The Mercury Sessions: Featuring Live & Studio Recordingsby Clyde McPhatter
The title is a sort of catch-all, and a misnomer, as this CD doesn't even attempt to represent a cross-section of McPhatter's work on Mercury Records -- but the CD itself is golden. Eleven of the 14 tracks are taken from McPhatter's 1964 vintage Live at the Apollo album, and show him in surprisingly good form, backed by a band that's just a little bigger than it probably needed to have been. None of that detracts from his performances on numbers ranging across his entire career, including "A Lover's Question," "Ta Ta," "Baby Baby," "Such a Night," "Lucille," and "Just to Hold My Hand." Some of this is done in a bit too much of a big-band style, especially "Such a Night," and those arrangements -- along with the presence of his more pop-oriented material (including "Second Window, Second Floor" and "What's Love to Me") -- make this album less revelatory than it might otherwise have been (though even then it's hard to dislike the voice). "Lucille," by contrast, is done as a hard R&B number that rates as one of his best performances on record. And "Deep in the Heart of Harlem," his then recent single, reveals McPhatter emulating the sound of the latter day Drifters with a song that bears a pleasing resemblance to "Under the Boardwalk" in beat, texture, and theme. One suspects that, despite the Apollo Theater setting, the intent of this album was to emulate Sam Cooke at the Copa by presenting McPhatter in his most mainstream, accessible manner. The R&B elements were somewhat compromised, all to little avail since it never sold in large numbers anyway, but they're still the best reason for buying this reissue.
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