Friday, June 11, 2004

glisten to ray

First and foremost, thanks to everyone out there who contacted me with well wishes, kind thoughts and offers of housing during the Hut's downtime. It's been a helluva coupla weeks for me, make no mistake; but the cat done landed on his feet again. Juicy details to follow; first we gotta talk about Ray.

Ray Charles was a chameleon: an American icon and a bad black boy from back in the day. He was the Superbowl voice of America the Beautiful and a notorious heroin addict. He sang about Georgia and drinking mint juleps on the veranda and getting stoned and getting ditched and bein' busted. He was a Kennedy Center honoree, a womanizer, a commercial shill, deeply and immortally funky and a profound influence on almost every genre of popular music for over fifty years. He was VH1 and BET and MTV and PAX and CMT.

He was Ray and his loss is our loss.

I heard about it while I was watching the Pistons game at a bar and they showed his picture on the news at the half and when I yelped in surprise and sadness, the guy two stools over turned and nodded sagely and said "Put his ass on a ten dollar bill" and that's about right ain't it?

New listeners face the same problem that they might find on first embracing JB or Stevie or Elvis: there's SO MUCH music available to choose from of such varying quality and familiarity. Trust me; it's worth the effort.

Here's a few somewhat more obscure cuts from Ray; each one a gem.
Give these a spin.


Ray Charles - "Eleanor Rigby"

Along with Aretha's version of the same track and Stevie's "We Can Work It Out", this is one of my fave Beatles covers.

Ray's official home on the internet
NPR piece on Ray's passing
"For about an hour and a half, I can make these people forget about their problems, their troubles..."
Great half hour BBC Realaudio piece on Ray Charles.


Ray Charles - "Late in the Evening Blues"

Circa 1949, this was one of the very first sides Ray cut and was his first popular single.

Buy "Genius and Soul" the Ray Charles box set direct from Rhino records.
The first four discs are breathtaking; the last one is more of an occasionally embarrassing curiosity (duets with Hank Williams Jr. and Chaka Khan?)
Pretty essential stuff but if you're on the ramen and burrito diet, Rhino offers several lesser iterations for every budget. This two disc set isn't bad and the neophyte may wish to dip a toe in with this single disc "best of".

Incidentally, this track is the only one I'm posting that's NOT in the larger box set; this one comes courtesy of a twenty disc French box set of blues and jazz essentials that's apparently unavailable in the states or online.
Nice cut tho', right?
This fansite has an excellent, if incomplete, lyrics listing for Ray's catalog.
The NYT obit


Ray Charles - "It Should've Been Me"

Ray's funky nasal tone and hysterical lyrics make this one priceless.

Buy "Brother Ray", Ray's autobiography, from Amazon
I'm off to the library today to get a copy myself. What a helluva life.
The Ray Wiki
"It's a Miracle!"
There's great apocryphal stories that Ray used to terrorize his assistants by forcing them to go out for drives with him on his property.


Ray Charles - "At the Club"

Fifty got nothin' on Ray.

"Even with his health problems, Charles has been busy working on a CD of duets with such performers as Elton John, Norah Jones, B.B. King, Diana Krall, Johnny Mathis and Willie Nelson."
Expect this to be pushed up for release next week.
"Regina King and Kerry Washington have been cast in biopic Ray, with Jamie Foxx on board to star as the legendary musician and Mark Rydell directing."
And this should also be out shortly. Foxx seems due for a breakout role on the heels of _Ali_ (which, incidentally, I thought was otherwise execrable), so I'm hoping for the best.

Here's a favorable review of a test screening.
Not to be confused with...
Michael Ray Charles' work deserves a peek.


Ray Charles - "Lonely Avenue"

Probably the least obscure track I'm listing here, but one of my alltimefaves.
In a perfect world, I woulda also dropped "Greenback", "Understanding", "Baby, It's Cold Outside", "I Got a Woman", "Kissa Me Baby", "Busted", "Booty Butt", "Shake a Tailfeather", "I'm Movin' On", "Them That's Got"... just go get some more, eh?
Soul Sides is hosting a live copy of "Georgia on My Mind"; go snap that up too.
As white as Ray ever got.
Crossing boundaries.
"I believe the Lord will retire me when He's ready. And then I'll have plenty of time for a long vacation."



So yes, it took a week and a half but the Tofu is back in the house. Your erstwhile narrator busted ass like a hobnail boot and managed to find a nice space in the city not three blocks away from crazytown with a MUCH more reasonable layout and setup, friendlier roommates and what amounts to a cheaper rent.

Still looking for a media gig tho'. Come find me!

"He knows just how much we can bear," as they say. Again, thanks for all the friendly boosts; I'll be answering my email, reviewing everybody's sites, finding all the new hot spots and fixing the site up a tetch now that I'm more or less comfy again.

So spread the word fellow musicbloggers: I'm back and the logorrhea is recommencing!
I'll start the F.U.C.K. mix CD review next week; I apologize to all the participants that the train had to be derailed, but Ray comes first.

Aren't we due for another CD? The first three people to leave name and email in my comments with the intention of interest get a crack at the next mix disc: Eight Legs Good, Two Legs Bad, songs about spiders. US and Canada only, unless you wanna chip in for postage in which case, feel free.
I think I mentioned this last post, but Mozilla crapped out on me and I lost a ton of links. Again, I beg you: if you are running a site that features music, contact me at forksclovetofu@gmail.com and I'll totally plug you here.

We likes being your one stop shop. Drive around.