An often told joke during the 1950s and 1960s amongst the music industry:
First session musician: I'm doing an album next week with Ray Charles.
Second session musician: Which one? The blind one or the deaf one?"
He's actually the one in glasses on the cover of this album - one of two albums by the Ray Charles Singers that Ernie (not Bert) offered at his blog late last year.
The other Ray Charles has had quite a full career. During the 50s and 60s, Ray and his singers put out dozens of albums in their own right while being the house orchestra and chorus for Perry Como - a job they held from 1950 to 1985!
Ray also was the choral arranger on the TV version of "Your Hit Parade" from 1950 to 1957 and worked with many famous names on various TV specials such as Bing Crosby, Julie Andrews, Glen Campbell, Bob Hope, Gene Kelly, and Frank Sinatra. If you're still not impressed, here are three facts that prove the other Ray was hip:
1.) He wrote the song "Letters, We Get Letters" for Perry Como whenever he read mail. Flash forward to near present day and you'll hear Paul Shaffer play the song for David Letterman when he dips into his mailbag.
2.) Ray Charles was the musical director of a TV show between 1976-1981 that was the most successful globally syndicated TV show before "Baywatch" claimed that title - a little show called "The Muppet Show".
3.) You've probably heard this Ray Charles sing dozens of times before and you don't know it. Perhaps hundreds of times if your a fan of a certain show. Don't know the theme?
Come and knock on our door, we've been waiting for you...
Yep, that's him!
In 1956, Ray and his singers (no orchestra) released this album for the holiday season. Each of the 21 acapella tracks feature nice tight harmonies and great vocal arrangements. Standout tracks include "Good King Wenceslas" and "Rise Up Shepherds And Follow", two carols that should be required for all carollers to sing.
The standout track is "I Saw Three Ships". This is not one of my favorite Christmas tunes because I've never found a great version of it. However, this is it! No overorchestration, no overvocalization (think Michael Bolton). This version is joyful, bouncy fun!
I was going to type "This album is perfect at low volume at your next Christmas party..." but got a better idea for it. This Christmas, take this album up and down the block at high volume in a boombox of your choosing. I don't think the neighbors are going to mind...
The other album that Ernie offered at his blog was this little gem:
Also released in 1956, this album features several Christmas songs (with orchestra this time) such as "Jingle Bells", "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow", and the title track "Winter Wonderland".
It also features other winter-related songs such as "Button Up Your Overcoat", "Winter", "By The Fireside", and one of my favorite Bing Crosby / Dean Martin tunes called "June In January". This alone makes this album highly recommended. Looks like the other Ray Charles has soul as well...
On to the next new Christmas CD in my collection...