Record Roulette: Ray Charles

I love Ray Charles. When my musical interests were still infantile, the sounds of “Mess Around” and “(Night Time Is) The Right Time” enticed me. The biographical movie Ray blew the door open to a sea of old R&B, gospel, and soul music. The history in this type of music is remarkable. The slave roots. The oppression. The fight for equality. No matter your race, how could music with this much power behind it not grab you? It definitely gripped me tight. I was running around like little Rudy Huxtable, crazy about Ray Charles. And I knew when I found this record, that I needed to share it. Enjoy.

The Location: Some thrift store in Melbourne.

The Artist: Ray Charles

The Record: The Best of Ray Charles

The Price: $1.00

The Draw: Before I listened to music, I listened to Ray Charles. He is “The Genius.” And I would have paid $1 just to hear “St. Pete Florida Blues.”

I’m going to need a needle after this one. You get what you pay for, and I payed a dollar for 10 songs. The sound is so distorted, that I feel like it could break at any second. Seriously, was this the first record Charles ever laid down to wax? Nope. Actually, Design Records released The Best of Ray Charles in 1966. Okay, The BEST of Ray Charles. So… where are classics? “Georgia on my Mind?” “Hit the Road Jack?” “What’d I Say?” Nowhere on here. It seems that biggest hit Design Records owned the rights to was “Rocking Chair Blues.” You know, the summer smash of 2010? Who doesn’t remember “Rocking Chair Blues?!” That didn’t happen? Oh.

The ever-looming crackling on The Best of Ray Charles adds a somber tone to Charles’ typical sultry voice. Most of the songs on the compilation feature dark subject matter, and condition of the record only adds to Charles’ ever-growing blues. As for “St. Pete Florida Blues,” the song feels like home. It’s simple in structure, but Charles’ has always found a way to make familiar sounds feel special. There’s what I think is a guitar solo towards the end of the track, that is bare-bones in composition. It sounds like one string tied to a wall, being plucked at mercilessly. The guitar’s striped elements mirror the  black musicians from The Great Depression: intense sorrow and ruthless struggle. Just because these aren’t the hits, doesn’t mean they’re not good. “The Genius” never disappoints.

 

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