Tuesday, July 10, 2007

No. 53: The Birth Of Soul : The Complete Atlantic Rhythm & Blues Recordings, 1952-1959

Band: Ray Charles
Album: The Birth Of Soul : The Complete Atlantic Rhythm & Blues Recordings, 1952-1959
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: The first real soul superstar, Charles' years on Atlantic are probably his most creative. Before the form was solidified with guys like Al Green, Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield, Charles was busy creating it by combing elements of blues, gospel and country music.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: While this is the creation of the form, it's hardly the best soul record out there and is (and should be) ranked lower than Al Green. Charles' work is probably better represented by "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music" (lower on this list).
Best song: "It Could Have Been Me" is a great example of jump blues, a musical form that no one remembers, but is still awesome.
Worst song: "I Want A Little Girl?" Really?
Is it awesome?: I'm not a Ray Charles guy, so I'm not the man to ask.

I don't know if this is racist or not, but if it is, I'm sorry. I do know it is racial. I have to look at some soul music as I look at jazz; I know what I like, but I can't compare it to the rock and roll with which I'm so familiar. I'd say it's not racist (or as racial as I think it to be) because I do know hip hop, as I grew up with it. But, still, the overwhelming fact is that I am an affluent white guy with square parents who grew up in the suburbs. I know rock and roll and whatever I wanted to learn about (indie rock, hip hop, psychedelia, prog rock, etc.) and ignored that which I didn't want to learn about (jazz, most soul, country, etc.).

I'll say this, too: I didn't see "Ray." I grew up in the generation that only knew Ray Charles as the guy who sang "You Got The Right One, Baby" in the Pepsie ads. I'm sure he's the genius that he was nicknamed, but I just don't totally get it all. It's cool music, but it's not the rock and roll of Little Richard or the perfected form of Al Green.

Again, it's good, but for a boxed set, it's raw, it's expensive and it's probably not worth it. It's the "Birth of Soul." It's the beginning of a genre, but one I'm not hugely familiar with and one that I probably don't appreciate as much as I should.


Anonymous said...

You don't understand Ray Charles and I think this proves that you don't know a goddamn thing about music.

Ray Charles is by far, by far, by far the most important of soul singers. He did jazz, soul, blues, gospel - really a bit of everything. He was so inherently musical and creative and this album shows that.

You really are a twit, especially in light of the some of the albums that you celebrate as being somehow better than this (all that post punk where people can barely string together two chords.)

R.J. said...

I would suggest three things. First, I acknowledge that I do not understand Mr. Charles' music in the piece, saying as such:

I'm sure he's the genius that he was nicknamed, but I just don't totally get it all.

Poorly written, yes, but not in disagreement with what you say.

Second, I do not claim to be an expert in rock and roll, no less the music that precedes it. The purpose of this entire project was to look at this stuff through a different lens and I believe I've done that.

Finally, I'd suggest (as I've mentioned before) that those who comment should at least not comment anonymously. Please put a name on the comment, so the worst of the Internet cannot come through.