Sunday, 31 July 2011

“The Ballads Of Charlie Rich” by CHARLIE RICH. A Review Of The 2009 Bear Family CD Compilation.

"…Time And Again…I Get Lonely…"

1. School Days (undubbed)
2. My Heart Cries For You (undubbed)
3. Apple Blossom Time
4. Time And Again
5. Who Will The Next Fool Be
6. Stay
7. It's Too Late (undubbed)
8. Now Everybody Knows
9. Unchained Melody
10. Sittin' And Thinkin'
11. Juanita (undubbed)
12. Ain't It A Shame
13. I’m Making Plans
14. I Said Baby
15. How Blue Can You Be
16. There Won't Be Anymore
17. Every Day
18. The Loneliest Days (vocal/piano only)
19. I Need Your Love
20. Don't Put No Headstone On My Grave
21. Stay
22. We Belong To Each Other
23. It Hurt Me So
24. Cloud Nine
25. River, Stay Away From My Door
26. Tomorrow Night
27. Let Me Go My Merry Way
28. Why, Oh Why
29. I Don't See Me In Your Eyes Anymore
30. Share Your Love With Me
31. A Field Of Yellow Daisies
32. No Home
33. The Best Years

Charlie Rich was always going to be a contender for this clever Bear Family series of compilations. He not only equalled Elvis Presley when he wrapped his superb voice around a smoocher, Charlie also penned his own tunes. Besides - rocker or ballad - if ever an artist deserved serious reappraisal, then Arkansas’ “Silver Fox” is the number one contender...

But I would have to admit that even as a rabid fan of Charlie Rich and this great reissue label, "Ballads" on Bear Family BCD 16516 AR (85:40 minutes) disappointed me ever so slightly. Don't get me wrong - if you're new to the great man then there's going to be stuff on here that will make you tingle and wonder how you lived without it, but I personally found the track selections too 'ordinary' and too many made me want to reach for the fast-forward button. Why is this...

A whopping 18 of these 33 cuts come from Bear Family's own 1998 3CD box set "The Sun Years 1958 - 1962" - all 18 of which were Previously Unreleased studio outtakes at the time. This is both good and bad news. One or two are masterful - genius even - like the stunning "Time And Again" (lyrics above) - but too many are ordinary in comparison and it's easy to see why they were left in the can.

On the plus side - "Who Will The Next Fool Be" which was a 1961 7" single on Phillips International 3566 is a balladeer's gem. There's also three goodies from the 1964 Stereo LP "Charlie Rich" on Groove Records GMS 1000 (miscredited in the booklet as GMS 1001) - "River, Stay Away From My Door", "Let Me Go My Merry Way" and "Why, Oh Why". The Lonnie Johnson/LaVern Baker/Big Joe Turner hit "Tomorrow Night" is one of 2 tracks from the "That's Rich" Stereo LP from 1965 on RCA Victor LSP 3352 - the second track is "I Don't See Me In Your Eyes Anymore". Not surprisingly there's also three tracks from his lethal duo of Smash Records albums in the mid Sixties - "The Many New Faces Of..." from 1965 (track is "A Field Of Yellow Daisies") and "The Best Years" from 1966 (tracks are "The Best Years" and "No Home"). There are also rarities - a long-forgotten album track called "Share Your Love With Me" from a 1974 LP called "She Called Me Baby" on RCA Victor APL1 0686 (actually a 1965 recording) and two Previously Unissued outtakes "Juanita (Undubbed)" and "We Belong To Each Other" - both of which are exclusive to this set.

The 39-page booklet is the usual classy affair with liner notes by HANK DAVIS - the remastering is by MARCUS HEUMANN and the audio quality varies from session to session - the Sun outtakes are often just Piano & Vocal and sound good rather than great - while the Groove and Smash tracks sound incredible - full band with a full sound.

Niggles - you really have to say that a compilation called "Ballads" by Charlie Rich which does not include his two huge hits "Behind Closed Doors" and "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" (no matter how overplayed they may be) is somehow lacking.

To sum up - I wanted to love this CD so much and even though its total playing time is extraordinary, I'm afraid I'd dock it a star for too many dullards (quality guys, not quantity).
But even with that said, I keep going back to the good tracks - and man when he was good - he was the best…

PS: I've also reviewed "Rocks" and "It Ain't Gonna Be That Way - The Complete Smash Sessions" by Charlie Rich - see separate reviews.

PPS: as of August 2011, artists in the "Ballads" series include:
1. JOHHNY BURNETTE, Bear Family BCD 17211 AR (30 Tracks)
2. JOHNNNY HORTON, Bear Family BCD 16384 AR (25 Tracks)
3. WANDA JACKSON, Bear Family BCD 16848 AR (30 Tracks)
4. CHARLIE RICH, Bear Family BCD 16516 AR (33 Tracks)
5. JACK SCOTT, Bear Family BCD 16847 AR (25 Tracks)
6. CONWAY TWITTY, Bear Family BCD 15982 AR (33 Tracks)
7. GENE VINCENT, Bear Family BCD (28 Tracks)

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