Following the surprising success of Ray Charles
' Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music Vol 1
, an album of country music
covers (plus one original), which sold over a million copies (at a time when albums didn't sell as well as singles) Charles and producer Sid Feller
decided to do a follow-up.
Unlike the previous album, where slow and fast tracks more or less alternated, this one features one side performed by The Ray Charles Big Band with the Raelets, while the other side is with a string section and the whitebread backing singers who defaced the first album.
The song choices are not as consistent as the first album, and the album is not generally as good. The reason for this may be to do with the old publishing company practice of paying record producers to use their songs. Of the 12 songs on the album, four are published by Acuff-Rose, one is published by Fred Rose Music, and three more have Fred Rose credited as a co-writer...
You Are My Sunshine, the album opener, is done as a very fast jump blues track with full big band backing, and may well have influenced Chuck Berry's simillar (though more stripped down) reading on Chuck Berry '75. Margie Hendrix of the Raelets duets on this one.
No Letter Today is a very affecting slow blues with some very good horn parts, originally by Frankie Brown.
Someday (You'll Want Me To Want You) is a Jimmy Hodges song that is best known for Patsy Cline's version. Despite this, the song itself is unmemorable, so much so that a few minutes after listening to the track, I've forgotten everything about it, apart from that it's a decent enough showcase for Ray's voice...
Don't Tell Me Your Troubles is the first Don Gibson cover on the album, but is not one of Gibson's best. This is a likeable, catchy little mid-tempo pop song, nothing more, nothing less.
Midnight is written by Boudleaux Bryant and Chet Atkins, and so is unsurprisingly one of the best songs on the album. A very slow blues, this is precisely the sort of thing Ray Charles does best, again backed very sympathetically by his band, especially the horn section.
Oh Lonesome Me on the other hand is a bit of a disappointment. A cover of Don Gibson's classic, it's odd that Charles, who interpreted Gibson's material so well on the previous album, should make the same mistake here that Gibson made on his original, and take the song at far too fast a pace (in fact he takes it far faster than Gibson does himself). It would have to wait for Neil Young's cover version before someone did a version of this song that truly did it justice.
Take These Chains From My Heart, a Fred Rose song that opens side two, is stunning, Marty Paich's string arrangement perfectly complementing Charles' emotive vocals. Much as anyone who loves music loves to hear Ray Charles sing R&B, I'll take a ballad like this over What'd I Say? any day of the week.
Your Cheating Heart is probably the best cover of the Hank Williams classic I've ever heard (shockingly this is the only song by Jank on this album). While it's not a patch on the original (what is?), this is perfectly suited to Charles' voice, and is the second really classic track in a row.
I'll Never Stand In Your Way is another nice ballad, but nothing special. A hit for Joni James in 1953, this is probably best known now as a song recorded by Elvis Presley during his second trip to Memphis Recording Services/Sun Records before he got signed. This, like Take These Chains From My Heart, was co-written by Fred Rose and Hy Heath (it waas Rose's last hit as a songwriter).
Making Believe by Lilian Schwope is a competent but hardly exceptional ballad.
Teardrops In My Heart is another unexceptional ballad, originally recorded by The Sons Of The Pioneers, but this is probably based on Marty Robbins' version. Please note by the way, that when I say a track on this side is unexceptional, it's still Ray Charles singing a ballad, and as such better than 99.9% of music out there. But this album as a whole does not live up to its predecessor.
Hang Your Head In Shame, the closing track, is another Fred Rose song, originally recorded by Bob Wills. Far from a bad track (there isn't a really bad track on here), this is a mediocre closer to a mediocre album, a real disappointment given the overall quality of vol 1.
Again, this is only a mediocre album in terms of Ray Charles albums of the early 60s, which is like talking about a mediocre Leonardo Da Vinci painting. You won't be disappointed if you buy this album, unless you were expecting volume 1, but there are far better Ray Charles albums out there, and I would recommend buying both vol 1 and Ray Charles and Betty Carter before this.