Thursday, July 02, 2009

Ray Charles goes country

"The words to country songs are very earthy like the blues, see, very down. They're not as dressed up, and the people are very honest and say, 'Look, I miss you, darlin', so I went out and I got drunk in this bar.' That's the way you say it. Where in Tin Pan Alley will say, 'Oh, I missed you darling, so I went to this restaurant and I sat down and I had dinner for one.' That's cleaned up now, you see? But country songs and the blues is like it is."

-Ray Charles in Rolling Stone Magazine, 1973

So a few months ago I mentioned the release of Genius! - The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection, a collection of twenty-one songs, some of Ray Charles' most well known and popular hits from over five decades of music making. While talking about the album, I also mentioned that Concord Music was re-releasing dozens of Ray's albums, some of them for the first time in digital format. I ALSO also mentioned that one of the things that made Ray so great (in my humble opinion) was his ability to craftily work with almost any genre and still make great music, two such examples of said ability being Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Volumes 1 and 2.

Well, the day has come for those monumental albums to see the light of day anew. And to put the icing in the cake, Concord has put both volumes together on one CD. Both albums were originally recorded in 1962, and turned out to be two of the most celebrated albums of his career. In fact, the first volume was one of the best selling country albums, and as a result of its release, country music saw a huge increase in its listenership. On each of the volumes, Ray takes country songs, some which had been hits previously and others not, and puts his Genius touch to them, fusing their country origins with big band R&B stylings, producing music that had an incredibly wide popular appeal, and really cementing his place in popular music.

Initially his label ABC Records was very much against the idea, being unable to understand the musical powers of Ray Charles and his vision. Luckily, he persevered, resulting in an artistic and genre defining set of albums that, much like Dave Brubeck's Time Out, really deserves to be listened to by any self professed music fan. Enclosed with this re-release are the original liner notes from both volumes as well as newly penned notes about the making and influence of the album. Below you'll find a song from the first volume, Bye Bye, Love, originally a hit for The Everly Brothers, and from the second volume, Making Believe, a real tear jerker.

Visit his official website, the re-release's label Concord Music, and become his friend on MySpace.

No comments: