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11 December 2014

An Album That Was Never Released: Ray Charles Sings For You (1964/65)

In the last quarter of 1964 ABC-Paramount made full preparations to release a compilation album titled Ray Charles Sings For You - the liner notes were compiled, the artwork was ordered, the release numbers for the mono and stereo versions (ABC-Paramount #500 A&B) were claimed, and the following tracks - until that date all only released as singles - were selected:*
  1. My Baby Don't Dig Me
  2. Without Love (There Is Nothing)
  3. The Brightest Smile In Town
  4. Hide Nor Hair
  5. My Baby (I Love Her, Yes I Do)
  6. No One
  7. Don't Set Me Free
  8. Something's Wrong
  9. At The Club
  10. Worried Life Blues (Someday Baby)
  11. Who You Gonna Love
  12. My Heart Cries For You
Instead, the September 1964 live concert at the Shrine Auditorium was issued: Ray Charles Live In Concert (ABC-Paramount 500, January 1965).
Ray Charles fans had to wait until the His Greatest Hits (Uh-Huh) anthology (1992, remastered by Steve Hoffman) to collect most of the tracks, or until the Genius & Soul - The 50th Anniversary Collection (1997) to lay their hands on all of them.

Joe Adams (left) and Ray Charles negotiating an improved
contract with ABC's management (March 1965).  Photo by
Steve Schapiro.
Remastering guru Steve Hoffman, who spent many hours with Brother Ray, and the source for this information, also reveals that Ray Charles "hated" the live album.
Hoffman believes that Ray felt the Shrine gig "was an off night for him. He owed ABC an album and couldn't come up with it for reasons we all know. At first ABC was going to issue a compilation of leftover tracks as ABC-500 but ended up doing the [...] live concert thing with the same number."

With "reasons we all know" Hoffman is suggesting that Ray's drugs issues (1965 was the year he kicked heroin) were the cause of the suggested inability to come up with a new album.
That'd be a surprise. First and foremost, the live album was a brilliant release. What was there to hate? In fact, it seems more feasible that "[...] Ray himself decided to record the show"** at the Shrine.
Secondly, in these years Ray simply didn't release compilations of singles; all his new albums contained new work, so he much sooner may have hated the idea of a compilation.
Furthermore, in retrospective, 1965 turned out to be one of Charles' most productive and creative years. This was the year he started producing his records in his own studio. His detox wasn't very time consuming, he didn't tour at all and just took a few TV & film gigs, so he had all the time in the world to work his ass off at RPM.

I suppose the artwork and liner notes for the unreleased album have been archived at RPM. It would be nice if the Ray Charles Foundation publishes them.

* With obvious corrections of erroneous titles. **Michael Lydon in a review of the extended live album.

04 December 2014

It's The Unreal Thing

On April 23, 1985, Coca Cola did the unthinkable: they announced that they were reformulating their soft drink, "spawning consumer angst the likes of which no business has ever seen".

The night before they invited Ray Charles at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta (Robert Winship Woodruff was the president of The Coca-Cola Company from 1923 until 1954).

Brother Ray was possibly introduced as a 'friend of the brand' - the guy who had given Coke the fabulous Things Go Better With Coca Cola radio and TV commercials in the late 1960s.

It's unclear if this was a public event, or an internal party for Coca Cola employees or marketers. In imperfect harmony with an as yet unidentified* lady singer, Ray performed a questionably weak symphonic version (with a huge choir) of It's The Real Thing, the Coke campaign's theme song in the mid '80s.

Who knows more about what happened that evening?



* Is it Yolanda Adams?

30 November 2014

Ray Charles Speaking At Great American Talk Festival

The Great American Talk Festival was a lecture series - held between 1977 and 1984 - featuring writers, actors, musicians, journalists and politicians such as Alex Haley, Cicely Tyson, Pearl Bailey, Ray Charles, David Letterman, Mike Wallace and Dan Rather. Profits from ticket sales went to Grand Rapids Junior College scholarships.

Ray Charles spoke in the late '70s (audio & photos):

25 November 2014

Who You Gonna Love

Promo for radio stations.
Single (B): ABC 10081, January 1960, b/w My Baby (I Love Her Yes I Do).
Compilation album: Singular Genius, Concord Records, 15 November 2011.

From the first recording session for ABC Paramount, in late 1959. With the band and The Raelettes.

(Poor audio):

Sunday, Monday Or Always (By Jimmy Scott, Ray Charles On Piano)

The Rhino/WEA re-issue of 2003, with - oddly - the 1968 Portrait Of
Ray album, from 1968.

Album3: Jimmy Scott: Falling In Love Is Wonderful, Tangerine, TRC 1501, 1963.

Taped at the United Recordings Studios in Hollywood, in 1962.

Arranged by Gerald Wilson.



Kentucky Waltz

Album: Pure Genius, Atlantic/WEA, 20 September 2005.

Captured during the rehearsal session with Ahmet Ertegun in 1953, in New York City.

Ray Charles loved to reminisce about his earliest endeavors in country music. Shortly after his 17th birthday, in 1947, he landed a gig with The Florida Playboys. In Michael Lydon's biography, Ray Charles - Man And Music, the story is that "[o]ne audition convinced the Playboys that RC could play country music with a genuine flavor, and they hired him, no questions asked about race. For several months he gigged with the band, playing current country hits like Kentucky Waltz in white honky-tonks in and around Tampa, learning to yodel, and singing Waiting For You as his featured number. [...]." Read more here.

21 November 2014

All For You

Album: Ray Charles Invites You To Listen, ABC/Tangerine 595, June 1967.

Recorded at RPM International in 1966/1967.

With The Ray Charles Orchestra, a strings section, and singers (all uncredited).
Arranged by Sid Feller.

Child Support, Alimony

German single.
Album: Would You Believe? Warner Bros 26343, October 1990.
Also released as a 3" CD single (b/w I'll Take Care Of You) by Warner Japan (WPDP-6248).

Recorded at RPM International in Los Angeles.

Musicians remained uncredited; Rich Cason produced the synthesizer parts.

I Surrender Dear (With The Ray Charles Sextet)

Album: The Great Ray Charles, Atlantic 1259, August 1957.

Recorded on 20 November 1956 at the Capitol Recording Studios in New York with Joe Bridgewater, John Hunt - tp; David Newman - as, ts; Emmett Dennis - bs; William Peebles - ds; Roosevelt Sheffield - b. Arranged by Quincy Jones. Bob Arnold and Johnny Cue were the engineers.

Ray played piano and celeste on this one.

I Wish I'd Never Loved You At All (With Gladys Knight)

Album: Just Between Us, Columbia 40703, September 1988. 

Recorded at RPM International with uncredited members of the Ray Charles Orchestra (i.e. Mark Curry, Bobby Medina, Ted Murdock, Jeff Kaye - trumpets; Mike Christianson, Armin Marmolejo, Steve Sigmund, Charlie Schofner - trombones; Al Jackson, Ricky Woodard, Rudy Johnson, Leroy Cooper [and Chris Lega?] - saxophones; Ernest Vantrease - keyboards; Kenny Carr - guitar; Anders Swanson - bass; Paul Kreibich - drums).



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