This album is, apart from its brilliant commercial marketing strategy, is nothing less than a travesty in the remarkable career of Ray Charles. I could go on and on praising his superb and deeply emotional vocal interpretations of country and western material that, for the most part, I hold great affection. However, the musical arrangements and performances of the stiff and utterly soulless background musicians and singers leave me drowning in my own tears. Any comparison of these renditions, compared to the classic earthy and vital material he recorded for Atlantic Records is laughable.
This assessment has nothing to do with country music per se. Good country session musicians have created a legacy of heartfelt emotion and deep soulfulness behind all the greats of country music. The band behind Ray on this, and the subsequent Vol. 2, are strictly HOLLYWOOD. Professional, but without substance.
I in no way begrudge Ray's attempt at garnering a larger audience, which he so richly deserved, but this album cannot measure up to Ray Charles' earlier Atlantic albums. Please, there ARE reasons not to run out and buy this album. Do yourself a favor and seek out Ray Charles at Newport. Ray's band and singers kick up a tidal wave of energy behind him. Ray responds with an intensity that the microphones can't contain. On this album, and many of his earlier Atlantic sides, Ray Charles and his band create a visceral excitement that literally jumps out of the speakers. Sadly, on Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music Vol. 1, the mighty Ray is surrounded by the equivalent of musical vanilla pudding.
By all means, if you've heard the Atlantic stuff, and you want to delve deeper into Ray's catalogue, try MSIC&W Vol.s & 2. I thoroughly ADORE Ray Charles, but after years of trying to dig this album and the follow up, Vol. 2, Modern Sounds is like a beautiful diamond set in a cheap plastic ring.