No tags :(

Share it




So far, after not quite a full year as recording artists, The Dominoes have made no wrong steps stylistically, have been commercially strong and have released nothing that has left you scratching your head artistically either.

Along the way they’ve managed to highlight different lead singers on songs that used completely different approaches and been good on all of them. When tasked with backing Little Esther on two cuts they’ve been just as stellar in supporting roles and although it’s still a little too soon for it become apparent, their dynamic lead vocalist Clyde McPhatter has so thoroughly shaken up the standard approach to singing that if he had hung up his tonsils after this release his influence over the next decade would still be immense.

About the only criticism we can levy at them is the two sides of this single were somewhat similar in tempo and style but since the other was cut back in November 1950 at their first session and this side was recorded in May, it’s hardly their fault that Federal Records paired them up together.

I guess they call these “salad days” for a reason.


Standing There Beside You
Because the two sides of this single have a lot of structural similarities – their pacing and bare bones musical arrangement, Clyde’s tremulous lead – even though they differ in their lyrical perspective with this being more optimistic despite his separation from his girl, we can try and compare them to see how Billy Ward had adjusted his songwriting in the six months between the studio dates at which they were cut.

That also lets us see if the group were being used differently now that they’ve had verifiable commercial success to know what worked and what may have fallen a little short.

In truth though, there’s really not much that separates them as the group already came across as fully formed in all of their earliest cuts, including Weeping Willow Blues. If some of the components of that song seemed a little unusual, they pulled it off so well that there’d hardly be any reason for Ward to think it wasn’t effective even before it finally saw release and made its way up the regional charts in New Orleans, thus there’d be no real need for any overhauling of their approach on songs of this kind.

That being said though, I Am With You tells its story in a bit more typical fashion, but even so it has a freshness and innovative feel to it simply by how McPhatter sings it.

Eventually that radical delivery of his might become old hat, but considering he’d only been featured in the background on their biggest hit, Sixty Minute Man, and wasn’t the lead on two other sides to date either, it’s safe to say that audiences were still somewhat taken aback by how he tackled these songs.

Meanwhile all of the other lead singers in rock ‘n’ roll were probably hoping he’d get laryngitis and stop making them look so old fashioned by comparison.


They’ll Never Doubt Me
The lone guitar opening the record leads into Clyde McPhatter delivering the title line and holding the first two notes for effect and right there , less than ten seconds in, you could call it a wrap and probably be satisfied.

How can you hope to better that?

Well of course the answer is by giving us even more McPhatter, letting him take the song where he wants to as we go along for the ride.

As with the other side, I Am With You unfolds slowly, partly because of the halting pace he uses, but also because Ward has composed a song which is based more on sheer emotion than plot, not that it’s devoid of one, but it’s clearly secondary to just giving McPhatter a rather vague outline and letting him express himself however he sees fit.

The premise here is his girl is far away and while it hardly appears that they’ve broken up, she’s out of reach and so Clyde is left to convey his feelings by either singing to her over the phone or perhaps he’s just singing to himself to get all of this angst out of his system until he can see her again.

The details for once don’t matter and if they are a little confusing at times it’s made irrelevant because we understand the state of mind he’s in and so that’s what we latch onto as he struggles to get some of his thoughts out.

At times he seems almost consumed with grief, doubling up, even tripling up on certain words or phrases to show how broken up he is before pulling it together, and like the great gospel singers he drew his influence from his singing clearly is meant to be used as a cathartic device as much as it is a means of communication.

As he goes on his resolve strengthens, he becomes more focused and determined until Bill Brown steps in to deliver sort of an inner voice persona of what he’s imagining it will be like when they’re back together.

At least I THINK that’s the aim here, otherwise Brown is portraying a guy across the sea who is trying to move in on his girl in McPhatter’s nightmare come to life. Either way though it’d work to advance the story even if his delivery is a lot more stilted and he mispronounces “known”, adding an extra syllable towards the end somehow. But all of that is forgotten as soon as Clyde comes storming back in, his voice swelling with passion once again before settling into a soothing croon where he’s joined by the others to bring it to a close.

It’s certainly dramatic even if it’s a little fuzzy when it comes to making sense of it all, but even that can be passed off as a natural component of someone lost in a daydream. What you’ll remember aren’t the specifics of the situation McPhatter describes, but rather the immaculate voice he uses to captivate you from start to finish.


Faithful Always
There’s an urge – one based more on experience with these sorts of things than a reflection on the record itself – to chalk up the hit status of this (just one week at #8 on the national charts) to fans waiting expectantly for the long awaited follow up to the biggest rock record of the entire year and being underwhelmed by what they encountered. We’ve seen it before of course, fans flocking to hear something as soon as it comes out and then just as quickly dismissing it, thereby suggesting The Dominoes made a mistake in deviating from the uptempo salacious material.

That may be true to a degree, certainly I Am With You is lacking the galvanizing effect of their previous release, but there’s a huge difference between being disappointed that this song simply uses a much different approach and voicing outright disapproval of the record on its own merits.

But while this wasn’t going to vault them any higher on the ladder of current acts, it certainly doesn’t knock them down a peg either and in the big scheme of things it was hardly a bad sign to let audiences know The Dominoes were willing and able to explore other ideas and still come up with songs that showed them in their best light.

It may be a notch down from their most impressive work so far, but with the bar being set so high even something that falls a little short for them is still a record that other groups would sell their collective souls for.


(Visit the Artist page of The Dominoes for the complete archive of their records reviewed to date)