The music of Ray Charles at his best
The legendary life and career of Ray Charles were recently chronicled in the movie Ray. The soundtrack is a collection of his greatest hits and shows the evolution that he underwent through his career. The way that he experimented with genres such as rhythm and blues, gospel music, and big-band-style jazz is a testament to his supreme artistry.
The album opens with "Mess Around," a playful song about dancing at a party with a group of friends. Lyrics such as "You see that girl with that diamond ring/she knows how to shake that thing," are amateurish but memorable, showing that there is still potential for Charles to compose more mature works.
"Georgia On My Mind" is a great example of Charles' growth later in his career. The song combines many different mediums to make one multifaceted piece of music. This slow-paced ballad opens with a group of ethereal violins enhanced by the lush harmonies of cellos, basses and violas. Shortly after, the string orchestra is joined by a soulful jazz set. The percussion steadily keeps tempo by strongly pulsing the first and third beats, while the bass and piano gently plunk sub-harmonies that add a laid-back texture to the song. Ray Charles begins to sing his verse accompanied by an angelic chorus. When he talks about Georgia, "[Georgia] comes in as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines." The imagery is so vivid that you can see yourself in a forest gazing at a full-bodied moon shining across a pine-covered woodland.
Charles' mastery of blues music is also demonstrated on the album. The song "Drown in My Own Tears," is the essence of this type of music. Melancholy words like "It brings a tear to my eye/when I begin to realize/I cried so much since you've been gone/I guess I'll drown in my own tears," evoke sadness and regret. The downcast theme in "Born to Lose" is also another example of Charles' ability to sing heartfelt blues songs. When Charles croons the downcast lyrics, "Every dream has only brought me pain/all my life, I've always been so blue/born to lose, and now I'm losing you," in a Frank Sinatra-esque fashion, he effectively summons pity for the ill-fated protagonist who loses everything he cherishes.
Charles also delved into music reminiscent of the big-band jazz era. "Hit the Road Jack" and "Bye Bye Love" are two examples of Charles sampling this category of music. "Hit the Road Jack" is a short dialogue of two verses between an indolent, good-for-nothing man (Ray Charles) and his fed-up woman (The Raylettes). "Bye Bye Love" paradoxically has words such as "I'm through with romance/I'm through with love/I'm through with counting the stars above" that would seem better suited for a down-in-the-dumps blues song, but the feel is buoyant and upbeat.
As an added bonus, the soundtrack has several of the best live performances in Charles' career. Most of Ray Charles' songs were very short in length, but the live version of "What I'd Say" is one of the longer and more attention-grabbing tracks on the album. The four-minute-plus masterpiece has a catchy beat that you might expect at a festive beach party. The back-and-forth exchange between Charles and his Raylettes in the latter parts of the song is fun to sing along with.
The soundtrack from the movie Ray is 54 minutes, 43 seconds and is now available in stores. Click here for a review of the movie.
Adedeji Ogunfolu. Adedeji Ogunfolu is now a senior. Besides working dilligently on the Silver Chips Online staff, he is an extremely enthusiastic musician. He is not ashamed to tell people that he has been to band camp, but he prefers to call it orchestra camp. He has … More »