REVIEW POTPOURRI: Ray Charles & 101 Strings

Ray Charles

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Ray Charles

My first experience of Ray Charles (1930-2004) was as a kid in the early ‘60s watching Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in which the singer made an appearance singing his megahit Georgia on My Mind. I remember being struck by his combination of calm stage presence with consummate timing and delivery.

An ABC/Paramount 45 record from 1963 contains two really good examples of his rhythm and blues artistry:

No Letter Today, in which the singer is dubbed in a duet with himself, and backed by “his orchestra” conducted by the exceptionally gifted jazz arranger Gerald Wilson.

Take These Chains From My Heart, in which the singer is joined by the Jack Halloran Singers and arranged and conducted by Marty Paich.

Both sides were produced by Sid Feller and released in 1963 as also part of the album, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, an album that broke the barrier between soul and country and western music. And both sides can be heard via YouTube.

A personal note: my grandmother Annabelle Cates (1888-1974) received a Christmas present of a two-LP set featuring the hits of Ray Charles and, despite her otherwise old-fashioned taste in music, enjoyed this album, in particular Hit the Road, Jack.

Jazz singer Anita O’Day (1919-2006) recorded two staples at a 1947 jam session- Sometimes I’m Happy and – that were released on a ten-inch 78 record on the Signature label. Among the vocalists who learned their craft with the big bands during the World War II 1940s that included Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey, Peggy Lee with Benny Goodman, etcs. Anita O’Day had a uniquely charming way with rhythm, melody, phrasing and timing and both sides can also be heard on YouTube.

101 Strings

101 Strings was the creation of businessman D.L. Miller, of Pennsylvania, who recruited this number of players from such orchestras as the Hamburg Philharmonic and arranged for recording sessions that started in the late 1950s and resulted in a sizable number of very inexpensively priced LPs on his Somerset/Stereo Fidelity label.

The albums included hit songs of the era, Gypsy tunes, opera arias, folk songs from countries around the world, Christmas carols, hymns and Broadway and film selections.

The arrangements were skillfully done, making for very pleasant listening. One such album was A Cruise to the Rivieras-Spain, France and Italy and consisted of the following titles: La Mer, Flamenco Fantasy, Estrellita, A Night on the Riviera, Monaco, Sunday in Genoa, and a medley of Santa Lucia, Funiculi Funicula and Sorento. This album is also available for listening on YouTube.


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