Saturday, June 23, 2012

50 years ago: Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds Goes to #1

Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music

Ray Charles

Charted: April 21, 1962

Peak: 114 US, 6 UK, -- CN, -- AU

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, -- UK, 4.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: R&B meets country


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to charts.

  1. Bye Bye Love (Boudleaux Bryant, Felice Bryant) [2:09]
  2. You Don’t Know Me (Eddy Arnold, Cindy Walker) [3:14] (7/27/62, 2 US, 5 RB, 1 AC, 9 UK)
  3. Half as Much (Curley Williams) [3:24]
  4. I Love You So Much It Hurts (Floyd Tillman) [3:33]
  5. Just a Little Lovin’ Will Go a Long Way (Eddy Arnold, Zeke Clements) [3:26]
  6. Born to Lose (Ted Daffan as Frankie Brown) [3:15] (5/5/62, 41 US, 13 AC)
  7. Worried Mind (Ted Daffan, Jimmie Davis) [2:54]
  8. It Makes No Difference Now (Floyd Tillman, Jimmie Davis) [3:30]
  9. You Win Again (Hank Williams) [3:29]
  10. Careless Love (traditiona, arranged by Charles) [3:56] (7/28/62, 60 US, 19 AC)
  11. I Can’t Stop Loving You (Don Gibson) [4:13] (5/5/62, 1 US, 1 RB, 1 AC, 1 UK, 1 CN, sales: ½ million)
  12. Hey, Good Lookin’ (Hank Williams) [2:10]

Total Running Time: 39:33


4.578 out of 5.00 (average of 8 ratings)


“No one did more to integrate the various genres of American music than Ray Charles.” – Josh Tyrangiel and Alan Light, Time magazine


(Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

June 23, 1962: “I Can’t Stop Loving You” was sitting atop the Billboard Hot 100 for a fourth week when its parent album, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, followed suit and topped the Billboard album chart. It remained there for 14 weeks, becoming one of the top 100 biggest U.S. #1 albums. It “became one of the best-selling albums recorded by a black musician of the time.” WK

While the album proved its commercial and critical clout, it was initially a risky proposition. In the ‘50s, middle-of-the-road white artists like Pat Boone sanitized popular R&B tunes, like Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame”, for white audiences. Artists like Elvis Presley had blended R&B and country. However, it was a test of the waters to see if white audiences would accept a black R&B artist covering country tunes, especially during a time of racial tension in the United States.

“Not content with inventing modern soul, Ray Charles couldn’t resist a crack at country,” BL even if he “put his pop career in jeopardy by bringing his unique flavor to country and western standards.” RV “Veering far from the 1959 single that made him a star, ‘What I’d Say (Parts I and II),’ Charles opted for the Hank Williams tune Hey, Good Lookin’ as his follow-up. Charles retains Williams’ lyrics and basic melody, but infuses it with blaring brass to give it a big band sound.” RV

Charles’ idea to record an album’s worth of country music was met with generally negative feedback from his peers and the executives at ABC-Paramount. He’d landed a lucrative deal with them in 1959 when he jumped ship from Atlantic Records. Now he was testing just how much artistic freedom they would afford him. He became one of the first African-Americans to exercise such control over his own recording career.

Charles asked Sid Feller, his former producer, to “bring him the best country and western songs of the past twenty years.” CS Out of the 150 songs Feller gave him, Charles then whittled it down to twelve. CS “Charles knew that musical integration was a good metaphor for racial integration, and in particular his cover of…You Don’t Know Me seems to carry a larger message for white audiences.” TL His “aching vocals are backed by a full string ensemble and choir to create the greatest rendition of the classic Cindy Walker and Eddy Arnold song. These orchestrations are what make Charles’ country remain modern and ingenious to this day.” RV The song was a top-five hit on the U.S. pop, R&B, and adult contemporary charts.

Charles added “extravagant arrangements and high-octane vocals” BL that combined “jazz and rock and roll” TL and even “some big band – the opening of Bye Bye Love could have been composed by Glenn Miller.” TL He managed to do all that and create “a high-profile crossover hit” SC as well.

“Above a mix of swinging big band charts by Gerald Wilson and strings and choir backdrops from Marty Paich, Charles’ intones the sleepy-blue nuances of country crooners while still giving the songs a needed kick with his gospel outbursts. No pedal-steel or fiddles here, just a fine store of inimitable interpretations.” SC

Modern Sounds in Country and Western fit right in with Ray Charles’ expansive musical ways while on the Atlantic label in the ‘50s. In need of even more room to explore, Charles signed with ABC-Paramount and eventually took full advantage of his contract’s ‘full artistic freedom clause’ with this collection of revamped country classics. Covering a period from 1939 to the early ‘60s, the 12 tracks here touch on old-timey fare (Floyd Tillman’s It Makes No Difference to Me Now), honky tonk (three Hank Williams songs), and early countrypolitan” SC with I Can’t Stop Loving You.

Nothing was bigger than the latter song, originally a #7 country hit for Gibson in 1958. Charles transformed it into one of the greatest crossover songs of all time. It landed atop the Billboard Hot 100 as well as the adult contemporary (AC) and R&B charts. It also hit #1 on the sales-driven Cashbox chart and the U.K. charts. The song is featured in the book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999.

While the album was a risk, it “became a rapid critical and commercial success.” WK In fact, it is “regarded by many critics as Charles’ best studio album.” WK Thanks to the risk Charles took, arguably “no one did more to integrate the various genres of American music than Ray Charles.” TL Frank Sinatra called him “the only true genius in our business.” CS


Bonus tracks “You Are My Sunshine,” “Here We Go Again,” and “That Lucky Old Sun” were added to later editions.

Resources and Related Links:

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 6/27/2008; last updated 3/20/2024.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cock Roaches and Keith Richards: Some Bands Seem to Last Forever

Originally published in my "Aural Fixation" column on on June 21, 2012. See original post here.

Rolling Stones publicity photo, image from

The Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, Metallica and other rock groups have been around for decades. What are the keys to their longevity?
In 1986, the Beach Boys had a sturdy discography built on surf-pop gems like “Good Vibrations,” “California Dreamin’,” and “Surfin’ U.S.A.” They were closing in on their 25th anniversary, but with their last top ten hit a decade behind them, they were in danger of becoming an embarrassing nostalgia act. Their last couple singles hadn’t even cracked the top 40. Obviously their days were numbered.

That same year, the Rolling Stones’ Dirty Work album was the most panned of their career. Guitarist Keith Richards was feuding with singer Mick Jagger, who wouldn’t tour to support the new album because he was off doing a solo thing. The band was rumored to be on the verge of breaking up.

Meanwhile, a group named Metallica released their third album, Master of Puppets. It was hailed as a classic of the heavy metal genre, seemingly positioning the band for even bigger and better things. Then a bus crash killed bassist Cliff Burton.

Metallica, the Cliff Burton years; image from

A funny thing happened over the next few years, though. These groups wouldn’t go away. The Beach Boys landed their first #1 song on the Billboard charts in 22 years with 1988’s “Kokomo.” The Rolling Stones patched up their differences and stormed back into the limelight in 1989 with a massive tour in support of the return-to-form album, Steel Wheels. Metallica enlisted a new bassist and landed their first top-ten album with 1988’s …And Justice for All.

Fast forward to 2012 and these bands are still around. To celebrate their golden anniversary, the Beach Boys have launched a major tour, and gifted the world with their first studio album, That’s Why God Made the Radio, in 16 years.

Technically it shouldn’t be called an anniversary since the current lineup of Brian Wilson, Mike Love, David Marks, Al Jardine, and Bruce Johnston never performed together on a public stage prior to the 2012 Grammys. That is nit-picky, though, since all five “boys” have rich histories with the band. Wilson formed the band in 1961 with his brothers Dennis and Carl (who died in 1983 and 1998 respectively) as well as cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine. Brian did his last full tour with the band in 1965 at which point Johnston came on board. Marks was an early member who left in 1963 but returned in 1997. Jardine returns to the fold after a 14-year absence.

You have to offer kudos to a band who’s ridden the waves for so many years. Theirs is a remarkably rare feat. Today’s kiddos – and I’m talking about of-the-moment boy bands like One Direction and The Wanted – can learn a few lessons from the old foagies like the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Metallica and others if they want to still be kicking in 2062. For the record, I don’t expect either of those groups to last ten years, much less fifty, but if they follow these tips they might just surprise me.

Maintain a core.

Like the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones have endured roster changes over the years, but maintained a basic core for five decades. The audience of less than a hundred on that first historic night witnessed the seemingly indestructible Keith Richards riff on his guitar while Mick Jagger waggled those famous lips. By January 1963, drummer Charlie Watts joined and the trio have anchored the group ever since. The newbie of the group, guitarist Ronnie Wood, signed on in 1975.

A year after Wood joined the Biggest Band in the World, a quartet of Irish lads formed the band which would eventually wrestle that title away from the Stones. Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. formed U2 and have stayed together ever since. Think of it this way – it has become a rarity for anyone to retire from a job after 36 years of service. Imagine if four guys at the same company collected their gold watches at once.

U2, image from

Take vacations, but let fans know you’re coming back.

Even millionaire musicians are entitled to occasional breaks. There’s no way the Beach Boys or the Stones could keep up the grueling pace of touring and releasing a couple albums a year like they did at the onset. As the decades roll on, the gaps between projects grow wider. The Stones graced us with their last studio effort, A Bigger Bang, in 2005 and the subsequent tour wrapped two years later.

The difference in a long layoff being labeled as a “break” or a “break up” comes down to public perception – and how much dirty laundry the band members air. When the Eagles went on hiatus in 1980, Don Henley famously stated the band would get back together again when Hell froze over. People definitely considered the band kaput, a point which Glenn Frey jokingly referenced on the band’s live 1994 album with the tongue-in-cheek title Hell Freezes Over: “For the record, we never broke up. We just took a fourteen-year vacation.”

the Eagles on the Hell Freezes Over tour, image from

Stay together for the kids.

The relationships amongst band members can resemble the for-better-or-worse nature of a romantic couple. Sturdier bands withstand the rocky times, knowing the kids (or the fans) depend on them. The Stones’ near break-up of ’86 was one of many Jagger and Richards squabbles. They most recently tangled over the latter’s 2010 no-holds-barred autobiography, Life, but never to the point that fans thought it was over. There’s still serious talk of a tour and maybe even an album next year.

Metallica has now thrilled the world for 30+ years by unleashing aggression through thrashing guitars and ear-crunching vocals. However, in 2004 they took the very un-heavy-metal move of releasing a documentary, Some Kind of Monster, which keyed in on their group therapy. Even the toughest of rockers have to talk out their feelings to keep the relationship going.

What else are you gonna do?

Bono stated in a Daily Mail article (“‘Til death do them part: Bono believes unshakable U2 will stay together until they die”, 9 September 2011) that he believed the members were so defined by their band roles that they are otherwise “unemployable.” He continued, saying, “There’s only one way out, in a coffin.”

The dedication to music at all costs has never been captured better than in the 2008 documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil. The titular Canadian heavy metal band formed in 1978 and seemed on the brink of success in 1984. The movie shows them enduring the humilities of paltry audiences, sleeping in train stations, and scuffling with bar owners who won’t pay them. Their big dream hasn’t happened, but they refuse to quit. Singer Steve “Lips” Kudlow said, “I started out with Rob when I was 14 years old and we said we’re gonna do it ‘til we’re old men. We really meant that.”

Richards says in Life, “There’s something beautifully friendly and elevating about a bunch of guys playing music together…It’s really teamwork, one guy supporting the others, and it’s all for one purpose.”

The Four Tops, image from

The Four Tops made some of the biggest hits during Motown’s 1960s heyday with gems like “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” and “I Can’t Help Myself”. Until the passing of member Lawrence Payton in 1997, they’d kept the same lineup for 44 years. Years ago, a Eugene Register-Guard article (“The Four Tops come spinning to town”, 2 December 1988) discussed their endurance, citing their bio which read, “They were never greedy, never riddled by egotism or impatience, and never lost sight of what they wanted to do most: sing!”

Share the same sense of ethics and mission.

Since 1974, Rush (who just released Clockwork Angels) have maintained the same lineup of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neal Peart. Their Wikipedia page credits the rock trio’s strong work ethic and commitments to philanthropic causes.

An article at article (“Great Teams: The Extraordinary Unity of U2”, 20 August 2008) asserts that keys to U2’s longevity include their similar values, shared mission, and consensus-oriented decision-making style. The Daily Mail article quoted Bono saying U2 had “a kind of belligerent respect” for each other.

Let tragedy unite you.

The article also acknowledges the role tragedy can have in bringing a group closer together. Bono’s mother died when he was 14; Mullen lost his mom when he was 16. Through their grief, the two became very supportive friends. Later, the band rallied around Clayton to support his battle against drug and alcohol addiction.

image from

Like Metallica, other bands have rallied back from the death of a member. AC/DC may have the most phenomenal story. Brothers Angus and Malcolm Young formed the hard-rock outfit in 1973. Acute alcohol poisoning took the life of lead singer, Bon Scott, in February 1980 and seemingly sank the group’s ship just sailing into international waters. A mere six months later Back in Black, featuring new frontman Brian Johnson, made it clear the group was still afloat. 32 years later, the band is still electrifying audiences the world over and Back has put them firmly in the black: the album’s 49 million in worldwide sales is second all-time only to Michael Jackson’s Thriller (“The World’s Top 100 All-Time Best-Selling Albums”, 20 February 2012).

Hey, you’ve got a legacy to uphold – and bucks to be made.

With the exception of Anvil, the bands spotlighted here haven’t just stuck around for decades, but been hugely successful. It’s hard to keep playing if no one comes to see you. At, Melissa Ruggieri (“The Beach Boys display fine-tuned nostalgia on anniversary tour”, 29 April 2012) sums up the Beach Boys concert trek: “There is one point to a 50th anniversary tour: nostalgia.”

The Rolling Stones, U2, Metallica, Rush, AC/DC, and other bands with thirty or more candles on their birthday cakes, aren’t new to the party. Their days of being hailed as “the next big thing” are long gone. However, these bands have entered another phase of their musical lives: fans want to see these rock and roll legends before they’re gone.

Surely it is more likely that in another quarter century, The Wanted or One Direction will still be around while the Rolling Stones’ rocking years and the Beach Boys days of harmonizing will be long behind them. Then again, there’s a long-standing joke that when the world ends the only thing left will be cock roaches and Keith Richards. Here’s hoping cock roaches know how to appreciate a good guitar solo.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Asia’s XXX released



Released: June 20, 2012

Peak: 134 US, 69 UK, -- CN, -- AU

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)

Genre: heritage rock

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Song Title (Writers) [Time] (chart date, peaks on charts)

  1. Tomorrow the World
  2. Bury Me in Willow
  3. No Religion (Wetton, Downes, Howe)
  4. Faithful (2012, --)
  5. I Know How You Feel
  6. Face on the Bridge (5/14/12, --)
  7. Al Gatto Nero
  8. Judas (Wetton, Downes, Howe)
  9. Ghost of a Chance

All songs written by John Wetton and Geoff Downes unless noted otherwise.

Total Running Time: 49:39

The Players:

  • John Wetton (vocals, bass)
  • Steve Howe (guitar)
  • Geoff Downes (keyboards)
  • Carl Palmer (drums)


3.500 out of 5.00 (average of 3 ratings)

Quotable: “Asia’s best album since its classic early ‘80s releases.” – Amazon review

About the Album:

The original Asia lineup of John Wetton, Steve Howe, Carl Palmer, and Geoff Downes released their self-titled debut album in 1982. The supergroup soared to the top of the charts, spending 9 weeks at #1 on the album chart. The follow-up, Alpha, was a top-ten album, but then the original lineup disintegrated. Geoff Downes maintained the group for two more decades with some of the original members dropping in now and then.

In 2008, the original lineup produced their first album (Phoenix) in more than a quarter century after a successful reunion tour. While it seemed like it might be a one-time thing, they went on to make Omega two years later. Now they’ve returned again with XXX – named in honor of the band’s 30th anniversary. The album would end up being the last one featuring the original four members as Howe would leave the next year and Wetton died in 2017.

The album also features original artwork from Roger Dean, who also did the original Asia album cover. He also did famous covers for Yes, which Howe and Downes had both been members of.

An Amazon review said it “is being hailed as Asia’s best album since its classic early ‘80s releases.” AZ Chart-wise, it only reached #69 on the UK charts, but it was the highest position for Asia since 1985’s Astra.

Notes: A special edition added three bonus tracks – the song “Reno (Silver and Gold)” and alternate mixes of “I Know How You Feel” and “Faithful.”

Resources and Related Links:

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 9/7/2020; updated 8/6/2021.

Rock of Ages might make you throw up…in your pants.

image from

I was a big fan of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, an improv show which originally aired on British television from 1988-98 and then got an American face list and ran from 1998-2006. One of the games was built around the actors being given a movie scene to act out. The gimmick, and much of the humor, grew out of the “director” constantly interrupting the scene to tell the actors to perform in a different style.

Alan Shankman, the director of Rock of Ages, thought it would be fun to direct an entire movie that way. Each actor was given different instructions about how to perform in the film. The two leads, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, were asked to play their roles like they were in a made-for-tweens Disney television show. While it made them into eye-rolling caricatures, at least their performances matched the script’s completely clichéd story. Small-town girl heads to Hollywood with a solitary suitcase and dreams of stardom. She barely steps off the bus when she’s mugged, rescued by a cute boy, and is offered a job as a waitress at a bar. The wide-eyed pair immediately become a couple, only to be torn apart by a misunderstanding worthy of every lame sitcom plot twist ever written. I won’t tell you the ending – not because I’m worried about spoilers, but because you know how this wraps up already.

Rock of Ages trailer

Telling such a story could be funny if done with a campy, wink-wink, nod-nod approach. This apparently was how Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand were told to play it. I don’t need to hear them singing again any time soon, but they get the only laugh-out-loud moment in the movie when they duet on an REO Speedwagon song.

Speaking of singing, there are major problems, which really isn’t a good omen for a musical. Julianne and Diego are at least consistent in that they sing the same way they act. They seem unaware that the songs they’re belting out are rock songs, not Broadway show tunes as interpreted by the cast of Glee (which Shankman has directed, by the way).

This brings us to Tom Cruise. Some are touting his performance as rock star Stacee Jaxx as Oscar-worthy. His is definitely the most interesting role in the movie, even when he distracts with the over-the-top intensity he brings to everything he does. He gets a scene with a Rolling Stone reporter where you glimpse the pain and loneliness of a celebrity with the status of, oh, I don’t know – Tom Cruise? It’s the kind of moment you wish a whole movie were built around. Then he breaks into Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” and the magic is over.

Cruise’s performance is actually the most maddening. Don’t believe the hype about him having a backup career as a rocker if the acting thing doesn’t work out. It was very considerate of Poison’s Bret Michaels to let Cruise raid his 1980s wardrobe. Cruise also has the whip-an-audience-into-a-frenzy stage moves down. That doesn’t means Cruise can approximate the vocal growl of the era’s hair bands and arena rockers. Considering how widely panned many of those singers were, it doesn’t bode well for soundtrack sales to have an album loaded with second-rate versions of those songs. I mean, has anyone ever said, “Oh, sure, Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Paradise City’ was good, but wouldn’t it be better if we let the star from Top Gun sing it?”

I’m not being completely fair. We do get Mary J. Blige’s pipes in the movie. Unfortunately, her trademark “no one can sing like Aretha, except maybe me” style simply embarrasses everyone else. If only she sang every line of her performance as the streetwise nightclub owner with a heart of gold. She definitely doesn’t need to become a singer with a “hyphenated” career.

Speaking of hyphens, Catherine Zeta-Jones is one of those lucky people who gets terms like “Oscar-winning” and “Tony-award winner” tacked on to her name. She won’t be adding any new trophies to her collection this time around. She plays a politician’s wife bent on cleaning up the Hollywood Strip. It’s the least interesting character in the show – and she’s got plenty of competition.

The movie was summed up for me with a medley of her leading her religious flock in singing “We’re Not Gonna Take It” while Brand rallies the troops for “We Built This City.” Blender magazine called the latter the worst song of all time. When cameos from Sebastian Bach (of the long-disappeared Skid Row), a white-haired Kevin Cronin (who still helms REO Speedwagon), and Debbie Gibson rate as one of a movie’s highlights, the movie has serious problems.

One of Baldwin’s lines in the movie roughly sums it up: “I just threw up…In my pants…Through my ass.”

Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Gotye spent 8th week at #1 with “Somebody That I Used to Know”

Somebody That I Used to Know

Gotye with Kimbra

Writer(s): Wally de Backer (see lyrics here)

Released: July 5, 2011

First Charted: August 15, 2011

Peak: 18 US, 16 BA, 14 DG, 13 RR, 119 AC, 16 A40, 113 AA, 112 MR, 15 UK, 16 CN, 18 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 14.0 US, 1.8 UK, 17.31 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2071.7 video, 1450.11 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

In 2012, Gotye exploded on the music scene with his multi-format #1 smash, “Somebody That I Used to Know.” However, the Belgian-Australian singer and multi-instrumentalist born Wouter (“Wally”) De Backer wasn’t a complete newbie. He’d been releasing albums for ten years as both a solo artist and as a member of the rock trio The Basics. Originally released in July 2011, “Somebody” didn’t take hold in the U.S. until six months later. In April 2012, it topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States; it hit #1 in 25 other countries as well, WK selling more than 10 million copies worldwide along the way. WK

Gotye wrote the mid-tempo, indie-pop ballad about his experiences with relationships. As he said, the song deals with “the memory of those different relationships and what they were and how they broke up and what’s going on in everyone’s minds.” WK Allmusic’s Jon O’Brien described it as “an oddball break-up song whose stuttering rhythms, reggae hooks, and hushed vocals sound like The Police as remixed by the XX.” AMG

It samples the 1967 instrumental “Seville” by Brazilian jazz guitarist Luiz Bonfá. He used New Zealand singer Kimbra for the female vocal on the song after a higher profile singer dropped out. The video, which has nabbed well north of 300 million views, showed a naked Gotye and Kimbra slowly being covered in a paint pattern thanks to stop motion animation. It was an MTV Video of the Year nominee. In a true sign of the video’s viral quality, it has been covered by Walk Off the Earth, featuring all five group members playing the song on one guitar. It has received 143 million hits.’s Bill Lamb said of the song, “Pop perfection does not come along often, but Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ is flawless.” WK Click Music’s Martin Davies said it is “that rare example of a track that hits you squarely between the eyes.” WK


Last updated 7/25/2023.