JJ 05/63: Ray Charles – Modern Sounds In Country & Western. Vol. 2

Sixty years ago, Derrick Stewart-Baxter heard Charles trying to produce jazz and playing some good piano but losing against impossible odds. First published in Jazz Journal May 1963


Ray Charles is one of those artists whom I find difficult to criticise, for he seems to belong to so many worlds as a jazz and blues pianist, a sentimental pop singer, an R & B artist, and even as a saxophonist!

If he were not so talented one would be tempted to call him a jack of all trades and master of none, but there is no denying his very great ability. The trouble is so much of what he re­cords is unworthy, and alas it is nearly always the rubbish that hits the jackpot for him.

The record under review can hardly be rated a complete success, but it will un­doubtedly please the pop fans, and that is what it was meant to do. Side one has some very good Charles piano (“No Letter Today”) and The Raelettes and Margie Hendricks swing along merrily on “Sunshine”, which is the best track. This side also shows off a competent large band directed and arranged by Gerald Wilson who provide a most effective backing.

All the tunes are songs associated with country and western singers, and although most of them are dreary and over sentimental, Ray does try to produce a jazz sound. Side two, complete with lush strings and a dreadful choir, is a little too much for me. Charles battles manfully but the odds are stacked against him.

(a) You Are My Sunshine; (a) No Letter Today; (a) Someday; (a) Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles; (a) Midnight; (a) Lonesome Me (16 min) – (b) Take These Chains From My Heart; (b) Your Cheatin’ Heart; (b) I’ll Never Stand In Your Way; (b) Making Believe; (b) Teardrops In My Heart; (b) Hang Your Head In Shame (18 min)
(a) Ray Charles (pno and vo) with the Ray Charles Big Band under the direction of Gerald Wilson, plus The Raelettes and Margie Hendricks. Recorded Sept. 3, 1962.
(b) Ray Charles with strings and the Jack Halloran Singers. Sept. 7, 1962.
(HMV CLP 1613 12inLP 30s. 11d.)