Artist: Ray Charles
Album: Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music
Genre: Rhythm and Blues/Country
“No you don’t know the one
Who dreams of you at night
And longs to kiss your lips
Longs to hold you tight
Oh I am just a friend
That’s all I’ve ever been
‘Cause you don’t know me”
It’s happened to me again. It seems the version of the album I put onto my spotify playlist had a ton of extra songs included with it. I knew something was off when I checked how many songs were coming up and noticed there was an absurd amount compared to every album around it. But then again, I thought it was a possibility, heck there’s an album on this list in 1999 that is 69 songs, wasn’t crazy to think that Ray Charles just made a large album, even if it was unusual for the time.
My questions were answered when I checked it’s length and noticed it was only about 40 minutes. There was no way this many songs was only 40 minutes. It seems Spotify decided to put both vol. 1 and 2 togetehr as one on their site and if you look quickly you wouldn’t notice it. Look, I’m sure volume 2 is worth the time to listen to, but I’m sorry you’re not volume 1 so your place on this list is a little unwarranted and frankly a little intruding. So, I’m sorry volume 2, I will skip over you. But who knows, maybe one day I will come back and see you again… maybe.
I almost didn’t listen to this album when I did, choosing to save it for another day. Not because I was skipping it, I don’t skip any songs, but more the context of what i was doing. I felt I was in a position that I wouldn’t be able to properly listen to it and give it the attention it possibly deserved. But then again, this isn’t about me reviewing the albums, but about me chronicling my journey of listening to them. Two every different things. So I said fuck it and plugged into my Ipod.
Ever have one of those nights that aren’t bad but aren’t good? Overall it’s not a shitty night but more of an annoying one, where a lot of little things happen just to frustrate you, but never really ruin it? That was my night. I still got home feeling good and happy, but the whole trek home was just filled with frustration and some unlucky events.
I had gone out to a bar with some friends after work. Originally I was set on going home and was on my way home, but wouldn’t you know it, I run into some friends entering the metro and they decided to drag me along with them. I do not regret this decision because I always enjoy their company and had a good time.
What I do regret is letting them convince me to stay a little longer and catch my last bus rather than the one before that, which caused me to actually miss the last metro run. As I arrived to catch it, the security was locking the doors. Fantastic. It was odd to me because I had given myself enough time to catch my bus at my metro stop, so why was this closing before giving any of us to catch our last buses? I don’t know, life’s little mysteries.
So, here I was stuck on St-Denis street at 1 in the morning. I had two options: Return to the bar or grab the night bus. My phone was at 10%, I figured I best grab the night bus otherwise my mom would have a stroke wondering if I died or not. Night bus is great because it comes every ten minutes roughly, which is very convenient. Unfortunately for me, this particular occasion the next bus was cancelled and the one after that never showed up, giving me lot’s of time to stand in the cold and wait.
To make matters worse, I had to piss really badly. Four glasses of beer will do that to you. You would think that maybe, just maybe, there’d be one place open that I could sue their bathroom. Nope. This forced me to do one of the things I hate doing most: Public Urination. Not only because it’s a crime but I just don’t feel comfortable doing it at all. I had no choice. When your faced with the option to piss your pants or break the law, I think the latter is the best option. No way I was making my journey home smelling like beer piss.
It was fine, perpendicular to the main street was a small side street with little to no human traffic and even less since it was 1 in the morning. Right next to one of the restaurants I enjoy dining at, there was a small alleyway where they dump their garbage. I figured this would be the best place to piss, the restaurants were long closed, so no employees would be walking out at all and who the fuck would just walk down this alleyway. Plus, I could hide behind the dumpster in case any passes the alley on the street. It was the perfect plan.
It wasn’t. Obviously, I mean Obviously, this alleyway was the perfect place for this random couple to just walk in as I was pissing. I mean, 1 am, no one in sight, dark alleyway behind dumpsters and restaurants, I should have expected there to be people walking by. It was perfectly logical. Whatever, they don’t know me and never will. Shake, zip up, wait for bus, forget experience (sort of)…
I’m sitting on the bus, for what I know will be a long ride. Some young, gay couple are sleepily sitting, looking at their phones. Some fat, black dude sits and happily enjoys his shwarma. A red head girl sits near me, glancing at me every so often. Sorry dude, I’m taken. Some guy walks in with a giant bag of onions… because. A group of guys wearing spring jackets and no hats walk in and make a lot of noise. No idea how they’re not frozen, but it doesn’t matter, I’m plugged into my Ipod, trying my best to understand this Ray Charles album.
I didn’t really get it. The whole bus ride I had the album playing and I just couldn’t figure it out. I was trying to formulate some thoughts on it, listen to it and figure out what made it worthy of being on this list and… I just couldn’t. It’s not a bad album. The music isn’t horrible or anything. But it just didn’t feel like anything that stood out for me.I heard this stuff before on albums in the 50s. A lot of it had a very Frank Sinatra vibe, musically and lyrically, that Sinatra just did better. Ray Charles is a talented guy. he can sing with emotion and can play the piano like no man’s business. But… it didn’t feel like he was really doing anything different here. His piano barely even appeared, which As I said on “Genius of Ray Charles” that’s when he really shined. When it was just him and his piano taking the stage. This was just an entire album of songs similar in style to the opening songs on his last album on the list, the ones I felt were the weakest of the album. You’re a blind pianist for chrissakes, you have the best gift you can ever have, why aren’t you using this to your advantage. The best parts for me were when the piano came in, nice and loud. Every time it did, my heart skipped a beat and my eyes lit up, it was beautiful.
I didn’t get it. Usually I would have done a little research on the album to get a little insight, but my phone was dead, so that was impossible to do.
Anyway, the bus finally arrives to the last stop (yeah, apparently I live far) and I get off to wait for my second night bus. Yes, a second bus, one that wouldn’t come for another 30 damn minutes. There I was waiting for the bus, trying to figure out Ray Charles, freezing in minus god knows what weather. It was cold. I am not exaggerating when I say it was completely fucking cold. Through the jacket and down to the bone. I tried so hard to seek warmth but everything around me was locked. I had to tough it up. It was horrendously cold. Probably the longest 30 minutes I ever had to experience in my life.
You have never seen anyone so happy to be getting onto a bus. I ran with glee onto that bus. I may have scared the bus driver, but I didn’t give a shit. I was warm again! Warmth, beautiful warmth, that last exactly fifteen minutes. And then I got off. This was it, the final stretch of my journey home. Walk ten blocks.
I ran. I ran so hard, almost tripping on the ice-covered sidewalks multiple times. I figured at least I have music playing… oh… battery in Ipod died… fucking great. I ran. I kept going, my goal in sight. It was almost 3 in the morning, I could do this. I will make it home.
Obviously I did, otherwise I wouldn’t be here writing this, but man did it remind me how much I hate staying out late at night and having to endure the inconvenience of making my way home. I’d like to say this won’t happen again, but chances are it will. It will always happen again.
Before my Ipod died, I was able to listen to the entirety of the album (an unawaringly to about five songs on volume 2). Head filled with questions, I needed to figure out this album.
This album has an entire section dedicated to it on it’s cultural impact. Yeah, imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon it. You see, this album did something I didn’t notice, not knowing every single thing about music ever. It was an experiment in genres and styles. Ray Charles did do something new I hadn’t noticed, he dabbled in Country music. Due to his musical style, I never noticed that he was actually reworking old country songs into a rhythm and blues format. This changes the album completely. Had I known that from the beginning, I probably would have thought of it differently, but hey we each have our own experiences. Apparently, this album single-handedly got country music back onto the radar of the masses and future country icons would even cite this album as being hugely influential to them. Yeah… this album made country music popular again… thanks Ray.
My hate for country music aside, he really did something remarkable here. he stripped away any semblance of the country style and completely remade each song into something widely different to it’s original counterparts. We have all heard covers before, but for the most part covers don’t stray to far away from the original. This is nothing like the originals and what covers should aspire to be. this is a cover done in the most original way. Ray Charles takes them as his own and makes them sound completely new. It all makes sense to me now.
Did you know this album would also cause Ray Charles to become one of the first Black musicians to have full independent control of the production of his music? Yeah, that’s pretty damn cool. he was opening doors for his brothers and equality, which is always a good thing.
The album is definitely a product of it’s time. Listening to it now, without context of music in 1962, it’s understandable why I dismissed it so easily my first time around. This probably won’t show up on any of my playlists in the future, but at least now it all makes sense to me, and to me, just knowing that is good enough.
Song of Choice: Hey, Good Lookin’
P.s. The title is quite literal knowing this now.
Photoshop Credit: Julian Branco