Thursday, 5 August 2010

“Lover Please – The Complete MGM & Mercury Singles” by CLYDE McPHATTER. A Review Of The 2010 Hip-O Select 2CD Set.

"…Your Words Were Once Inspired…Now I’m Afraid They’re Routine…"

This beautifully presented 44-track 2CD set from Hip-O Select was initially issued on their own website in May 2010 in the USA, then given a public release in late July 2010 and now an August 2010 official release here in UK (not usually the norm for Hip-O Select mail-order issues).

It’s a non-numbered limited edition of 5000 and gathers up all his singles for M-G-M and Mercury Records in the USA between 1959 and 1965. His Billy Ward and The Dominoes and Drifters periods prior to this on Federal, King and Atlantic are covered extensively elsewhere (see also my review for The Drifters “Original Album Series” 5CD mini box set). Noted songwriters include Brook Benton, Clyde Otis, Charles Singleton, Jimmy Oliver, Neil Sedaka, Billy Swan, Gene Pitney, Otis Blackwell, Ed Townsend and the set also includes 8 of McPhatter’s own compositions.

Hip-O Select B001423302 will allow you to sequence the A & B-sides of all 22 of his 7” singles as follows (release date and catalogue number beneath each coupling)…

Disc 1 (54:20 minutes):
1. I Told Myself A Lie
2. (I'm Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over
(March 1959 on M-G-M K12780)
3. Twice As Nice
4. Where Did I Make My Mistake
(July 1959 on M-G-M K12816)
5. Let's Try Again
6. Bless You
(November 1959 on M-G-M K12843)
7. Think Me A Kiss
8. When The Right Time Comes Along
(February 1960 on M-G-M K12877)
9. One Right After Another
10. This Is Not Goodbye
(September 1960 on M-G-M K12949)
11. The Glory Of Love
12. Take A Step
(March 1961 on M-G-M K12988)
13. Ta Ta
14. I Ain't Giving Up Nothing (If I Can't Get Somethin' From You)
(June 1960 on Mercury 71660)
15. I Just Want To Love You
16. You're For Me
(September 1960 on Mercury 71692)
17. One More Chance
18. Before I Fall In Love Again (I'll Count To Ten)
(November 1960 on Mercury 71740)
19. Tomorrow Is A-Comin'
20. I'll Love You Till The Cows Come Home
(1961 on Mercury 71783)
21. Whole Heap Of Love
22. You're Moving Me
(April 1961 on Mercury 71809)

Disc 2 (55:30 minutes):
1. I Never Knew
2. Happiness
(July 1961 on Mercury 71841)
3. Same Time, Same Place
4. Your Second Choice
(September 1961 on Mercury 71868)
5. Lover Please
6. Let's Forget About The Past
(February 1962 on Mercury 71941)
7. Little Bitty Pretty One
8. Next To Me (Mono Single Version)
(May 1962 on Mercury 71987)
9. Maybe
10. I Do Believe
(September 1962 on Mercury 72025)
11. The Best Man Cried
12. Stop
(October 1962 on Mercury 72051)
13. So Close To Being In Love
14. From One To One
(November 1963 on Mercury 72166)
15. Deep In The Heart Of Harlem
16. Happy Good Times
(January 1964 on Mercury 72220)
17. Second Window, Second Floor
18. In My Tenement
(1964 on Mercury 72253)
19. Lucille [Live]
20. Baby, Baby [Live At The Apollo]
(1964 on Mercury 72317)
21. Crying Won’t Help You Now [miscredited in the booklet as Crying Won’t Help You]
22. I Found My Love
(April 1965 on Mercury 72407)

The 3-way foldout card digipak has quality colour photos of a smiling Clyde on each flap while the over-sized 28-page booklet contains affectionate and informative liner notes by noted expert and fan BILL DAHL (fresh from his extraordinary work on the Bear Family “Sweet Soul Music” series – see reviews for all 10 of those discs from 1961 to 1970). The packaging feels classy – nicely done.

Singular praise must also go out to ELLEN FITTON. With huge amounts of much-praised work for Hip-O Select on their Motown reissues (especially The Complete Singles box sets) – she has excelled herself here. The quality of these remasters is BEAUTIFUL – Grammy territory - superlative instrumentation clarity and warmth given over to every single track. As you listen to the eerily clean “I Just Want To Love You”, you’re reminded of Roy Orbison’s material on Monument or Sam Cooke’s stuff on RCA; this is music with top-notch production values now brought back to life by an ace engineer.

Which unfortunately brings us to the bad news, the actual songs themselves…

After a slew of mediocre albums with Columbia and a stay at a label that just didn’t understand her, Aretha Franklin finally left for Atlantic Records in 1967 and the world of Soul Music was never the same since again - and all the richer for it. Poor Clyde McPhatter (possessed of an equally glorious set of pipes) did the opposite - and arguably paid for it for the rest of his life - but in all the wrong ways. Even rabid fans are divided on the material offered here. While McPhatter consciously ran towards the crooner arrangements (lyrics to “Masquerade” title this review), the results were a lot of songs swamped in girly background singers and a slush of strings - it’s Fifties and Sixties Pop rather than 'Soul' – and some would even dismiss the lot as outright disposable pap. It’s not all that bad of course - it’s just that it’s saccharine compared to the joy of the R’n’B sides on Federal, King and Atlantic.

But re-listening to it now – I think a reassessment is called for. His own composition “When The Right Time Comes Along” is joyful stuff and Brook Benton’s double-whammy of “I Ain’t Giving Up Nothing (If I Can’t Get Somethin’ From You)” and “You’re Moving Me” along with Clyde’s own “Ta Ta” - these four alone could easily have been great album tracks on an Atlantic LP by The Drifters. The slow piano ballad “Next To Me” is lovely too and “Deep In The Heart Of Harlem” could double as a mid-Sixties Ben E. King hit. After the terrible live tracks "Lucille" and "Baby, Baby", it ends on a high – Ed Townsend’s “Crying Won’t Help You Now” (he later co-wrote with Marvin Gaye) where McPhatter sounds like Jackie Wilson at his aching Brunswick best, which is in turn followed by its forgotten soulful torch ballad B-side – Clyde’s own “I Found My Love”.

So there you have it – great packaging, exceptional sound quality, but material that veers from the sublime to the awful.

Still – it’s fantastic news for fans to finally see this material on CD at last. And then of course, there's that fantastic voice... Recommended.

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