Ray Charles – Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Volumes 1 & 2
Concord Records (Remaster: 6/2/09)
Blues / R&B / Gospel / Jazz
Don’t be scared. I know the title includes the words “Country and Western Music,” but this album never two-steps down an old dirt road to Old MacDonald’s farm. Originally released by ABC/Paramount in 1962, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music had record company executives bewildered as to why Ray Charles had strayed from his R&B roots. Praying there was a method to his madness, all they could do was wait to see if this new sound took with mainstream audiences.
Now, Ray Charles didn’t exactly copy the country and western sound of the day; he basically re-tooled the songs with a big band behind him. Additionally, there were female back-up singers (The Raelettes), upbeat piano breaks and frisky horn lines that elevated the music to a more gospel and bluesy mixed style.
Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin” and “Bye Bye Love” are perfect examples of Charles’ take on what normally has more twang. Ballads were included on the record as well, most notably “Born to Lose” and “I Love You So Much It Hurts”. You can definitely hear Ray pay homage to his hero Nat King Cole when the tempo downshifts into the more heartfelt songs.
Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music became a huge success, critically and commercially. A few months later, Ray released a follow-up including an additional twelve tracks. But the second volume never reached the popularity of its predecessor, even with him taking on songs like, “Your Cheating Heart”, “Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles” and “Midnight”. That said, Charles particularly shines here with the soulful vocals that replace the smooth ones normally heard on Nat King Cole’s “I’ll Never Stand In Your Way”.
Blues, R&B, gospel and a hint of jazz are what you get on this 24-track, two-album set. The songs are almost all an average of two-and-a-half to three minutes, so it goes by pretty quickly. In the end, Modern Sounds goes beyond listening expectations, leaving the listener in a good mood; kind of like the frame of mind many listeners are left in after lamenting with a blues artist and his tunes.
The original vinyl artwork and liner notes, as well as numerous modern commentaries, are included throughout the enclosed booklet. To Ray Charles fans, this remaster is a must-have. And if you’re a fan of any of the aforementioned musical genres, it’s most certainly worth checking out.
See? I promised no line dancing or fiddles.