Modern Sounds In Country and Western Music
Extra Tracks, Reissued, Remastered
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Ray Charles ~ Modern Sounds In Country And We
Ray broke barriers. In the '50s he invented soul by mixing the sacred and profane of black music: R & B and gospel. In 1962 he went completely crazy, interpreting classic country. It was one of his finest moments. From the start the record is an oddity. A big band pumps, female background singers rip through a chorus of "Bye Bye Love," and Ray brings high energy to the Everly Bros. teeny-bop lyrics. Some songs suffer from syrupy choir and string arrangements, but Ray is always there to set things straight. He gives country some funk, and erases, for a day, all questions of black and white. --Steve Tignor
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It's also significant to note that, in an era when the single hit was the goal of most artists (not to mention their recording labels) in light of the profits if nothing else, that this album produced four such hits on the Billboard Pop Hot 100, two of which also scored on the R&B listings and, in addition, did well on the Adult Contemporary (AC) charts. And to show it was no fluke, the follow-up Volume 2 (ABCS-435) produced another 4. One of those is added here by Rhino as bonus track 13, while 14 and 15 were hits in late 1963/early 1964 and 1967 respectively (see Comments below).
The AAD stereo sound here is excellent, and the insert contains two pages of background notes written originally in July 1988 by Todd Everett. As for the "Country schamltz" angle, perhaps Ray's own words describe this effort best. In a 1972 interview with radio host (and Country artist) Wink Martindale (see track 11 of the Ray Charles CD "I Chose To Sing The Blues"), he says, in reference to this original album " ... these Country songs ... so many of them are so much like real people ... you know ... wherein, say, your other songs ... they tend to have lyrics that are solid sugar-coated, if you know what I mean ... sweeten up a little bit, you know ... but with Country music, it's very common-place ... and the situations very earthy."
Having chosen to sing the songs of one who many claim is the "poet laureate of America" - Hank Williams - not to mention another pretty fair lyricist, Don Gibson, tells you that Ray chose well.
Some may wonder why those Pop/R&B/AC hits never scored on the Country charts at the time. Likely it had to do with the fact that the C&W network at the time was still almost exclusively a white-only domain (Charlie Pride was still 4 years away), and they - the buying public and disc-jockeys - weren't quite sure what to make of the albums and the singles that followed. Racial tensions were still very much in evidence at the time, especially in the South where C&W was king. That, of course, would change when Ray hit the Country charts 13 times in the 1980s, several of them culled from his album Friendship in which he sang with some of the top Country stars of the day, among them Willie Nelson, George Jones and Hank Williams, Jr. Another great album.
My one-star review is based on the sonics of this release. They are dismal. I would say "shame on the engineers," but the label behind this version of the release is smart enough not to print any credits in the liner notes whatsoever.
I had the Rhino release of this years ago but it was stolen out of my car along with my other CDs. I couldn't find that version anywhere on CD so I thought I'd try this imported copy out. It almost sounds like it was mastered off of an MP3- there are no dynamics, there is no depth. It almost sounds like AM radio. My Rhino version was radically different.
If you buy this, no doubt you'll enjoy the music, but beware that the sonics are deplorable.
Yet the record itself is not strictly a crossing between R&B and Country. Ray chose the Big Band approach to the songs. His take of Country was more the classic American Songbook view. Ray was not new to Jazz, having recorded in the medium before. Back at Atlantic he worked with parts of the Basie Orchestra and Quincy Jones on Jazz Standards. So he felt quite at ease here. He wasn't new to Country either. He'd grown up with the Grand Ole Opry shows on the radio and allegedly worked as a piano played in Hill Billy bands down south. His comfort with both styles shines through on this record. Here Charles reworks Hank Williams and Don Gibson classics as You Win Again and I Can't Stop Loving You and creates new rules in the process.
A couple years down the line the mixture of Black and White music would become very common. Record labels as Stax and Hi Records in Memphis build there house styles around in it. Fame studios would excel in it. When Ray dropped this gem on the market it hit like a bomb. Modern Sounds became one of his biggest selling records ever and artistically one of his most compelling.
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Win 10 has a problem with the album and tracks - Had to edit them by hand.