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Album Review

Pianist Billy Ward formed and managed the Dominoes, wrote most of the group's music and arranged it, and he also sang, but the Dominoes will always be remembered for the group's impressive succession of lead tenors, which included, in order, Clyde McPhatter, Jackie Wilson and Gene Mumford. The Dominoes earliest work was recorded for the Federal/King family of labels and this, the second in Classics' chronological survey of the group, covers October 1953 through June 1954 of their stay with King. McPhatter had just left the Dominoes a few months before and had been replaced by Jackie Wilson, who in his very first session tracked the enduring vocal for "Rags to Riches," thus quickly ending any speculation about a quality fall-off in the group's vocal sound. Other notable sides collected here include the goofy but strangely endearing "Cave Man," Wilson's brilliant vocal on a version of "I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town," and Ward's own "Little Black Train," a fine composition built around a gospel-folk motif. The Dominoes would leave Federal/King later in the year and record a one-off for Jubilee Records before signing with Decca Records, only to return briefly to Federal a year later in 1955. As a record of how quickly and well Wilson assimilated himself into the group's vocal style, and for the stunning versions of "I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town" and "Little Black Train" contained here (and, of course, for "Rags to Riches"), this is a valuable archival collection.

1953-1954, Billy Ward & The Dominoes
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