Ray Charles | The Genius of Ray Charles – 1959

1959, I was born in Adelaide, the third child of Bill and Margaret. I think Bill was working for his father in a parts manufacturing business. I have very few memories of Adelaide and those that I have come from future family visits, after we had left to live in Melbourne.

Going fishing, 4 in the boat, engine breakdown. Grandpa trying to chase dolphins away cause they scared the fish. My father having to row us back.

Jenny and I travelling alone from Melbourne to Adelaide, not sure why or how old. Maybe when my brother, Richard was born. If that is correct, I was 18 months old. I remember staying at my grandparents house and sliding down the carpet stairs and getting chastised, scrapping food from my knife and getting chastised, Pop killing a spider that scared Jenny, and him getting yelled at. My grandmother was a fierce and pinch-faced woman, very scary for a child to stay there. The best memory I have from this visit was my Pop telling war stories from WW2 and letting me wear his soldier hat.

The album, this is big band jazz flavoured with a little bit of country and some soul. I read a report a few years back, of a Scientist who had done analysis on Ray Charles work, specifically on his finger clicks on the song . The report read that Ray Charles clicks were within two and a half milliseconds of the beat, the time it takes a bee to flag its wing once. This accuracy of Ray Charles is what gives all of his music a swing, there is no muddle that gives the Rolling Stones the rock feel. This music is precise. Ray Charles swing. Maybe he can be forgiven for calling himself Genius (a number of albums were released with similar titles during his career, including, Genius hits the Road, Genius Sings the Blues, Pure Genius, Genius & Friends, Genius Loves Company – this man had a health ego)

In the old days, record where large vinyl creation made purely from vibrations. Large a flat and fragile, the consisted of two halves of around 18 to 20 minutes. After a half dozen or so songs you had to get up and walk across the room and flip the record over to play the other side. Time consuming and could break the mood that was developing. Many artists would use these sides to shows 2 sides of their personality or versatility. For this album it is a big band side and a jazz combo and strings side .

The first half of the album has players from both the Count Bassie and Duke Ellington bands, including the magnificently named Dave ‘Fathead’ Newman and Zoot Sims on the tenor sax and Snookie Young on trumpet. Quincy Jones’s arrangement stand add to the whole scene, enhancing Ray Charles voice. If only Quincy had worked on Billie Holiday’s final album. Billie Holiday.

The album opens with a great horn section working through ‘Let the good times roll’. Destined to become a standard tune for Ray Charles.

The song selection is great with many that were and are Jazz standards. ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ was one of the first popular songs by Irwin Berlin. Written in 1911 during this song just continued to be recorded and chat in the top 20 every decade until the 1960s. It was one of the songs played by the band on the sinking titanic and shown in James Cameron’s movie of the same name. Lisa Minnelli still opens her concerts with it. This song has had movies made about it. Ray Charles version stands out for me as a favourite, even surpassing Ethel Merman’s disco attempt on the 1979 ‘Ethel Merman’s Disco Album’

The quieter second half begins with ‘Just for the Thrill’ with it is a smaller band and string orchestra. The stand out for me is ‘Am I Blue’ a song made popular by Hoagy Carmichael and Lauren Bacall in ‘To Have or Have Not’ – a wonderfully strange and captivating movie to cash in on the success of ”Casablanca. See this movie for it’s music and for Boagy and Bacall falling in love, and Hoagy Carmichael and Walter Brennan. The movie is based on the book by Hemmingway, who bet Howard Hawks that he couldn’t possibly film it. Hawks did, by throwing away the story and keeping the name. Great film, see it, and you decide for yourself if it is Lauren Bacall singing, or Andy Williams overdubbing her vocals.

Oh, I seem to have got sidetracked.

Anyway, listen to this album. Maybe he hit greater heights later on, but this is a great record of an era, when the big band parts were stronger than the soul or country.

Track listing:
  1. “Let the Good Times Roll”
  2. “It Had to Be You”
  3. “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”
  4. “Two Years of Torture”
  5. “When Your Lover Has Gone”
  6. “‘Deed I Do”
    Side Two
  7. “Just for a Thrill”
  8. “You Won’t Let Me Go”
  9. “Tell Me You’ll Wait for Me”
  10. “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin'”
  11. “Am I Blue”
  12. “Come Rain or Come Shine”
This entry was posted in 1959. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Ray Charles | The Genius of Ray Charles – 1959

  1. Pingback: A life in albums | michaelsprott

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s