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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?