Monday, February 28, 2005

Musical Ditties for February: Ray and Jamie

Wasn't it a great that Jamie Foxx won best actor Oscar for "Ray"? I saw the movie and loved it. Foxx did a wonderful job bringing to life such a brilliant but tortured soul like Ray Charles.

Last month I wrote about how Miles Davis and Frank Zappa were musical pioneers who weren't afraid to go down different roads. Sometimes those roads led to dead ends. Ray Charles was the same way but none of the roads he went down ended up as dead ends. In fact, he was incredibly successful with hits in soul, rhythmn & blues, jazz, rock, gospel and country music.

Here's my pull list from eMusic for February starting with Ray Charles:

Ray Charles - The Essential Collection: "Georgia on My Mind" is not a favorite. I like more upbeat things and this is a ballad, slow, powerful and bluesy. "I'm Movin' On" is more to my liking where Ray's sound is more rocking with a slide guitar and a female chorus providing just the right accent to Ray's lyrics. "What'd I Say" starts off with a lengthy electric piano intro by Ray. It's one of the first hits using that new keyboard. A couple more, "I Got a Woman" and "Baby Won't You Please Come Home" are great.

It's weird writing about Ray Charles. I lived in East Cleveland but moved to Cleveland Heights in 1970. I wouldn't have been caught dead listening to a Ray Charles record in the hippie Heights. In the 70's it was all Woodstock music like Jefferson Airplane, Led Zepplin, Arlo Guthrie and Joni Mitchell. In East Cleveland we only listened to the Temptations, Jackson 5, the Supremes and the Spinners. What a mixed-up white boy I was! I moved to hippie-land and no one wanted to hear soul tunes. So I bought Jimi Hendrix's Smash Hits because it had a black guy on the cover. Yikes! It was all psychedelic rock. It took me awhile to get adjusted but it actually helped me learn to love many different musical genres.

Gary Bartz - Harlem Bush Music: An alto saxaphone artist you may not have heard about. He was part of the free-form jazz movement of the sixties but I thought he was trying to bring some structure back. Dave Holland, Anthony Braxton and John Abercrombie are others who come to mind. Gary also has a wonderful bluesy voice and two of the tracks include his vocals. They are "Blue (A Folk Tale)" and "Vietcong." Both are funky and laid-back. (I have to thank my old college roommate and Heights buddy, Steven Begleiter, for discovering Bartz back at Kent.)

SFX - Party: "Dusk til Dawn". Incredible sound from this guitarist/percussionist duo. When I heard the fat bass line I knew this track is a tribute to the late Jaco Pastorius.

Robin Trower - Passion: "If Forever". Though I usually like fast-paced car driving music I think Robin Trower is best when he plays ballads. Reminds me a bit of Thin Lizzy ("Still In Love with You") when they play slow tunes with luscious guitar licks. This track is great and gets me singing along in the car (only when I'm alone).

Fats Domino - I'm Walkin: "Walkin to New Orleans", "Blueberry Hill", "Ain't that a Shame", "I'm Walkin". Forgive me, I don't know why I got these tracks by Fats. They're just so free, easy and classic. He was another genius but he stayed in his own sound.

There was also some interesting early Fleetwood Mac tracks with Peter Green. I found some live versions of tracks later recorded in studio ("Then Play On" days).

That's that for this month proving once again you can get a quality, diverse and legal music collection at a small cost.

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