RAY CHARLES: Modern Sounds In Country and Western Music 1 & 2 (Jasmine)

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The great RAY CHARLES ( a founding father of soul music) is one of very few artists who truly deserve the titles “genius” and /or “icon”. His career is gemmed with landmark recordings that broke barriers and delivered new perspectives. One such recording is Uncle Ray’s 1962 album ‘Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music’.

Ray Charles made his initial commercial breakthrough when pacted with Atlantic Records but in 1959 he was poached by ABC/Paramount who offered him a (then) mouthwatering $50,000 deal. His first hit for the new label was a cover of Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘Georgia On My Mind’. Arranged by Sid Feller, who gave the song a quasi-country feel, it was followed by another country-flavoured hit, a cover of  ‘Deep In The Heart Of Texas’. Encouraged by the success of both songs, Charles decided to make a whole album of country songs and Feller was given the job of finding the material and sorting the arrangements. The result was  ‘Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music’ and the  LP was an immediate critical and commercial success with  hits like ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ catapulting  the artist into the mainstream. Importantly too, ‘Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music’ helped challenge racial barriers – a black, jazz artist going country!

The album topped the US LP charts for 14 weeks, selling an estimated two million copies, so a second volume was a no-brainer and thus ‘Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music’ volume 2 was released at the back end of ’62 and though not as big a seller as the first volume it did hit #2 on the album  charts  and spawned a trio of hits like ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’.

Both these classic albums have long been hard to find. Some years ago Jasmine Records reissued both of them on one CD and that wonderful 26 track set is being repromoted. Listening, you can hear why, since its release, that first volume of ‘Modern Sounds’ has been considered a classic – indeed one of the most influential album of all time! Tracks like ‘You Don’t Know Me’ still have the power to move the hardest heart while ‘You Are  My Sunshine’ (with the Raelettes in full flight) show why Ray Charles is rightly considered one of soul’s founding fathers. If you only have one Ray Charles album in your collection, it should be this one!

(BB) 5/5