Thursday, July 18, 2013

Music Library: Ray Charles

Ray Charles and Buck Owens

When I broke this entry up like this, I thought I might have a lot to say about the output of Mr. Charles, but I did not know what. I still do not know what. Buy the Atlantic albums; they're perfect. I have multiple copies of several of these because I had them on vinyl, again on CD, and then I bought the Complete Atlantic Recordings box set. None of this was wasted money.

1957: Ray Charles and The Great Ray Charles. These are perfect, as I already pointed out. This track in the video was the second song on his debut.

1958:  Ray Charles At Newport, Yes Indeed!, and Soul Brothers (with Milt Jackson). Even when the dude plays jazz with a jazzbo like Milt Jackson, he holds his own.

1959: What'd I Say and The Genius Of Ray Charles. The Atlantic excellence hitting a fever pitch. I have FOUR versions of What'd I Say.

1960: Ray Charles In Person and The Genius Hits The Road. In Person is the last Atlantic album released while Charles was still signed to the label, but they had a lot of stuff in the vaults. The Genius Hits The Road is a concept album about traveling across the US. His leap to ABC let loose a lot of syrup, although even Ray Charles syrup is pretty awesome.

1961: Genius + Soul = Jazz, The Genius Sings The Blues, Soul Meeting (with Milt Jackson), The Genius After Hours, and Ray Charles And Betty Carter. Sings The Blues and After Hours are Atlantic releases of older material. They are perfect. Genius + Soul, Soul Meeting, and the Betty Carter album are jazzbo albums. They are good-to-great. I don't have Dedicated To You, which is yet another Ray Charles release from 1961.

1962: Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music and Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music, Volume Two. Aw yeah. Ray Charles turns Hank Williams and Don Gibson (and lots of other country) songs into the richest, lushest, most urbane Americana. A brilliant metaphor for the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement and a brilliant statement of purpose stating that African-Americans are Americans, pure and simple. Not just perfect, but GODDAMN perfect.

1963 and on: Ingredients In A Recipe For Soul (1963), Live In Concert (1965), Crying Time (1966), Ray's Moods (1966), Invites You To Listen (1967), I'm All Yours Baby! (1969), Volcanic Action Of My Soul (1971), A Message From The People (1972), Porgy and Bess (with Cleo Laine, 1976). Sometimes good, sometimes great. None of these are perfect albums, but some of the songs are perfect. He flounders more and more in the late 60s and 70s, but he never quite lost it.

Compilations: The Definitive Ray Charles and Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings, 1952-1959. The Definitive compilation is good, one of the first Ray Charles albums I bought, while I may have mentioned that anything Ray Charles recorded for Atlantic is perfect.


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