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Album Review

Billy Ward played piano behind his Dominoes for quite a while before he ever stepped up to the microphone and used his own voice. Ward managed the group, composed most of its material, and organized the instrumental accompaniments. The anchor in the vocal department was originally basso Bill Brown, often relegated to the background but heard out in front at his very best on "Chicken Blues," "I Am with You," "Love, Love, Love," and the infamous, sexually explicit "Sixty Minute Man," the first popular hit containing lyrics describing a 15-minute orgasm. The group's star tenors, of course, attracted the most attention, first Clyde McPhatter, then Jackie Wilson, and eventually Gene Mumford. This excellent collection documents the early recordings made by the Dominoes for the Federal label. Some of these records really rocked and soon helped to inspire others to rock. The slow, ruminative numbers dwell upon romance, heartbreak, and loneliness but seem also to touch upon a sanguine existential potency usually associated with gospel and the blues. To put it more simply, this disc is packed with some fine and soulful singing. Ward himself is believed to have made his first appearance as lead tenor on the final track of this compilation, "Where Now, Little Heart," recorded in June of 1953. Who played guitar? Who blew on the sax? There's just no telling. And it might not matter. What's important here are the Dominoes, one of the baddest vocal groups of the 1950s, widely imitated but for all intents and purposes, unsurpassed.

1950-1953, Billy Ward & His Dominoes
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