JohnRgt

Ray Sings Basie Swings

6 posts in this topic

When the Fantasy catalogue was sold to Concord Records, a set of tapes marked "Ray Charles and Count Basie" was unearthed.

The tapes were through-the-mixing-board recordings of 1970s concerts that featured separate sets by these legends.

Charles' excellent vocals on these recordings were salvageable but little else was. ("Charles", "excellent vocals": redundant^3.)

John Burk, head of _A&R_, decided to fuse these vocal tracks with Basie Orchestra arrangements that were commissioned specifically for this application.

After hearing the CD a dozen times on various equipment and at various volume settings, I can say that this ambitious undertaking has yielded wonderful results.

Sure, Charles' vocals are a bit tinny here and there, the low end is a bit loud at times, and the "new" Raelettes are a little less "hard" than the ones we're used to.

So what?

Not only do we have twelve new Charles vocals, but they're supported by the Basie Orchestra in the Count's style. (Though Charles was inspired by Basie's arrangement style, the two never collaborated.)

Who knows how much more great material is just waiting to be dusted off and put to good use?

www.raysingsbasieswings.com

($16.88 on Amazon, $11.99 at J&R)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
www.raysingsbasieswings.com

Is it just me, or is the music way too loud compared to Ray Charles' voice?

With that said, "How Long Has This Been Going On" sounds incredible! Probably worth buying the CD just for that one song alone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is it just me, or is the music way too loud compared to Ray Charles' voice?

With that said, "How Long Has This Been Going On" sounds incredible! Probably worth buying the CD just for that one song alone.

Hi, Stephen --

I listened to this CD through Sennheiser HD600s, two high-end solid state systems, a walkman, and my car's system. The album had the thick feel of a live performance each time. I never, however, felt that the band overpowered Charles -- even when the Basie Orchestra was at its fattest.

Because I was curious about sound quality I never adjusted tone or filtered the signal in any way. I'm sure that dropping the low end a bit would push the band way back. (I have a live recording of Basie backing up Ella Fitzgerald. The band on the Charles album sounds a lot like it does on the Fitzgerald recording -- big and thick across the board. I'd bet that Fitzgerald's ability to "duel" with Basie's soloists kept the band in its place. :) )

Tangent:

The last time I saw Charles live, a concert he gave with Bo Diddley at Westbury Music Fair, he stopped in the middle of a song and screamed at the engineers for overpowering the audience. "The audience isn't deaf! These people aren't stupid!!" (WMF is in the round, so even large orchestras need some amplification. Great venue, BTW.)

JohnRGT

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is it just me, or is the music way too loud compared to Ray Charles' voice?

My father said the same thing when I played this CD on his system recently.

When I attributed the loudness to the album’s live motif, my father insisted that the recording was far louder in places than live big band recordings are/need be.

I hit the CD’s liner notes, and came across the following:

“There wasn’t technical precedent [for this album], but there was an artistic one,” explains [album producer] Gregg. “That’s the great Genius Plus Soul Equals Jazz album that Ray cut on Impulse! in the early Sixties. There he sang with a band of chiefly Basie personnel minus Basie himself. The [arrangements] were smoking and Ray sang magnificently. There was a perfect dynamic between singer and orchestra. Genius Plus Soul Equals Jazz achieved an atomic-explosive Ray-Basie feel. That’s what we went for here.”

I just listened to Genius Plus Soul Equals Jazz on CD.

At times, the band on GPSEJ sounds like it played louder than the recording equipment could handle. I hear distortion in some places, what I assume is compression in others, with the lower end of the horns filtered out. Further, Charles plays the Hammond super loud on parts of GPSEJ; “distorting” the Hammond by hitting two adjacent keys almost every time he holds a note makes it sound even louder. Further, the band seems mixed in on the loud side.

So there’s at least part of the reasoning behind RSBS’ loudness.

For me, horn sections need to be thick and loud to sound good, as good as they do live. Since I don’t think the vocals are crowded by the horns on this album, I’m very happy with the volume levels on RSBS. (BTW: I hate that thin, tinny horns sound one finds on typical recordings from the late 50s, early 60s.)

A relevant quote from the RSCS notes:

“When Ray explained how he wanted me to write an arrangement,” said Sid Feller, who probably wrote more Ray Charles big band orchestration s than anyone, “he’d often point to Basie chats as templates. He wanted that thick harmony in the reeds. He wanted those clean horn punches. He wanted it simple like Basie, and he wanted it strong. Mostly, though, he wanted that Basie swing.”

David Ritz, who collaborated with Charles on his autobiography, writes in the RSCS notes:

Ray lived in his studio. He felt most comfortable among the slides and buttons and faders and knobs. He loved to tinker and toy. He was obsessed with the reproduction of sound. He wanted – and got – the latest innovations. This most creative of innovations, a studio-created concert of Ray with his favorite big band, would have surely satisfied his restless soul.

If I speak with assurance, it’s because of my unshakable conviction that these are among Ray’s best live performances. There are of course others. <gives examples> But no concert has the consistency, in both the quality of singing and soaring accompaniment, as what you hear on this disc.

Last:

The CD that features GPSEJ also has another good instrumental album by Charles on it, My Kind Of Jazz. Not bad for $12!

I hope this was helpful.

JohnRGT

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I hope this was helpful.

All I have to say, John, is that for a cook you are one heck of an analyst! :D

Thanks for taking the time to ferret out so many details.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites