Ray Charles: The ABC Paramount Years 1959-1962

Eighty-five tracks on four CDs range from the good - Genius + Soul - to Charles' not so jazzy country and western covers

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Even card-carrying Carolinians might find 85 tracks by “The Genius” over (or under) whelming. In a variety of settings – big bands, small groups, and vocal backings – Ray emerges as the Main Man – with the exception of his duets with Betty Carter.

All the sessions on this hefty compilation were made after he left the Atlantic label and signed with ABC Paramount with a dream contract allowing him to be his own producer and, at the end of this agreement, the sole owner of his recordings.

Among the resulting hit records for ABC were The Genius Hits The Road, Dedicated To You, Ray Charles And Betty Carter, Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music and Genius + Soul = Jazz. He also continued to release R&B 45rpm singles and appeared at concert performances captured on Ray Charles: Live At Newport 1960, Ray Charles In Antibes (1961), Ray Charles: The Complete 1961 Paris Recordings and Ray Charles – Live At Olympia, Paris 1962, all of which are currently available on Frémeaux and Associés releases. This review can only cherry pick the many delights (and some disappointments) in chronological order on these four albums. 

On CD1, the outstanding tracks are Georgia on My Mind and the lesser-known New York’s My Home and Worried Life Blues. Six songs are named after women. Nancy (With The Laughing Face) will always be owned by her father, while violin-encased renditions of Ruby, Stella By Starlight, Cherry, Candy and Diane can safely be passed over.

CD2 includes the entire Genius + Soul, arranged by Quincy Jones and Ralph Burns, with Ray on organ, backed by most of the then current Basie band – but minus the Count – including Thad Jones, Clark Terry, Joe Newman, and “Franks” Wes and Foster, all propelled by Sonny Payne. The non-pareil track is I’ve Got News For You, which has to be heard. Ray proclaims the innuendo-loaded lyrics like a man possessed. Moanin’ and I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts of Town also deserve honourable mentions.

CD3 includes Ray’s duets with Betty Carter, notably the famous versions of Baby It’s Cold Outside and It Takes Two To Tango. The principals obviously enjoyed their date, but Carter’s “little girl” voice soon begins to irritate. Unchain My Heart, and Hit The Road Jack place us in more congenial settings.

Most of CD4 is given over to Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music, regarded by many critics as being among Charles’ most innovative and genre-melding studio performances. Steve Voce has suggested that: “From a jazz partisan’s point of view, Ray easily transcends the material” – a claim that is hard to substantiate when confronted by such banal material as I Love You So Much It Hurts, You Don’t Know Me and Born To Lose. Things do, however, get markedly better with You Are My Sunshine, and Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles – but they are (for better or worse) light years from jazz. The remaining titles – Take These Chains From My Heart, I Wonder and the previously unreleased Going To The River – move us closer to R&B/gospel terra firma.

A mixed bag, then, but well worth sampling. There are good black and white photos of Ray and his famous Raelets (formerly The Cookies) and Joel Dufour’s booklet notes are detailed and informative but the original LPs are not easily identified in the microscopic discography. 

Discography
CD1: (1) Them That Got; Who You Gonna Love; My Baby! (I Love Her, Yes I Do); Georgia On My Mind; Moonlight In Vermont; Moon Over Miami; Blue Hawaii; Chattanooga Choo-Choo; Basin Street Blues; Deep In The Heart Of Texas; Mississippi Mud; Alabamy Bound; California, Here I Come; New York’s My Home; Carry Me Back To Old Virginni; I Wonder; Sticks And Stones; Worried Life Blues; Nancy; Ruby; Stella By Starlight; Cherry; Candy; Diane (72.28)
CD2: Margie; Sweet Georgia Brown; Hard Hearted Hannah; Rosetta; Marie; Josephine; Moanin’; Strike Up The Band; From The Heart; Stompin’ Room Only; Mister C; I’ve Got News For You; The Birth Of The Blues; One Mint Julep; I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town; Let’s Go; Into: Goodbye/We’ll Be Together Again; Alone Together; Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye; For All We Know; Cocktails For Two (72.58)
CD3: You And I; Takes Two To Tango; Side By Side; Baby’ It’s Cold Outside; Together; People Will Say We’re In Love; Just You Just Me; Unchain My Heart; Hit The Road Jack; The Danger Zone; But On The Other Hand Baby; Bye Bye Love; Careless Love; Hey Good Lookin’; Half as Much; Just A Little Lovin’; It Makes No Difference Now; At The Club; Hide Nor Hair (53.07)
CD4: I Love You So Much It Hurts; You Don’t Know Me; I Can’t Stop Loving You; Born To Lose; You Win Again; Worried Mind; You Are My Sunshine; Midnight; Someday (You’ll Want Me To Want You); Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles; Oh Lonesome Me; No Letter Today; Your Cheating Heart; Making Believe; I’ll Never Stand In Your Way; Take These Chains From My Heart; Hang Your Head In Shame; Teardrops In My Heart; I Wonder; Unchain My Heart; *Going To The River (bonus track) (63.56)

Charles (p, org, v) with various personnel. Hollywood, New York, 1959-1962; *Los Angeles, May 1951.
Frémeaux & Associés FA5829