VARIOUS ARTISTS: ‘The Jerry Ragovoy Story: Time Is On My Side 1953-2003’ (Label: Kent)

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: 'The Jerry Ragovoy Story: Time Is On My Side 1953-2003'

“I was like Hitler when it came to vocals.” Those are the recent words of 73-year-old Jerry Ragovoy – a self-confessed perfectionist and despot in the studio – for the liner notes to this fabulous career chronicle that spans a fertile fifty-year period in the Philadelphia-born record producer’s career. Like fellow East Coast record producers, Bert Berns and Jerry Wexler, Ragovoy was a big city white boy with immigrant parents who was seduced by R&B music and, to use his own words, “absorbed the black musical idiom. I could well have been born black because, ultimately, it became a natural musical expression for me.” The collection begins with Ragovoy’s undisputed magnum opus: ‘Stay With Me,’ as recorded by big-voiced Lorraine Ellison in 1966. An epic slice of symphonic soul, ‘Stay With Me’ was really a stunning showcase of Ragovoy’s abilities as a musician – not only did he produce the record, but he also wrote, arranged and played piano on it too. Another of Ragovoy’s big tunes was ‘Time Is On My Side,’ as made famous by Irma Thomas and The Rolling Stones – this CD includes the original version, cut by Danish jazz trombone player, Kai Winding, in 1963, with Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick and Cissy Houston on vocals. Other gems featured here come from soul man Garnett Mimms, Dusty Springfield (‘What’s It Gonna Be’), Howard Tate (‘You’re Looking Good’), Irma Thomas (‘The Hurt’s All Gone’), Lou Courtney (‘What Do You Want Me To Do?’), Dionne Warwick (‘Move Me No Mountain’), and Major Harris (‘Pretty Red Lips’). The album closes with one of Ragovoy’s most recent productions – ‘Get It While You Can,’ taken from Howard Tate’s 2003 comeback album. Although he compared himself with a fascist dictator in the studio, all the recordings here reveal that Ragovoy possessed the knack of eliciting great performances out of the singers he was working with. A wonderful and absorbing portrait of the artist as producer.
(CW) 5/5