Ray Charles – Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music (1962)

Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music is a studio album by American singer and pianist Ray Charles. It was recorded in February 1962 at Capitol Studios in New York City and United Recording Studios in Hollywood, and released in April of that year by ABC-Paramount Records.

The album departed further stylistically from the rhythm and blues music Charles had recorded for Atlantic Records. It featured country, folk, and Western music standards reworked by Charles in popular song forms of the time, including R&B, pop, and jazz. Charles produced the album with Sid Feller, who helped the singer select songs to record, and performed alongside saxophonist Hank Crawford, a string section conducted by Marty Paich, and a big band arranged by Gil Fuller and Gerald Wilson.

Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music was an immediate critical and commercial success. The album and its four hit singles brought Charles greater mainstream notice and recognition in the pop market, as well as airplay on both R&B and country radio stations. The album and its lead single, “I Can’t Stop Loving You”, were both certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1962, as each record had sold at least 500,000 copies in the United States.

The album’s integration of soul and country challenged racial barriers in popular music at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. In the process of recording the album, Charles became one of the first African-American musicians to exercise complete artistic control over his own recording career. In retrospect, it has been considered by critics as his best studio record and a landmark recording in American music. According to Robert Christgau, the album “transfigured pop, prefigured soul, and defined modern country & western music.”

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Bye Bye Love” Boudleaux Bryant, Felice Bryant 2:09
2. “You Don’t Know Me” Eddy Arnold, Cindy Walker 3:14
3. “Half as Much” Curley Williams 3:24
4. “I Love You So Much It Hurts” Floyd Tillman 3:33
5. “Just a Little Lovin’ (Will Go a Long Way)” Eddy Arnold, Zeke Clements 3:26
6. “Born to Lose” Frankie Brown, pseudonym of Ted Daffan 3:15

Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Worried Mind” Ted Daffan, Jimmie Davis 2:54
2. “It Makes No Difference Now” Floyd Tillman, Jimmie Davis 3:30
3. “You Win Again” Hank Williams 3:29
4. “Careless Love” Traditional, Arranged by Ray Charles 3:56
5. “I Can’t Stop Loving You” Don Gibson 4:13
6. “Hey, Good Lookin'” Hank Williams 2:10

Review: When Ray Charles made Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music in 1962, he was operating from a position of power. Two years into his contract with ABC-Paramount, he had already become a fixture in the Top Ten with both his singles and his albums, winning a Grammy for his 1960 single “Georgia on My Mind.” Charles had freedom to do whatever he wanted, and he chose to record interpretations of 12 country songs, drawing almost equally from recent hits and older standards. The sly virtuosity within Charles’ approach was to treat these tunes as a a songbook to be reinvented, not as songs that were tied to their rural roots. Later, Charles explained that he saw little difference between a country tune and a blues song — they draw from the same emotions and musical traditions — but the striking thing about his interpretations on Modern Sounds in Country and Western is that he’s not concentrating on the earthier elements of either genre. He’s fully focused on playing these songs as he’d play any other, grounding them in jazz and soul, then dressing them in arrangements designed to snag a crossover audience. To latter-day generations, those arrangements — thick with strings and backing vocals — may sound slightly schlocky, yet even in 1962 they were a sign of how Charles was as intent on appealing to a mainstream easy listening demographic as he was to his soul and jazz audience. That’s the brilliance of the project: it is thoroughly American pop music, blending seemingly disparate elements in a fashion that seems simultaneously universal and idiosyncratic. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Schill Score: 6.75/10

Listen to Album on Spotify

Ray Charles – The Genius Of Ray Charles (1959)

The album showcased Charles’ breakout from rhythm and blues and onto a broader musical stage. Atlantic Records gave him full support in production and arrangements. As originally presented, the A side of the album featured the Ray Charles band with David “Fathead” Newman supplemented by players from the Count Basie and Duke Ellington bands, and arrangements by Quincy Jones.

The B side of the original album consists of six ballads with arrangements by Ralph Burns and a large string orchestra. Charles’s performance of “Come Rain or Come Shine”, a song identified with Frank Sinatra, brought public attention to his voice alone without the “distractions” of his soulful piano and his snappy band.

Each side contains a tribute to Louis Jordan with two songs he had hits with “Let the Good Times Roll” and “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin'”.

Track Listing:

Side one
“Let the Good Times Roll” (Sam Theard, Fleecie Moore) – 2:53
“It Had to Be You” (Gus Kahn, Isham Jones) – 2:45
“Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (Irving Berlin) – 2:53
“Two Years of Torture” (Percy Mayfield, Charles Joseph Morris) – 3:25
“When Your Lover Has Gone” (Einar Aaron Swan) – 2:51
“‘Deed I Do” (Walter Hirsch, Fred Rose) – 2:27

Side two
“Just for a Thrill” (Lil Hardin Armstrong, Don Raye) – 3:26
“You Won’t Let Me Go” (Bud Allen, Buddy Johnson) – 3:22
“Tell Me You’ll Wait for Me” (Charles Brown, Oscar Moore) – 3:25
“Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin'” (Joe Greene) – 3:46
“Am I Blue?” (Grant Clarke, Harry Akst) – 3:41
“Come Rain or Come Shine” (Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen) – 3:42

Review: This is a strange album. Is it a good album, even a great album? Yes. Is it a good Ray Charles album? Hell No. You sort of have to work your brain to forget Charles is the one doing the singing. It comes off as strange with the big band and strings. It totally takes away from the actual genius of Ray Charles. On Side A especially, the horns take over everything, to the point of being obnoxious

Schill Score: 2/10

Listen to Album on Spotify