Tag Archives: Ray Charles

Rocks In The Attic #433: Ray Charles – ‘Tell The Truth’ (1984)

RITA#433A great mid-‘80s compilation of everybody’s favourite saxophonist (?!?!?) Ray Charles, I bought this after What’d I Say got stuck in my head once. I picked up the 7” of What’d I Say, but I needed more. And this gave me everything I needed – his band-stomping singles throughout the 1950s. Rock n’ roll in everything but name, before rock n’ roll even existed.

I’d always loved Mess Around ever since I’d seen John Candy come across it on a late-night radio station in Planes, Trains & Automobiles. It’s a great scene, with Candy playing air piano, air saxophone and generally having a great old time while Steve Martin slept in the seat next to him.

Some of these singles have aged a little better than others. I’ve Got A Woman sounds like it was written yesterday; helped along by Kanye West’s recent “re-imagining” of the song with Jamie Foxx. On the other hand, a song like It Should’ve Been Me sounds like it’s stuck in the 1950s; the sound of a musical artist filling the need for material, maybe just doing what’s asked of him, while still trying to find his true voice.

That voice was well and truly in place by the time That’s Enough came around in 1959. Just six years after he exploded onto the R&B charts with Mess Around, Ray sounds masterful.

But What’d I Say? Man, I could listen to that electric piano intro on a loop for the rest of my life and I’d never get bored of it.

Hit: I’ve Got A Woman

Hidden Gem: Losing Hand

Rocks In The Attic #375: Rod Stewart – ‘Every Beat Of My Heart’ (1986)

RITA#375Somebody’s been listening to Kate Bush and Robert Palmer, haven’t they? Opener Here To Eternity takes more than a little of inspiration from Bush’s Running Up That Hill. Second song Another Heartache borrows the drum sound from Palmer’s Addicted To Love. The chorus of Who’s Gonna Take Me Home (The Rise And Fall Of A Budding Gigolo) even borrows from Ray Charles’ Hit The Road Jack. Is there anything original on this record at all?

I’m not surprised though. Rod Stewart: king of the cover version. The last time he had an original thought was probably sometime in the late 1970s when he decided to forfeit a promising rock career to go down the lazy entertainer route, a cabaret act for the 1980s and beyond.

I got this record in a job lot I inherited from somewhere. I would burn it record if it were not for the fact that the inner sleeve is signed by guitarist Jim Cregan. It says “Cheers Andy, Jim Cregan”, so I’ll save it from a fiery death. You’re welcome, Jim.

Hit: Every Beat Of My Heart

Hidden Gem: In My Life

Rocks In The Attic #365: Various Artists – ‘The Blues Brothers (O.S.T.)’ (1980)

RITA#365On a family holiday when I was around 14, we drove down to Newquay in Cornwall, and stayed in a Bed & Breakfast on the seafront. On our first day, in fact only twenty minutes after we had arrived, we walked around to the parade of shops next to the B&B. In one of the shops was a wall of second-hand cassettes. I bought this album on tape, together with Toys In The Attic by Aerosmith. Both cassettes became not only the soundtrack to that holiday, but they became first favourites that have never left me.

I love the music of The Blues Brothers just as much as I love the film itself. There’s an unfortunate pigeon-holing that seems to go on though, that resigns both the film and the soundtrack to the camp depths of party entertainment; cheesy music for poor people to sing karaoke to. It isn’t seen as the cultural landmark it should be regarded as, which is a shame. The film did so much for African American music, giving it a much needed shot in the arm. Who knows what would have happened had the film not been released – fewer James Brown records on the streets might have meant there wouldn’t have been as much sampling of Funky Drummer when hip-hop hit. That Clyde Stubblefield groove might have been taken up by the drum patterns of some non-funky white drummers instead. What a horrible thing to imagine.

What a rhythm section – Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn on bass, Steve Cropper on guitar (Steve ‘The Colonel’ Cropper as he’s referred to in the film, although I’ve never seen that nickname anywhere else) – both from Booker T. & The M.G.s – and Willie Hall, from the Bar-Kays, on drums. The brass section, from TV’s Saturday Night Live, are also fantastic although it’s a shame the Memphis Horns weren’t part of the band. I guess it might have been a little too Memphis, had that been the case, and while I would have loved it, the SNL horns were an integral part of the band from its earliest days as a John Belushi / Dan Aykroyd skit on Saturday Night Live.

Where else can you hear Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and James Brown singing on the same record? Even if you take these guys out, the songs performed by just the Blues Brothers band are worth the price of admission alone. I could listen to a song like She Caught The Katy all day, preferably while driving around in an old police cruiser. Just fix the cigarette lighter.

Hit: Everybody Needs Somebody To Love

Hidden Gem: She Caught The Katy

Rocks In The Attic #212: Ray Charles – ‘True To Life’ (1977)

RITA#212This is Ray’s first album back at Atlantic Records, where he started his career in the late ‘50s. It’s a very upbeat record, with an overall late-‘70s feel not too dissimilar to his appearance on the soundtrack to The Blues Brothers, which was only recorded a couple of years following this. The production of the album is very nice and sounds very fresh, with Ray backed by both a groove-based funk / rock band as well as a traditional big band, which really swings on a couple of the tracks.

The thing I tend to enjoy most when I’m listening to Ray Charles is not his piano playing, which is always fantastic, if a little laid-back here, but his voice. It truly is magical and unmistakable.

Hit: I Can See Clearly Now

Hidden Gem: Game Number Nine