" and "Warm Your Heart" show that McPhatter was perhaps the only performer who could match Jackie Wilson at his own game. The Genius of Clyde McPhatter isn't the last word in this great artist's body of work, but it's a dazzling single-disc overview of his salad days, and anyone who hasn't treated himself to the glory of his tenor needs to give this a spin. ~ Mark Deming