In a Grand Style
Charles Brown is a genuine legend in R&B. Probably in part due to his classical training on piano, he was able to bring a whole new level of sophistication to the music with his mellow, jazz-inflected, hip stylings and smooth delivery. Brown enjoyed many chart successes in the post-war years as a part of the Blazers, staying near the top of the R&B charts from 1946 to 1948. It was during this time that he released “Merry Christmas Baby,” a song that has become a perennial Yuletide standard among jazz and blues lovers and musicians. Brown went solo in 1949 and enjoyed even more success, placing no less than ten of his songs in the national R&B Top Ten within the three year period that followed. Brown was a big influence on such heavy-hitters as Ray Charles, as well as a whole generation of vocalists and keyboardists.
Although he did make a journey to Cosimo Mataso’s studio in New Orleans in 1956 and tried to make a stab at it, he was just a little too smooth and mellow to make it during this transitional period in music. The brasher brand of rock and roll was the rule of the day, and the music that this studio was enjoying success with at the time. Mataso’s studio was the launching ground for Little Richard. Dr. John was a session musician at Cosimos during this time, and most everything recorded south of Memphis came out of this studio during those years. Brown’s career suffered after that. He later came up with his second holiday classic, “Please Come Home for Christmas,” in 1961, but almost disappeared from view until Alligator Records picked him up and he recorded a little-known album for them. Bonnie Raitt resurrected his career, taking him along on some of her tours.
This record proves that despite the many years out of the public eye, Brown never lost his touch. He steals Van McCoy’s “Sorry Baby,” and turns in stunning performances of “One Never Knows, Does One,” “Give Me a Woman.” I’ll stop right there in listing songs. Truth is, there’s really nothing included here that’s not first class. He’s just as smooth and sophisticated as ever. Grab yourself a Martini, light a candle, snuggle up and turn on the romance with Mr. Charles Brown.
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