Customer Reviews: The Essential Ray Price
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on August 21, 2007
The towering talent of Ray Price split into two distinct periods. His works of the 1950s and early 1960s were country and honky-tonk whose twangy sound will be surprising to those familiar with the smooth countrypolitan work he began in the 1960s. Columbia/Legacy's new two-disc "Essential" collection admirably captures the highpoints of both eras, and in doing so provides an excellent overview of his transition from honky-tonker to crooner. Price's commercial popularity has ensured that his hits have remained in print, but single disc anthologies necessarily short-change either his early or late sides. The similarly titled single disc from 1991, for example, covers only the years 1951 through 1962.

Disc one opens in 1950, before Price had signed with Columbia and began recording in Nashville. "Jealous Lies" was recorded in Dallas and released on the Bullet label. Price sings in the sweet croon then popular in Country & Western recordings, and to which he'd return in an even smoother form 15 years later. By 1951, with Lefty Frizell's "If You're Ever Lonely Darling" and Hank Williams' purpose-written "Weary Blues (From Waiting)," Price began singing more high and lonesome to match the twang of the accompanying fiddle and steel guitar of Don Law's production.

Following Hank Williams' death, Price toured and recorded with his idol's backing band (The Drifting Cowboys) until treading water gave way to forging ahead. Trading out the honky-tonk band for a western swing combo he evolved a new approach through the hits "Please Release Me," "I'll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)," and a breakthrough cover of "Crazy Arms." The latter, Price's first country #1, was heavy on fiddle and steel, but also featured harmony vocals and the shuffle two-step beat that would become his trademark. The George Jones co-written B-side, "You Done Me Wrong" reached the top-10 as well.

Having bumped Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel" from the country chart's top spot, Price was keenly aware of the coming changes in popular music. But as others softened and the Nashville sound descended upon Music City, Price dug in and continued to sing it straight and. His late-50s hits continued with lyrics of betrayal and broken hearts, promoting new songwriters who would become legends: Roger Miller ("Invitation to the Blues"), Bill Anderson ("City Lights"), and Harlan Howard ("Heartahces by the Numbers"). He hired Hank Cochran and Willie Nelson for his publishing company, and filled out his band with Nelson, Miller, Johnny Paycheck, Buddy Emmons and Johnny Bush.

As the 1950s turned into the 1960s Price began to try new sounds. But rather than a commercial reaction to changes in popular music (as his hard shuffles were as commercially popular at the start of the 60s as they'd been in the 50s), the addition of strings, and the softening of his vocals appear to have been artistic decisions. You can hear the change coming as the fiddle line of 1962's "Walk Me to the Door" softens into something that's almost a string arrangement, and by 1963 he took on the lush violins and choral background singers of "Make the World Go Away." The transformation was surprisingly quick.

Throughout the next decade Price reeled off a string of smooth hits that brought a second flush of commercial success. Turning to a crooning style that echoes his earliest side for Bullet, he landed top-10 singles throughout the 60s, culminating in 1970's brilliant reading of Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times." This was his first chart topper in 11 years, and the precursor to three more #1 that included "I Won't Mention It Again" and "You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me." After moving to ABC in 1974 he returned to Columbia for a superb1980 duet with Willie Nelson on the Bob Wills classic "Faded Love" that neatly bridges his honky-tonk and western swing beginnings with his latter-day crooning. The album from which this last single sprung, "San Antonio Rose," is one of country music's most stirring returns.

Compilation producer Gregg Geller's done a fine job of paring down Price's recorded legacy on Columbia to two discs. He's squeezed in 32 of Price's top-10 singles, and 7 of his 8 #1s. He's dipped into his pre-hit singles and included a few lower charting sides that help demarcate the arc of Price's career. This is a superb introduction to and rich overview of Price's legendary run at Columbia, and a must-have for any country music fan - honky-tonker, countrypolitan or both! [©2007 hyperbolium dot com]
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on September 30, 2007
They have finally released a cd that does Ray Price's career justice. It is filled with all the essential sings that made Ray Price one of the best, if not the best country singer ever. I wish they would have included "Here Comes My Baby" from the Burning Memories album on this and then it would be complete with all my favorite Ray Price songs. Now can they only do Faron Young such justice. I highly recommend this CD to anyone who likes country music because Ray Price is one of the top five country singers ever.
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Ray Price was one of the towering giants of country's classic honky-tonk era... He inherited his pal, Hank Williams' band and crafted his own version of the hard country sound, eventually settling on a mix of Texas dance music and western swing that was some of the finest music of the 1950s.

This 2-CD best-of set is a study in contrasts, charting Price's path from honkytonker to lounge singer, paralleling the same evolution in the country music industry of the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Disc One is dominated with his hard country hits of the mid-1950s -- the powerful loping thump of the Texas shuffle propels heavenly hits such as I've Got A New Heartache," "Crazy Arms" and "My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You." There were ballads as well, but Price excelled at uptempo material, and up through the early '60s that's what he concentrated on. Even by the mid-1960s, when he'd become a countrypolitan crooner, Price still cooked up stunners like "A Way To Survive" and "Burning Memories," and he kept a bluesy undercurrent in his music long after contemporaries such as Hank Locklin and Eddy Arnold had abandoned all pretense at twang.

This set basically picks up where the previous "Essential" album (from 1991) left off, and compliments that still-crucial collection: after all the twang and thunder, Price softened up and went pop, but an extra disc's worth of this later material is well worth having on hand. Gems from Hank Cochran, Kris Kristofferson and Price's longtime amigo, Willie Nelson, are nothing to sneeze at. One note: the early years are represented by a markedly different playlist: unless you go for a big, old Bear Family box, you'll want both "Essential" sets to grace your stereo, although every time you check this new one out, you'll be rewarded in some new way. Classic country and countrypolitan at it's best! (DJ Joe Sixpack)
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on July 8, 2008
As he said when he accepted his induction into the CM Hall of Fame, "It's About Time." To me, since I heard Crazy Arms when I was just a young thing listening to "country and western" music on the local radio station,(some folks even called it hillbilly, those were the high falutin' ones in my town who only listened to Guy Lombardo on Sunday afternoons) well, he's been my favorite. And since I've re-discovered Don Gibson, also from the 50's, (I know this isn't about Don Gibson), but I consider them both geniuses at what they do. It's very hard for me to pick one as my very favorite, so I give them shared space as my number 1 favorite.
Can you just imagine? Ray first started on local appearances down in Texas around where he was from and then lucked into a job with Hank Williams, even adopting The Cherokee Cowboys as his band when Hank passed away, after being recommended by Bob Wills, and I believe that was around 1948 which means he's still kicking and singing and performing and did the concert tour last year with Willie, and Merle, 60 years later. It's amazing. All of these songs on this album deserved #1 status when they were out on the radios. How I long for those days again, to introduce good music to the young folks. Even the pop music of those days would be great to be able to hear when you want to. Well, thank the good Lord for whoever has gotten us to where we are with tapes and cd's and to Amazon for making them affordable to old retirees like myself. I couldn't agree more with all of you other lovers of Ray Price's music.
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on March 15, 2012
I received the Essential Ray Price 2 pkg. CD and could not be more pleased with it. The first CD is one of the oldest one's of Ray Price's career. The second CD represents his music when he has added a brass sound along with his string instruments. If you like Traditional country music, you will love this. His voice is "Mr. Smooth". My husband and I have played this 2 pkg. over and over again and couldn't be happier with it. Again, I love this and would give it more stars, if I could.

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on January 21, 2016
Really good selection of Ray's hits. The first CD is full of his first hits.....a little too old country but, the second CD is full of his rich and beautiful songs we all know him for. I once heard an interview with Ray's best friend that was with him from the beginning and he told Ray to just sound like himself and stop trying to sound like Hank Williams. You can hear this transition between both CD's.
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on May 6, 2014
The music is great but its a good Amazon included the free rip to mp3 files because I can't get either of the two CDs out of the case.

The notes talk about his different musical periods, I love them all, pre-shuffle, shuffle and post shuffle.
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on May 11, 2016
Not the greatest collecton of his work. Great songs are left off for example, under your spell again charted for him at number 5 in 1959 and is absent from this collection. The first 5 hank williams like songs at the beginning just takes up space. The backup music on this collection i dont know if original or not. It has the exact same fiddle intro for nearly every single song on first disc. I dowloaded the single song under your spell again off the 3 disc singles collection and placed it as mp3 along side songs on first disc here and it stands out from these songs. The music is much more natural sounding than the identical fiddle intros on these songs. Im not old enough to know what the original songs sounded like but if i had it to do over again i would have purchased the complete singles 3 disc collection over this essential collection.
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on December 8, 2015
what an excellent set of cd's. Ray Price is one of the best in my opinion. this set arrived in about a week, It was in perfect shape and the price was good too. The sound quality is outstanding. very satisfied.
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on January 19, 2014
This is a "must" for any serious Ray Price Fan. This was a gentleman among men. I have been a life-long fan of his, and I had the privilege of seeing him in a live performance not too long ago, and his beautiful baritone voice was every bit as strong as it was when I first heard it as a child in the early 50s. He performed with some of the other "greats" who are still wonderful to me, but even I have to admit, their voices are not nearly as clear and concise as his was. He also left a beautiful message for his family, friends and fans shortly before his passing, so there should be no doubt where he is singing today..................truly a Class Act.
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