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Ray Price

Prisoner of Love – 2000 (Buddha/Justice)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by Ray Price

In spite of some fans' hopes that Ray Price would turn in one last great honky-tonk album, Price continues to mine the heavily orchestrated blend of country and pop that has dominated his career since 1967's "Danny Boy." In fact, the opening lines of the re-recording of Harlan Howard's terrific "Better Class of Losers" (which opens the album) could well be interpreted by some as a pointed message from Price to fans of his groundbreaking honky-tonk recordings of the '50's and '60's:

"I said I'm through with honky tonks

They only bring me down

So I dressed my best and headed for

The brightest spot in town"

Recorded in 1998 for Justice Records, but relegated to sucking up shelfspace until Price found a new home with the revived Buddha label, "Prisoner of Love" is Price's first album in quite some time. Regular Price-watchers will find him on familiar ground here, with a few re-recordings of past glories ("Better Class of Losers," "Soft Rain," and "I've Got a New Heartache"), several pop vocal perennials ("Ramblin' Rose," "Fly Me to the Moon," "Body and Soul," and the ubiquitous "What a Wonderful World"), as well as a couple of new songs ("The Only Bridge" and "If It's Love").

The album's centerpiece, though, is a cover of the Beatles' "In My Life." In the Beatles' hands the song viewed life as seen through the eyes of newly rich young men looking back on a less hectic life two or three years earlier with the newfound appreciation that hard times might not have been so hard after all. In the hands of Price and arranger David Campbell (father of pop star Beck) the song becomes Price's version of one of Sinatra's classic backward glances, such as "It Was a Very Good Year" or "My Way." Price reportedly wasn't familiar with the song before recording it, though one would never know it by listening. He nails it like he's been singing it his whole life. And in a way he has.