Love Ballads

by: Clyde McPhatter

One suspects that Atlantic Records had trouble actually assembling this album, based on the differences between the content and the title. As with most of Atlantic's early LPs, Love Ballads was comprised of existing singles and B-sides, in this case going back to Clyde McPhatter's days with the Drifters. And it is mostly made up of softer, slower numbers, such as "Heartaches," "Come What May," "When You're Sincere," "No Love Like Her Love," and "Long Lonely Nights," that most would call ballads, but in the middle are a surprising amount of what were then known as "rhythm numbers." It's a testament to McPhatter's vocal range that he pulls it all off -- his voice on "Just Hold My Hand," "You'll Be There," "When You're Sincere," "There's No Love Like Her Love," or even "Lucille" (a number salvaged from the first, nearly abortive Drifters session in the spring of 1953) has a vulnerable, fragile edge that just makes the listener want to stop in his tracks, and he seems perfectly at home surrounded by a female choir. But on "Bip Bam," he hits the words incredibly hard, sounding more like a rival to Big Joe Turner than Nat "King" Cole. The slower songs are the direction that McPhatter preferred, aiming at a more sophisticated R&B audience and hoping for a crossover into pop circles -- considering that most of the material dates from 1956-1957, it's all surprisingly sophisticated and groundbreaking in its time. ~ Bruce Eder

Please enable Javascript to view this page competely.