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Ray Charles gets reissue treatment

Tuesday, May 19, 2009 – Ray Charles was known for his R&B, but he also had an interest in country. As a child in Florida, he'd listened to the Grand Ole Opry's radio broadcasts. His well-received 1962 gold-certified album "Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music" and its encore "Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music, Volume 2" will get the reissue treatment from Concord Records on June 2.

The two albums, which featured the hits I Can't Stop Loving You, Take These Chains From My Heart and You Don't Know Me, will be out together in an expanded reissue titled "Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music, Volumes 1 & 2." New liner notes by musicologist Bill Dahl are included alongside original notes by Rick Ward and Charles' longtime recording supervisor Sid Feller.

The reissue release is part of Concord's Ray Charles reissue program that launched this year. "Since joining ABC's roster in late 1959 after permanently altering the rhythm and blues landscape that sired soul, Charles had been contemplating an LP of country chestnuts for years," Dahl wrote. "So, to him, it wasn't a radical concept. What was earth shattering was the way he redefined each song. When Ray unleashed the roaring horn section from his recently formed big band, those country evergreens swung like never before."

In preparation for the album, Charles asked Feller to bring him the biggest country and western hits from the preceding 20 years. According to Ward, "Completely confused and wondering what possible use Ray could make of such material, Sid began collecting songs. The more he thought about Ray's idea, the more excited Sid became. And by the time the sessions rolled around, he was nearly the most enthusiastic person on the studio."

Initially skeptical, ABC Records gave Charles artistic freedom and was pleased when "Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music" became the label's first million-selling album. A lot of this was due to the success of its first single, I Can't Stop Loving You. Never intended to be a single, the Don Gibson-penned track was buried in the album sequence. Yet when actor Tab Hunter covered the song, Feller quickly edited Charles' rendition to single length and got it into the marketplace in enough time to bury the Hunter version. It topped the pop and R&B hit parades and won a Grammy for Best R&B Recording. You Don't Know Me also proved a massive R&B and pop seller.

A few months later, Charles and his team convened at Capitol Studios in New York to plan "Volume 2," mining another dozen country standards. Within the month, the album was at retail and hit number two on the pop album chart. Hank Williams' Take These Chains From My Heart, which kicked off the "ballad side" of "Volume 2," became another big Charles hit in mid-1963.

CD reviews for Ray Charles

Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music, Volumes 1 & 2 CD review - Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music, Volumes 1 & 2
To say that Ray Charles pushed the envelope with these two reissue releases on one CD would have been an understatement at the time. Charles, of course, was known for being a black pop and R&B singer, but he grew up with country music in his native Florida listening to the Grand Ole Opry radio broadcasts on Saturday evenings and wanted to stretch his musical boundaries. The result was volume 1 recorded in February 1962. From the get go with a cover of the Everly Brothers' Bye Bye Love, it »»»
The Complete Country & Western Recordings, 1959-1986
Setting aside Ray Charles' contributions to blues, soul and jazz, his catalog of Country and Western, documented in this four-disc set, still forms the basis of an incredible career. Rhino has gathered tracks spanning 28 years and several labels in this exhaustive document of Charles' country music. His 1962 "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music" and "Modern Sounds ... Volume 2," began a lengthy affair with Nashville songwriters. As the liner notes suggest, "the attraction was country song »»»
Editorial: Walking the talk – When names like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon and the Hag are invoked, you're talking hard core country. These are the touchstones of country , the guys who made country music what it was and still is (or maybe can be). When these folks would sing about being down-and-out and the rough-and-tumble, they knew of what they were singing about. Fast forward a few years to the country singers of today. »»»
Concert Review: Kristofferson gives insight, but no easy answers – When they say music gets better with age, they're not always just talking about songs alone; sometimes they're also referring to the listener. When Kris Kristofferson sings, "Well, I woke up Sunday morning/With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt," to smartly open "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," he... »»»
Concert Review: No sugarcoating, Welch dishes out an experience – Gillian Welch (accompanied, as always, by master guitarist David Rawlings), celebrated her "The Harrow & The Harvest" album with a powerful night of music. She apologized many times for the utter unhappiness expressed through this album's songs, admitting it's "not the most chipper album" at one point.... »»»
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