Tuesday, 17 May 2016

"Ray Charles and Betty Carter/Dedicated To You" by RAY CHARLES and BETTY CARTER (1998 Rhino 2LPs on 1CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Baby, It's Cold Outside..." 

Both of these albums were done 'live-in-the-studio' – no overdubs, no editing, no added on technology. And re-listening to them in 2016 is a jaw-dropping experience. Not only was their timing and vocal phrasing so completely on the money every time they stepped up to the mike – the musicianship of people like Bill Pittman on Guitar, Edgar Willis on Bass and Mel Lewis on Drums is top notch throughout.

The "Ray Charles And Betty Carter" LP has been a fan fave for years – great chemistry with the tune-choices to match. What you get is a Jazz Vocals LP with a little touch of Swing and even Big Band. Two sweet yet deep voices caressing a bunch of standards - making you feel like their singing to only you as you ready to hit that cocktail bar in your finest duds. Rhino has also tagged on another 1961 Ray Charles solo platter “Dedicated To You” - but it feels to me like a burden rather an enhancement after the main dish. Here are the tunesome twosomes...

USA released April 1998 – "Ray Charles And Betty Carter/Dedicated To You" by RAY CHARLES and BETTY CARTER and RAY CHARLES on Rhino R2 75259 (Barcode 081227525927) is part of their 'Ray Charles 50th Anniversary Collectors Series' and offers 2LPs Remastered onto 1CD that plays out as follows (77:58 minutes):

1. Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye
3. You And I
4. Intro: Goodbye/We'll Be Together Again
5. People Will Say We're In Love
6. Side By Side
7. Baby, It's Cold Outside [Side 2]
8. Together
9. For All We Know
10. Takes Two To Tango
11. Alone Together
12. Just You, Just Me
Tracks 1 to 12 are the album "Ray Charles And Betty Carter" - released July 1961 in the USA on ABC-Paramount ABC 341 (Mono) and ABCS 341 (Stereo) - the STEREO Mix is used. Produced by SID FELLER and Arranged by MARTY PAICH - the album peaked at 52 on the US LP charts.

13. Hardhearted Hannah
14. Nancy
15. Margie
16. Ruby
17. Rosetta
18. Stella By Starlight
19. Cherry
20. Josephine
21. Candy
22. Marie
23. Diane
24. Sweet Georgia Brown
Tracks 13 to 24 are the album "Dedicated To You" – released July 1961 in the USA on ABC-Paramount ABC 355 (Mono) and ABCS 355 (Stereo) – STEREO Mix is used. Produced by SID FELLER and Arranged by MARTY PAICH - the album peaked at No. 11 on the US LP charts.

The 12-page booklet combines new notes from ALAN SWYER regarding the recordings – the original LP liner notes for both albums and the usual reissue credits along with other Charles stuff on Rhino. But as pretty as the booklet looks – it’s the Sound that blows you away. Love and care went into the Audio restoration – TERRY HOWARD carried out Transfers, Balancing and re-Calibration at RPM International Studios with DOUG SAX joining him on the Remasters. Using first generation tapes - the sound is gorgeous – full of presence and warmth - the Stereo beautifully balanced.

She might take her time arriving in the opening shuffler "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" – but Carter sings towards the end – it's obvious there is magic in this combo of talents. "...Don't throw bouquets at me...don't please my folks too much...' - Betty teases in the high-hat fun of "People Will Say We're In Love". But I prefer the "Come Rain Or Shine" sexiness of "Cocktails For Two" where Brother Ray plinks on those keys like he's had one too many whiskey shots whilst still having an eye for the ladies. The rapid-paced big band bombast of "Side By Side" is pretty awful – an unwelcome change of pace. Thankfully its quickly forgotten when the magical "Baby, It's Cold Outside" shimmies into your living room wearing a negligee that leaves little to the imagination – the two singers playing off those pleading and coy lines. She purrs not to convincingly that "...father will be pacing the floor..." - but an understanding ray counter-coos with "...listen to that fire roar...baby, it's cold outside" – great fun.

The solo LP "Dedicated To You" has a different girl's name in each song title but unfortunately schlock like "Nancy" is all slush-strings and syrupy sentiment (but in a bad way). The whole LP is packed with this and fans of his Atlantic R&B period would find most insipid and even beneath him. The running order varies the theme from big brassy tune ("Margie") to smoocher ("Ruby") – the strings washing around the mix like it's a Nat King Cole album. The instrumental "Josephine" feels like an old-time Jazz Band in a late night bar before they get too sozzled as Ray plinks along to the shuffling rhythm section (amazing audio). Songs like "Marie" and "Sweet Georgia Brown" are big and loud jazz but despite the awesome transfer – they leave me longing for the intimacy of the Betty Carter duets LP.

A quality CD reissue from Rhino that boasts exceptional Audio, nice presentation and value-for-money playing time – even if all the material doesn't quite live up to the "Ray Charles And Betty Carter" project... 

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