I Can’t Stop Loving You (5/5/62) #1 US, #1 UK, #1 RB, #1 AC, sales: 0.5 m
Born to Lose (5/5/62) #41 US, #13 AC
You Don’t Know Me (7/27/62) #2 US, #9 UK, #5 RB, #1 AC
Careless Love (7/28/62) #60 US, #19 AC
Bonus tracks “You Are My Sunshine,” “Here We Go Again,” and “That Lucky Old Sun” were added to later editions.
Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music
“No one did more to integrate the various genres of American music than Ray Charles.” TL “Not content with inventing modern soul, Ray Charles couldn’t resist a crack at country,” BL even if he “put his pop career in jeopardy by bringing his unique flavor to country and western standards.” CS “Veering far from the 1959 single that made him a star, ‘What I’d Say (Parts I and II),’ Charles opted for the Hank Williams tune Hey, Good Lookin’ as his follow-up. Charles retains Williams’ lyrics and basic melody, but infuses it with blaring brass to give it a big band sound.” CS
“When Charles had announced that he wanted to work on an album of country music in 1961, during a period of racial segregation and tension in the United States, he received generally negative commentary and feedback from his peers, including fellow R&B musicians and ABC-Paramount executives.” WK His “country-R&B blend” SC was not completely new; “Elvis Presley & company did it in 1955,” SC but the difference was, well, black and white. While it was common for white artists to re-record R&B hits by black artists, it was certainly not the norm for a black artist to cover country songs, which were predominantly sung by white artists. In fact, the album has an “obvious subtext given its release at the height of the civil rights struggle.” TL
“The country album concept, however, meant more to Charles as a test of his record label’s faith and respect to his artistic freedom rather than a test of social tolerance among listeners amid racial distinctions of country and R&B. Fueled by his esteem for creative control, Charles pitched the idea of a country album to ABC representatives.” WK “Charles became one of the first African-American musicians to exercise complete artistic control over his own recording career.” WK
“Charles knew that musical integration was a good metaphor for racial integration, and in particular his cover of…You Don’t Know Me seems to carry a larger message for white audiences.” TL His “aching vocals are backed by a full string ensemble and choir to create the greatest rendition of the classic Cindy Walker and Eddy Arnold song. These orchestrations are what make Charles’ country remain modern and ingenious to this day.” CS
Charles added “extravagant arrangements and high-octane vocals” BL that combined “jazz and rock and roll” TL and even “some big band – the opening of Bye Bye Love could have been composed by Glenn Miller.” TL He managed to do all that and create “a high-profile crossover hit” SC as well.
“Above a mix of swinging big band charts by Gerald Wilson and strings and choir backdrops from Marty Paich, Charles’ intones the sleepy-blue nuances of country crooners while still giving the songs a needed kick with his gospel outbursts. No pedal-steel or fiddles here, just a fine store of inimitable interpretations.” SC
“Modern Sounds in Country and Western fit right in with Ray Charles’ expansive musical ways while on the Atlantic label in the ‘50s. In need of even more room to explore, Charles signed with ABC-Paramount and eventually took full advantage of his contract’s ‘full artistic freedom clause’ with this collection of revamped country classics. Covering a period from 1939 to the early ‘60s, the 12 tracks here touch on old-timey fare (Floyd Tillman’s It Makes No Difference to Me Now), honky tonk (three Hank Williams songs), and early countrypolitan (Don Gibson’s I Can’t Stop Loving You).” SC The latter was a huge #1 crossover hit, landing atop the pop, R&B, country, and adult contemporary charts.
While the album was a risk, it “became a rapid critical and commercial success.” WK In fact, it is “regarded by many critics as Charles’ best studio album.” WK It “became one of the best-selling albums recorded by a black musician of the time;” WK it stayed “at the top of the pop charts for nearly three months and brought Charles international fame.” SC
BLBlender Magazine’s “100 Greatest American Albums” (10/08)