Ray Charles

Ray Charles

Ray Charles

Message From The People


There was a time when you could end war and stuff by singing loud, and this album of socially conscious songs arranged by Quincy Jones and Sid Feller for Ray Charles may be the quintessential example. We open with the rollicking traditional song “Lift Every Voice.” The brass soars, the backing vocals exude a Motown-sequined female warrior sound, and the lyrics speak of marching and winning the victory for the rights of the common man. This is a holy battle, and only the bad guys will suffer losses. Later we run into another civil rights favorite “Heaven Help Us All.” It’s a standard polished by a patient production that smoothes the ragged jazz time signature into a slick Hollywood sound as a counterpoint to Charles’ rough “I’ve been there” vocals. More songs of protest and righteous anger follow, each set as a gem against the lush production of Jones and Feller. “Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma” and “Abraham, Martin, and John” work well, even if the John Denver-penned “Take Me Home Country Roads” sounds a bit white guy for this disk. Charles worked on this project for twenty years (so say the sparse liner notes) and he wraps it up with “America the Beautiful.” I can’t say all of his dreams have been realized, but this album stands as a testament to a man who had hope, and spread it far and wide.

Concord Music Group: www.concordmusicgroup.com

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