Ray Charles’ radical reinterpretations of country standards sound so dated now it’s really hard to appreciate them both for their radical boundary-breaking (black performers didn’t perform white music much at all at the time) and for the way in which Charles reinvigorated soul music with a new source of inspiration and a new avenue down which the genre could proceed.
But, once you have heard the first version and done your very best to appreciate it (and try to get over the arrangements and production, which considerably date the recordings) the second volume doesn’t sound as daring, as path-breaking or as brilliant. What was radical in the spring of 1962 was an attempt to cash in on the surprise popularity of that experiment in the autumn of that year.
That’s not to say this is bad or mediocre or just good, some of these performances are the definitive takes of songs never meant to be performed with soul (particularly “You Are My Sunshine” the version here of which, I think it’s safe to say, will never be equaled). But version two of a bold idea is almost always, by definition, less bold, less interesting, less brave, less shocking. Charles is still a master performer at this particular laconic version of soul (which he invented) but it’s a little harder to acclaim version two of his bold experiment. The somewhat safe arrangements which marred the first version are still present (particularly on side 2, though I feel like the arrangements on side 1 are a little jazzier than the last time out) and the whole thing still feels like it comes from another time, before Stax, before The British Invasion, before modernity.
- “You Are My Sunshine” by Jimmie Davis, Charles Mitchell 3:01
- “No Letter Today” by Ted Daffan 3:01
- “Someday (You’ll Want Me to Want You)” by James Hodges 2:41
- “Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles” by Don Gibson 2:07
- “Midnight” by Boudleaux Bryant, Chet Atkins 3:17
- “Oh Lonesome Me” by Don Gibson 2:10
- “Take These Chains from My Heart” by Fred Rose, Hy Heath 2:57
- “Your Cheating Heart” by Hank Williams 3:35
- “I’ll Never Stand in Your Way” by Fred Rose, Hy Heath 2:20
- “Making Believe” by Jimmy Work 2:52
- “Teardrops in My Heart” by Vaughn Horton 3:04
- “Hang Your Head in Shame” by Fred Rose, Edward Nelson, Steve Nelson 3:16