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RAY CHARLES

The Complete ABC Recordings
1959-1961

Le Chant du Monde
12742190.92

 

 

CD1
1. Them That Got
2. Who You Gonna' Love
3. My Baby! (I Love Her, Yes I Do)
4. Georgia on my Mind
5. Moonlight in Vermont
6. Moon Over Miami
7. Blue Hawa‹i
8. Chattanooga Choo-Choo
9. Basin Street Blues
10. Deep in the Heart of Texas
11. Mississippi Mud
12. Alabamy Bound
13. California, Here I Come
14. New York's My Home
15. Carry Me Back to Old Virginny
16. I Wonder
17. Sticks and Stones
18. Worried Life Blues
 
CD2
1. Nancy (With the Laughing Face)
2. Ruby
3. Stella by Starlight
4. Cherry
5. Candy
6. Diane
7. Margie
8. Sweet Georgia Brown
9. Hardhearted Hannah
10. Rosetta
11. Marie
12. Josephine
13. I've Got News for You
14. Mister C
15. Stompin' Room Only
16. From the Heart
17. Moanin'
18. Strike Up the Band
 
CD3
1. Birth of the Blues
2. Let's Go
3. One Mint Julep
4. I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town
5. Goodbye/We'll Be Together Again
6. Alone Together
7. Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye
8. For All We Know
9. Cocktails for Two
10. You and I
11. Takes Two to Tango
12. Side By Side
13. Baby, It's Cold Outside
14. Together
15. People Will Say We're in Love
16. Just You, Just Me
17. Unchain My Heart
18. Hit the Road Jack
19. The Danger Zone
20. But on the Other Hand, Baby

 

Was Ray Charles a soul singer, a rhythm-and-blues singer, a jazz singer, a gospel singer, a pop singer or a country singer? In fact he was all of these - and more, which is why the appellation of "Genius" was applied to him with some justice. This collection illustrates why. But don't be misled by the title. "The Complete ABC Recordings" looks awesome but note the limited dates: 1959-1961. These were the years before Ray astonished the music world with Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music and he made such memorable singles as I Can't Stop Loving You and You Don't Know Me. So the period covered by this three-CD set covers four albums: Genius Hits the Road, Dedicated to You, Genius + Soul = Jazz and Ray Charles & Betty Carter, plus a few singles from that period

In 1959, Ray Charles' contract with Atlantic Records expired and he signed a very advantageous contract with ABC-Paramount. Earlier in the year he had had his first mainstream hit record with What'd I Say and he felt ready to expand his horizons. He was determined to stop playing for dancers, and move into giving concerts and playing in nightclubs. He thought of ideas for new record albums and the first of these was The Genius Hits the Road, a collection of a dozen songs about places in America. He made the album with arrangements by Ralph Burns, who was in many respects a jazz musician and arranger. However, many tracks are lush, with choral and string backings.

This LP includes Ray's moving interpretation of Georgia on my Mind, the unexpected Moonlight in Vermont and Deep in the Heart of Texas, the sentimental Blue Hawaii, the hip Chattanooga Choo-Choo, and the jazzy Basin Street Blues and Alabamy Bound. These illustrate the breadth of Ray's range, although he has some intonation problems in Moon Over Miami. And it was unwise of Ray to choose to sing Mississippi Mud, a cheery enough song but its original lyrics referred to "darkies" (Ray substitutes "people") - unsuited to Ray's campaigns against racial prejudice.

The second CD consists mainly of the Dedicated to You LP - another concept album, praising twelve ladies in song. The arrangements were by Marty Paich, another jazz arranger. Again, the backings often include lush strings and a cooing chorus, but Ray's interpretation of Nancy (With the Laughing Face) can match Frank Sinatra's. Margie and Sweet Georgia Brown thankfully have jazzier backgrounds from a big band. The latter includes several swinging sax solos. And Hardhearted Hannah has nice laid-back piano from Ray. His relaxed piano is also featured in the instrumental Josephine.

The last six tracks on the second CD and the first four on the third CD come from Genius + Soul = Jazz, which has arrangements by Ralph Burns and Quincy Jones. This album features Ray playing the organ, backed by a punchy big band, which on some numbers is the Count Basie Orchestra without the Count. I can't say I am particularly pleased with the sound the organ makes, which seems a long way from the sound conjured up by Jimmy Smith or Joey De Francesco. But it is good to hear Ray without sentimental accompaniments, and a song like I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town (with trumpet obbligato from Clark Terry) effectively blends his jazz and blues tendencies. This track was arranged by Quincy Jones and it foreshadows Quincy's brilliant use of Ray Charles in the atmospheric music for the 1967 film In the Heat of the Night.

Marty Paich did the arrangements for Ray Charles & Betty Carter, which comprises tracks 5 to 16 of the third CD. The first five tracks take us back to the string-laden arrangements which tend to wash across Ray's genius, although the pairing with Betty Carter adds some spice to the mix, as she has always been somewhat unpredictable. The remaining tracks use a big-band accompaniment which works much better. Betty Carter had performed in several concerts with Ray and they work together affectionately, especially in such suggestive songs as Takes Two to Tango and Baby, It's Cold Outside.

The last four tracks in this compilation were recorded for singles in 1961. The A sides were deservedly both hits: Hit the Road Jack and Unchain My Heart. The B sides were darker and ambiguous. The Danger Zone may be about racial prejudice or nuclear dangers, while But on the Other Hand, Baby may refer to drug dependence or an unfaithful woman.

The Voice of America is the name of a long-lived broadcaster. Ray Charles might have the same title, as he voices many different aspects of American life, particularly for African-Americans.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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