Week 23: The Genius
Welcome back, friends!
We’re officially in Week 23, it’s hot, sunny and high time for another fine musical offering – this week an overlooked gem brought to you by our friend and follower, Trakbuv. Yep, the same Trakbuv that’s been assisting Nikos lately – really adding another dimension to his already fantastic haven of musical delights, Funk My Soul.
Exactly one month ago Trakbuv sent me a mail generously offering us a contribution to celebrate our return. He wanted to share a personal favourite – the never reissued 1978 Ray Charles album “Love & Peace”…an offer I just couldn’t refuse.
Two hours later he sent me another mail almost withdrawing his offer – all because of two reviews he had found on the net…he wavered, saying stuff like “maybe it’s not good enough for your pages” and “I’m not a huge fan of his more straight bluesy or jazzy recordings, so I may be a little biased towards something that people won’t expect, or like!”
Hehehe! Lucky enough for Trakbuv, he had come to the right place with this specific album. We had already posted Ray’s great 1977 album “True To Life” (one of my personal favourites) way back on the old 4BB – and that album was done by the same arranging/producing team as the “Love & Peace” release. So when I told him just that, and that I never had heard the album and had been looking for it for years – he came back to his senses.
And instead of using those two terrible reviews in the write-up (and Ray just don’t need no general introduction either), I asked Trakbuv to do one specially for the post – something short and sweet, yet roomy enough to fit some personal reflections and opinions on the music (yet again, anything would be better than using the cranky words of AMG’s Richard Ginell, who finished off his horrible review with “Ultimately the blame for this uninteresting record must go to the producer, the co-engineer, the lead keyboardist, and the singer — who are all one and the same person.”) – and Trakbuv definitely delivered the words needed…
Not given to getting animated by the basic pleasures of music, I will simply state that this LP is crucial.
(Hey, Laf, was that curt enough? A little more, huh, can’t cut to commercials just yet? OK.)
Well, this is my favourite Ray Charles wax – all wired up and firmly stationed in the late 70’s. A perfectly produced mix of big bluesy ballads and baad brassy funkers by the man himself, ably assisted by Harry Goodnight, Roger Newman & Larry Mahoberack on arrangements. The LP is an ensemble of original material and covers, unofficially split between ‘Love’ (A-side) and ‘Peace’ (B-side).
‘Love’. We kick off in mighty fine style with the cheeky funk of ‘20th Century Fox’ – something that should have burned up the clubs more than it did. In similar mode, Ray complains ‘why do you have to move so many thoughts when you walk’ in defense of his argument, ’Take Off That Dress’ (preview clip). If we include the melodic ‘Riding thumb’, we have a triple-decker of accomplished movers that were all popular with the more refined DJ’s. Then we light those midnight candles with ‘She knows’, exuding that plaintive tenderness that ‘Georgia’ captured so perfectly. And my all-time favourite Ray Charles ballad, ‘We had it all’. This is one helluva emotional ride that I’m so grateful to have been in the passenger seat – the passion, the craftsmanship, the power and the glory. Amen.
‘Peace’ – Ray gets unashamedly political on this side. On ‘No achievement showing’, Ray gets down and dirty (reminding me of Stevie for some reason) with the empowering message of ‘let the fruits of your wisdom bear you witness’. Then there is a very timely reminder of the expectation that accompanies a change of Leadership (US President in this case) – and that terrific chorus of ‘A peace that we could never before enjoy’ is a joy to behold. And that immortal cry we have all uttered at one time or another, ‘Is there anyone out there’, given the respectful treatment that you’d expect from a legend. ‘Give the poor man a break’ is pure Tower Of Power – with Ray rapping to the incoming President on the close – pointedly impudent.
This is a magical place where music, lyrics and production blend with a voice to conjure something so much more than the sum of its parts. The genius is in the zone – long may he reign there.
Trakbuv’s biased alright…thankfully towards the good music. He’s not your typical narrow-minded purist, he’s more like a wide-open one…which really means a lot when passing judgement on an album like this. Sure, this ain’t the classic Ray Charles of “The Genius Sings The Blues” or the Quincy Jones produced epic “A Message From The People”…this is the sometimes laid back, sometimes gritty Ray of the late 70’s…quite different, but just as enjoyable.
So go ahead, do yourself a favour – go get yourself a copy of the original vinyl right here. You can’t really spend $5 in a better way!
Props to Trakbuv for the contribution, the listening experience and the review – but first and foremost, big thanks to Ray Charles for all the joy he’s brought us over the years. Thank you for the music!
(Ps. This new place of ours turns two months today – thank you so much for all the feedback, comments and love. It still feels great to be back!)