Sunday, May 11, 2014

Week 18

Ray Sings, Basie Swings by Ray Charles and The Count Basie Orchestra

This one is smokin'!

I'm pretty sure it goes without explaining, but putting together the master of soul and one of the greatest swing bands ever was definitely a good idea. This one is interesting because it takes live vocal recordings of Ray from the '70s and mixes them with newly-recorded instrumentals by the Count Basie Orchestra. You'd never know if I didn't tell you!

From the soft intimate intro in "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'" to the track's explosive horn stabs and tasty organ comping, this one is a great start to the album. I've listened to this record a lot, and its one of a handful on which I always listen to the opening track. Just beautifully produced.

Next up is "Let the Good Times Roll." Another feel good number with some killer organ by one Joey DeFrancesco. Down home shuffle that really shows off what both Ray and the CBO can do.

Third on the album is a Gershwin tune called "How Long Has This Been Going On?" Sexy, groovy, hauntingly bluesy. Like most Gershwin compositions, this one is beautiful in both it's songwriting and melody. The CBO really shows off its versatility here. Definitely one that deserves multiple listenings.

Next up is "Every Saturday Night." Aww yeah, bringing the funk! Just check it out yourself.

"Busted" gets us back to some old school swing/blues. This one is probably more associated with Johnny Cash, but Ray certainly does it justice as well. Definitely a song for a blue collar scholar. 

"Crying Time" is next and this one takes a few listenings. It's definitely got the miserable, sympathetic ballad thing going for it - especially after The Raelettes lay down the backup vocals. I guess at first I just didn't get into it, but with a nice quiet room, a glass of something that burns on the way down, and some nice headphones, this one is actually pretty special. 

Number seven on this album is "I Can't Stop Loving You." This one is another personal favorite. It's got an old school Jackie Wilson vibe that makes me wish I'd been born earlier in the century to hear something like this performed live. The Raelettes sound great on vocals and the pocket's so deep, you'll need a flashlight to find your way out!

Following "I Can't Stop" is "Come Live with Me." This one and "Crying Time" have the same vibe, albeit slightly different messages. Just don't listen to 'em back to back unless you want to tear up...

"Feel So Bad" is next. This one has an older vocal track - you can hear the artifacts from the vocal recording while the instrumental is clean. Still great. Upbeat blues that will have you head-bobbing in no time. 

"Long and Winding Road" follows "Feel So Bad" and it's just killer. I had no idea that Ray sang this one and I'm very glad he did. I'm very reminded of "Georgia" thanks to the plodding tempo and tasty horn voicings. It's enough like the original to easy my wariness of a cover but as per usual, the soul that Ray brings can't be denied and frankly, it's just gorgeous.

Penultimate track: "Look What They've Done to My Song." Three words: Shake ya tailfeather. 

And you know they couldn't have attempted an album like this without doing "Georgia on My Mind." And did it they did. Definitely true to form with this one. Once again The Raelettes make a great contribution, as do the oh-so-sensitive horn players and some great piano licks courtesy of both Ray and CBO's Tony Suggs. This version never gets to a earth-shattering climax like some I've heard, but it's still great. Just a very straight-up version that any Ray fan will appreciate. 

For Ray Charles fans and not, this is certainly an album that most will find something they like. Great playing from the Basie Orchestra and the mixing done to make the decade-old vocal recordings blend with the newly recorded instrumentals is just excellent. Check it out please!

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