Listening

This & That

What have they done to my song

I was looking for a version of “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” to play at the Envoi Poetry Festival and was intrigued when I saw one of the versions of this Rodgers and Hammerstein tune was recorded by Ray Charles and the Count Basie orchestra. I ended up downloading the whole album and listening to it as I worked on the festival.

So today when I sat down to write a few words about this record I went to Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Sings,_Basie_Swings discovering the album was fabricated. The Basie Orchestra (version 2006) got permission to use Ray Charles’s vocal and piano tracks, most of them live (though there’s no evidence, such as applause on the recording, a good decision). The Wiki entry is pretty much just a listing of the personnel playing on the record, but essential to note the playing of Joey DeFrancescoorgan. It’s usually pretty rare for me to praise the playing and use of an organ for jazz or rock music, but DeFrancseco’a playing is outstanding and fits perfectly with Charles’s singing and the big band arrangements.Ray Charles

With the exception of “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” I prefer the up tempo numbers like “Let the Good Times Roll” to the standard ballads like “I can’t stop loving you” or “Come live with me” where the band arrangements get cheesey, made worse with the backup vocals by the Raeletts. The arrangements for the ballads take few chances, and where the homage aspect of the project gets in the way.

Interesting (at least to me), that when I’ve come back to listen to this record more analytically it’s not nearly as good as when I heard it the first time. I was going to recommend tracks 1 – 5 as the best on the record, and not to bother with the rest, including a slow version of “Georgia On My Mind,” one of his most famous songs, which closes out the album.  After listening to this track several times, I realize his vocal here is really stunning and brings me around to recommending the whole album. I like the idea of “record” and the conceit that the complete album stands has its own artistic work, and this one is worth repeated listenings. Recommended. The photo is of Ray Charles during a performance at Carnegie Hall.

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