Ray Charles: The Great Ray Charles

Album review
Ray Charles: The Great Ray Charles

Ray Charles

The Great Ray Charles

Label: Rhino
Media: LP
Genre: Jazz

Fans who scooped up Ray Charles’ 1957 eponymous debut—which spawned the classics “Mess Around,” “I’ve Got a Woman,” and “Drown in My Own Tears”—were treated to a new and exciting R&B voice. This instrumental jazz album, released the same year, avoids the signature Ray Charles R&B sound and instead highlights his chameleon gifts as a pianist, running the gamut from swing to small combo blues to Art Tatum-influenced showpieces. It kicks off with Quincy Jones’ big-band blues shuffle “The Ray,” featuring soulful sax solos by longtime Charles sideman David “Fathead” Newman. The Ellingtonian spin on “My Melancholy Baby” is less enduring, but “Black Coffee” gets a timeless slow blues treatment. Side One closes with a lyrical reading of the sentimental ballad “There’s No You.” The B-side steps up the pace, opening with a frisky soul- inflected rendition of Horace Silver’s “Doodlin’,” with horn charts indebted to Joe “The Honeydripper” Liggins. “Sweet Sixteen Blues,” the album’s only Charles composition, echoes “Drown in My Own Tears,” while “I Surrender Dear” finds Charles experimenting with a celeste. The album closes with the Charlie Shavers/Sid Robins swing tune “Undecided.” In sum: a revelation for those who only know Ray Charles as a hitmaker. 

More Info

  • primary artist, Ray Charles
  • LP

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