Ray Charles and Count Basie – Ray Sings, Basie Swings (CD)

Much of what Ray Charles did in music had happened well before I was born, and the same thing can be said about Count Basie. However, that does not mean that I cannot appreciate the music that was cut on this disc. The creation of this disc has an interesting story behind it, that is for sure. Charles’ vocals were found on a soundboard tape from a thirty-odd year old show, while Count Basie’s Orchestra cut completely new music to back Charles up. I have never heard of such an interesting amalgamation of an album, but if one did not read up about the album before purchasing it, there would be little chance that the listener would know. The Count Basie Orchestra is talented enough to highlight Charles’ vocals in all of the right places while letting Charles forge out on eir own when it is necessary.

Purists might have wanted the original accompaniment to be present on this recording, but the archival tapes did not let the beauty of the Count Basie Orchestra shine through. Keep in mind that it is not as if the Orchestra is attempting radically different sounds and approaches to these tracks. This is not Junkie XL’s re-mix of “Little Less Conversation”, but rather a band (albeit, with different members) coming back and re-recording their part. The one thing that “Ray Sings, Basie Swings” makes me wonder is exactly how many of these type of recordings are languishing away in the vaults of television networks and radio stations. I, for one, have no problem with an act re-touching their work, or session musicians doing the same thing if need be.

Ray’s singing on this album is without comparison, and the Count Basie Orchestra does their part with each and every song. While the dynamic between Ray and the Orchestra is definitely there, the recording on tracks like “Busted” and “Feel So Bad” does feel limited by the method of recording that was commonplace in the period. With these limitations, there is nothing that really can be done to fix these problems. Still, for the Ray purist, this album is an absolute necessity and provides different iterations of songs and tracks that individuals may not have heard Charles sing in the past. Here’s to hoping more of these albums can be dug up and disseminated to anyone who may be interested.

Top Tracks: Every Saturday Night, Georgia On My Mind

Rating: 6.5/10

Ray Charles and Count Basie – Ray Sings, Basie Swings / 2006 Concord / 12 Tracks / http://www.raycharles.com / http://www.concordmusicgroup.com / Reviewed 15 November 2006

[JMcQ]

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