On Rock & Roll (1957), listeners are treated to the first LP from the Drifters boasting lead vocals from the inimitable Clyde McPhatter. Although their precise lineage remained hotly contested, there is evidence of at least two earlier incarnations of the combo prior to McPhatter joining the ranks of Gerhart Thrasher (tenor) and Andrew Thrasher (baritone), Bill Pinkney (bass and lead on "White Christmas"), and accompanist Jimmy Oliver (guitar). McPhatter's top billing afforded a few exceptional solos within -- particularly the opener "Without Love" and "Treasure of Love," and the old-school balladry of "I'm Not Worthy." An additional facet of the Drifters' signature sound -- especially during the McPhatter era -- is the amusing and upbeat "Honey Love" -- which was written by McPhatter and producer Jerry Wexler -- who was credited as J. Gerald. Other classics found within are "Money Honey" and "Such a Night" -- each of which are considered essential Drifters' entries in their own right. As mentioned above, it is Bill Pinkney's sonorous bass that drives the cover of the seasonal selection "White Christmas" -- a tune that has become a perennial favorite for oldies enthusiasts. It unwittingly overshadows the Drifters' equally doo wop-inspired update of "Bells of St. Mary." They project the same feel on the gospel-fueled "Whatcha Gonna Do," a number written by Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. He is likewise joined by the talents of Wexler (again as J. Gerald) and even famed engineer Tom Dowd on the bluesy "Warm Your Heart." Closing out Rock & Roll is a perfect example of just that on "Thirty Days," which, despite a similar title, is not the Chuck Berry rocker.
Rock & Roll Review
by Lindsay Planer