McPhatter's transition from church music to secular pop infused a gospel energy into his R&B. Beginning with the Dominoes, and later as lead singer of the Drifters, and (as chronicled here) working solo for Atlantic, McPhatter invested himself in a song's lyrics, attaching his sparkling tenor to everything from romantic ballads to rock 'n' roll. The versatility displayed throughout his career is hugely impressive, and the wide range he covered in his years at Atlantic is well represented here.
This 1991 collection, featuring 19 tracks from '55-'59, is an excellent introduction to McPhatter's Atlantic sides. Included is brilliant pop-gospel ("I Can't Stand Up Alone"), indelible torch ballads ("Treasure of Love"), romantic pop ("Just To Hold My Hand"), rock 'n' roll ("Deep Sea Ball") and the chart immortal "A Lover's Question." In between are numerous other hits and lesser-known (but no less noteworthy) singles. Nick Tosches essay and the accompanying photos are fine bonuses, leaving the lack of chronological track ordering as this collection's only major failing.
For those who want a higher track count, Collectible's 26-track two-fer reissue combines the original Atlantic LP's "Love Ballads" and "Clyde," but misses a half-dozen sides here, including essentials like "Treasure of Love" "Without Love (There is Nothing)" and "Deep Sea Ball." The 32 label's double-disc "The Forgotten Angel" takes a broader approach, including earlier work from McPhatter's stint with the Drifters along with Atlantic classics and a handful of live recordings. The double disc drops seven of the tracks included here, including "I'm Lonely Tonight" and "Thirty Days."
In the end it seems to be left to Germany's Bear Family label to provide an all-inclusive anthology of McPhatter's work. In the meantime, this is a terrific sampling.