TER­RELL’S TUNE-UP

Pasatiempo - - In Other Words - Steve Ter­rell

In­di­ana Jones and the tem­ple of Ray So you thought Ray Charles died in 2004? To that I say, “But wait a minute!” — as Charles some­times used to ex­claim in the mid­dle of a song. Here’s Rare Ge­nius: The Undis­cov­ered

Masters, a brand-new col­lec­tion of 10 Charles songs that sound like they could have been recorded this year.

Ac­tu­ally, some of the in­stru­men­tal tracks on this al­bum were recorded fairly re­cently. They’re built around vo­cal tracks dis­cov­ered in the vaults of Charles’ record­ing stu­dio.

When­ever I read about “lost” record­ings un­cov­ered “in the vaults,” I get this im­age of In­di­ana Jones mak­ing his way through some dank un­der­ground labyrinth pro­tected by pygmy war­riors and venomous rep­tiles be­neath the streets of Bev­erly Hills. Pro­ducer John Burk, who was at the helm for Charles’ last stu­dio al­bum, Ge­nius Loves Com­pany, prob­a­bly wasn’t wear­ing a pith hel­met or wield­ing a ma­chete when he came across these for­got­ten tracks. But it had to be a rush for him.

The songs span the decades, go­ing back to the 1970s. Some of them were ba­si­cally fin­ished and re­quired no fur­ther work — such as the blues-drenched “It Hurts to Be in Love.” Some were just demos. Burk whipped them all into shape, call­ing in stu­dio mu­si­cians to add fi­nal touches to some of the tunes. By the end, he cre­ated a uni­fied work that would have made Charles proud. Ex­cept maybe the song “I Don’t Want No One But You,” the sole clunker here, the al­bum doesn’t sound over­pro­duced, which can’t be said of all the records Charles made when he was alive.

I can’t imag­ine why “It Hurts to Be in Love” was never re­leased. It sounds like a clas­sic Charles tune, with a prom­i­nent bass and a big horn sec­tion that punc­tu­ates Charles’ vo­cals with­out over­whelm­ing the song. There’s a lengthy fade-out as Charles plays with the tune, “cry­ing” in falsetto, plead­ing, jiv­ing, and gen­er­ally hav­ing fun de­spite the “hurt” in the ti­tle.

Even more fun is the funky “I’m Gonna Keep on Sin­gin’,” which also was a fin­ished work. Charles be­gins with a sim­ple com­mand: “Y’all lis­ten!” There’s some fine call and re­sponse with his lovely Raelettes and a spo­ken-word seg­ment in which Charles talks to the cre­ator of the uni­verse: “Friends, I told the Lord him­self this morn­ing, I said ‘ Lord, you know I don’t mean a bit of harm in the world. ...’ ” It re­minds me of Charles’ old song “Un­der­stand­ing,” which also fea­tured some spo­ken-word seg­ments. There are some great in­stru­men­tal so­los here, too — vibes, sax, and trum­pet.

Brother Ray also gets down and bluesy on the slow and soul­ful “There’ll Be Some Changes Made.” This is one that fea­tures over­dub­bing. Keb Mo’ plays gui­tar, but the stand­out is the or­gan work by Bobby Sparks.

Charles’ love for coun­try mu­sic is well doc­u­mented. It comes out on Rare Ge­nius with “A Lit­tle Bitty Tear,” a Hank Cochran song that was a hit in the 1960s for Burl Ives. It’s sparsely pro­duced, with Charles and his pi­ano out front. “She’s Gone” sounds even more coun­try: “The love af­fair is all over, but the heartaches just be­gan.”

Charles does a duet with an­other biopic sub­ject, Johnny Cash, on Kris Kristof­fer­son’s “Why Me Lord?” which was pro­duced in Nashville by Billy Sher­rill (this one’s from the Sony Mu­sic vaults, which is guarded by dif­fer­ent pyg­mies). I sus­pect it was recorded for a Cash al­bum be­cause Charles mainly sings back­ground and plays some tasty elec­tric pi­ano.

Some­thing tells me there’s a lot more trea­sure from the ge­nius in those vaults, so don’t be sur­prised to see vol­umes two and three in the fu­ture. But as a die-hard fan, what I would like to see would be a col­lec­tion of the raw tapes with­out new over­dubs. Maybe call it “Ray Charles in the Rough.”

See www.ray­charles.com.

Also rec­om­mended:

What Goes Around Comes Around by

The Di­plo­mats of Solid Sound. Once again, The Di­plo­mats prove that there’s more than corn in Iowa. Here’s a new crop of funky soul from Iowa City.

The Di­plo­mats started out as an in­stru­men­tal band. A few years ago they served as An­dre Wil­liams’ backup band on Aphro­disiac. Then with their 2008 al­bum, Di­plo­mats of Solid

Sound Fea­tur­ing the Di­plomettes, fe­male vo­cals be­came part of the Diplo­matic mix. Two of the three Di­plomettes — Sarah Cram and Katharine Ruestow — are back for this al­bum. And so are the Broth­ers Basinger — sax dude David and key­board guy Nate.

One of my fa­vorites here is “Back Off” — a protest song of sorts, though I don’t think telling the cops or the mil­i­tary to “back off” is nec­es­sar­ily ef­fec­tive. Then there’s “Gimme One More Chance,” which fea­tures some soul vi­o­lin by guest Diplo­mat Han­nah Drollinger, do­ing her best to sound like Don “Sug­ar­cane” Har­ris.

The ti­tle song has a blax­ploita­tion-movie-sound­track feel, with punchy horn riffs, while “Can’t Wait for Your Love,” sub­ti­tled “Pis­tol Allen,” is ap­par­ently an ode, in spirit at least, to the late Mo­town drum­mer Richard “Pis­tol” Allen. It sounds al­most like a lost Martha and the Van­del­las tune, em­bel­lished with sweet, al­most oth­er­worldly chimes. Check out www.prav­damu­sic.com.

Still hope for the ra­dio: I play stuff like this all the time on Ter­rell’s Sound World, free-form weirdo ra­dio in ac­tion, 10 p.m. Sun­day on KSFR-FM 101.1 and scream­ing on the Web at www.ksfr.org. And don’t for­get The Santa Fe

Opry, the coun­try mu­sic Nashville does not want you to hear, same time on Fri­days.

Blogs a plenty: You can find years of Ter­rell’s Tune-up col­umns as well as my ra­dio playlists and var­i­ous rants about the mu­si­cal in­dus­trial com­plex at www.stevet­er­rell.blogspot.com. In­ter­ested in the strange world of New Mex­ico pol­i­tics? Check out my po­lit­i­cal blog at www.round­house­roundup.com.

New pod­casts com­ing: Keep your ears

tuned for new episodes of The Big En­chi­lada. I’ll be do­ing a Christ­mas spe­cial real soon, as well as one with my reg­u­lar tacky mu­sic be­fore the end of the month. Lis­ten on your iPod or stream it right there on your com­puter. Hours of fun and en­ter­tain­ment can be found at www.bi­gen­chi­ladapod­cast.com.

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