Listen: Tell The Truth / Ray Charles RayCharlesTellTheTruth.mp3
Ok, I’m on a roll. The sudden discovery of Little Stevie Wonder’s ‘Workout Stevie, Workout’ / ‘Monkey Talk’ (see my November 29, 2010 post) has me insatiable for late 50′s / early 60′s call and response gospel blues. Actually, any record from the period will do, so long as it’s full of ecstatic shouts and moans and blasts from horn sections. The wilder the better.
Almost possessed, and by sheer coincidence, I came across Ray Charles’ ‘Tell The Truth’ this past Thanksgiving weekend. Other than a festive day with friends at Lisa’s dinner, it was basically three days spent immersed in records: filing, playing, sorting, filing again, and honestly pulling more singles out of the shelves than the ones being put back in. Oh yeah, and picking up a holy grail 45 collection from Saint Vicki. Can you think of a better way to spend three cold, drizzly days?
Right, so Ray Charles. Let me tell you why his pre-’65 recordings are hot as fuck. From ’54 into the 60′s, Ray Charles toured for 300 days a year with his seven-piece orchestra. 300 days. That’s serious.
He employed Atlantic label mates, a vocal trio named The Cookies, thereby renaming them The Raeletts for when they backed him up on the road. In ’58 – ’59, the musical chemistry between himself and the girls resulted in well documented revival level frenzied shows that according to many a music historian, singlehandedly invented Soul.
Ultimately, during the same January ’59 session at the Atlantic Studios, ‘What’d I Say’ and ‘Tell The Truth’ were recorded live, in very few takes. Ray Charles duets on both with Raelett Margie Hendricks. ‘What’d I Say’ scaled uncountable heights for changing history, bringing true black music to white audiences in a mainstream fashion.
Yet equally hot, maybe hotter, was the underdog of that session, ‘Tell The Truth’. Released eight months or so after ‘What’d I Say’ in late winter 1960, it’s the ugly stepsister to his global smash….and sounds all the more untapped because of it. Every element is here: Margie Hendricks leading the intro, horn section spiking in, his unrefined, carnal vocals, his barrelhouse piano.
All arms raised to the heavens, I can’t stop now – tomorrow bright and early, I’m out the door to find his autobiography BROTHER RAY: RAY CHARLES’ OWN STORY. More to come.