RAY CHARLES — Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music

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RAY CHARLES - Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music cover
4.34 | 3 ratings | 1 review
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Album · 1962

Tracklist

A1 Bye Bye Love 2:09
A2 You Don't Know Me 3:14
A3 Half As Much 3:24
A4 I Love You So Much It Hurts 3:33
A5 Just A Little Lovin' 3:26
A6 Born To Lose 3:15
B1 Worried Mind 2:54
B2 It Makes No Difference 3:30
B3 You Win Again 3:29
B4 Careless Love 3:56
B5 I Can't Stop Loving You 4:13
B6 Hey, Good Looking 2:10

Line-up/Musicians

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About this release

ABC-Paramount ‎– ABC-410 (US)

Selections 1, 3 and 5, Side One; 2, 4 and 6, Side Two recorded at Capitol Studios, New York City, February 5 and 7, 1962.
Selections 2, 4 and 6, Side One; 1, 3 and 5, Side Two recorded at United Recording Studios, Hollywood, California, February 15, 1962.

Thanks to snobb for the updates

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RAY CHARLES MODERN SOUNDS IN COUNTRY AND WESTERN MUSIC reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

Chicapah
Imagine what the reaction would be to this press release: “Prince to record CD of Lynyrd Skynyrd covers.” Appalled followers of the former would claim he’d sold out to “the man” and outraged fans of the latter would decry the project as blasphemy as both parties took turns picketing his purple house. The whole idea seems ludicrous but in April of 1962 Ray Charles, with his “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” LP, did the equivalent. Despite many friends, advisors and industry know-it-alls warning him that such a radical move would likely bring his blossoming career to an ugly, screeching halt Ray was not to be denied in his quest to tear down walls. His recently-signed contract with ABC-Paramount had given him unprecedented control over his music and this album served as the ultimate test of that guaranteed freedom. The bottom line was that Charles didn’t give a bat’s butt about what black or white folks thought. He’d grown up being exposed to all kinds of aural genres from gospel to jazz to blues to C&W to ragtime to rock & roll and, to his perceptive ears, good songs were good songs no matter how they were labeled. In retrospect this recording did more to integrate American modern music than all the civil rights legislation had up to that point in history. That’s because, contrary to what you’d expect would’ve resulted from such a shocking concept, the disc crossed multiple demographics like a stiff wind and sold like hula hoops, lodging itself in the #1 position on the album charts for 14 weeks straight while consumers bought over half a million copies (a figure all the more astounding considering that 45s were much more popular than LPs). In brazenly ignoring the social and racial boundaries of the times Ray Charles was acting every bit as courageous and defiant in defense of his inalienable rights as Rosa Parks.

Admittedly, most jazz lovers of the 21st century below the age of 55 will deem many of these 12 cuts hopelessly corny and extremely dated but that assessment doesn’t degrade the revolutionary impact they had on the music industry as it existed in the early 60s one iota. Ray brainstormed his vision with renowned producer Sid Feller (who compiled nearly 250 tunes for him to consider) and gathered together the finest studio musicians available on both coasts for this bold experiment, placing before them arrangements scored by the likes of Marty Paich, Gerald Wilson and Gil Fuller. The audio fidelity he achieved represented the latest state-of-the-art recording techniques employed in that era and it still sounds surprisingly full and robust. My prized copy is one of the oldest pieces of vinyl I possess, having inherited the mono version from my mom who was uncharacteristically liberal when it came to Ray Charles. Music from black artists wasn’t played much in our home. Bias based on skin tone was an ugly stain running up my family tree and something I had to overcome by listening to my own conscience and then deciding to put an end to that tradition of stupidity once and for all. Yet the fact that this LP was even in my house in ’62 showed that, as Bob Dylan heralded, the times they were, indeed, a changin’.

Charles opens with a feisty big band treatment of The Everly Brothers’ hit “Bye Bye, Love” that sets the pace for how he (along with the inimitable Raelets on this number) intended to sear his own brand on some of C&W’s sacred cows. And what better way to announce that something innovative this way comes than by jazzing up a rockabilly standard. Eddy Arnold’s classic “You Don’t Know Me” follows and the lush strings and background chorale give it a slick sheen that drowns it in thick honey until Ray’s soulful voice bestows upon it a new life of its own. As he sings you can envision tears of sad resignation welling up behind his sunglasses. The big band swaying behind him on “Half as Much” is excellent and it has a fine sax solo to enjoy as Charles wisely opts to let the ensemble stretch out on the track. The sappy arrangement for “I Love You So Much” is an example of the ridiculously out-of-date ballad style that even this aging dude finds hard to tolerate. Yet it’s representative of the rut adult contemporary music found itself stuck in circa ’62 and it should be observed as one would a gaudy antique vase in a musty warehouse. It is what it is. The return of the brassy horns on “Just a Little Lovin’” brings fire back into the proceedings as they swing hard on this song. The sax ride is nifty, too. “Born to Lose” is draped in more of those dense, syrupy strings but Ray’s sorrow-filled vocal is so touching that it’s impossible to pay attention to anything else. Another classy tune from Eddy Arnold that benefits greatly from Charles’ magical touch.

“Worried Mind” isn’t a musical highlight (although Ray contributes a rousing piano break) but its lyric content does emphasize the similarities that exist between bluesy R&B and beer-joint C&W. As Charles claimed on many occasions, there’s not that much difference. When you’re down, you’re down, no matter what side of the tracks you’re from. A subtle horn section gives “It Makes No Difference Now” an unexpected playfulness and their punchy kicks at the end add warm dynamics. Hank Williams’ songs never sounded as good as they did when Ray sang them and “You Win Again” is no exception. The melody fits Charles’ voice to a tee but the glee club background singers put a hokey hangnail on it that dampens the mood. Once again it’s the horns to the rescue and they liven things up in a hurry on Ray’s “Careless Love.” His phrasing is exquisitely accurate and the control he has over his voice is remarkable as he repeatedly jumps into falsetto effortlessly. The song that helped immensely in making this record a success by holding the #1 spot on the singles chart for 5 weeks in a row, Don Gibson’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” gets a thick ladling of mushy sentimentality poured on top but Charles’ incredible singing performance more than makes up for it. He’s so sincere and intense throughout that it defies description, especially when he visits the higher registers of his range. The man’s voice simply had no peer. He closes with the jazziest thing on the album, his killer take on Hank Williams’ revered “Hey, Good Lookin’.” The excited big band entourage sizzles with energy and Ray’s spirited piano solo is a scorcher. Best of all, you can tell without a doubt that everyone’s having a ball with it.

Even as a snot-nosed 12-year-old brat I knew there was something special about what Brother Ray was doing on this album. He was trying to build a bridge between cultures not with persuasive speeches or altruistic works but by tapping into the power of music. I can’t say that I understood a thing about the complexities of the orchestral and big band arrangements I was hearing but I truly sensed a positive shift in the winds of tolerance by his reaching across borders with his heartfelt and honest reinvention of these songs. Any human being with half a brain can tell you that music has no color but it took a blind man to prove it to us. All of mankind owes a debt of gratitude to God Almighty for gifting earth with the fearless genius of Ray Charles just when we needed him most.

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