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Waxin Lyrical: Ray Charles

Ray Charles: Yes Indeed! (Atlantic)

Released: 1958/o:p

One advantage of having an older sister was rummaging through her boyfriends’ record collections. One had albums by Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith that, with teenage folly, I dismissed as wimpy jazz. But in the pile was an album by Ray Charles called Yes Indeed!.

Friends had tried to assure me about his genius but I was unconvinced. I liked the raucous What’d I Say and the stomp of Hit The Road Jack, but lately he’d been clogging up the charts with schmaltzy ballads like I Can’t Stop Loving You and You Don’t Know Me. But I gave it a whirl.

It was blues but there was all this other stuff in there as well, starting with Charles’ voice which had a passion that took me by surprise. On What Would I Do Without You the melody and Charles’ light-fingered piano were almost pop, but there were flourishes that came from elsewhere. Jazz? The call and response of It’s All Right with the voices bathed in echo had shades of gospel, that was even more pronounced on the third track, I Want To Know. The traditional spiritual Swanee River Rock was beefed up with bongos. The songs that really got under my skin were the jaunty Get On The Right Track Baby and the slow, insistent Lonely Avenue.

A couple of weeks later my sister was going to dump this guy. I popped over and borrowed the album. I figured he’d never come and ask for it back. Then I wrote my name on the back in case someone else tried to borrow it. I’ve still got it./o:p

Hugh Fielder has been writing about music for 47 years. Actually 58 if you include the essay he wrote about the Rolling Stones in exchange for taking time off school to see them at the Ipswich Gaumont in 1964. He was news editor of Sounds magazine from 1975 to 1992 and editor of Tower Records Top magazine from 1992 to 2001. Since then he has been freelance. He has interviewed the great, the good and the not so good and written books about some of them. His favourite possession is a piece of columnar basalt he brought back from Iceland.