This appeared in the AGE more than half a decade ago. Its a good read if you can find it...
Ray Charles: Man and Music - Michael Lydon
2004- 494 pages.RIVERHEAD
This is a book about a musician and his music.That the musician is Ray Charles and that he embraced the music of a whole charged up country and melded it as he pleased means that this is a big,mother fucking hard covered,historical epic.The writer, Michael Lydon, approaches the story with great gusto and gets involved at all turns. Ray is seen up close as we can get to a creative artist. Ray is of course ,blind and this removes him totally from most of our experience of life.Ray is consumed by music and life. This life is almost totally spent travelling on the road. He walks into hotel rooms and steps out the dimensions and architecture of the space he is going to be moving through. He has a valet on constant call but likes to do as much as he can by himself. Through the writer we see Ray hot and bothered, waving his arms and legs and bumping into walls after shooting up some smack and running his band through his paces like a machine. Ray is hard and unquestionably the boss and emperor of his world.
This might seem like much of the hyperbole that surrounds the strange ,stiff formality that surrounds other black American touring organisations of the era.Think of James Brown and his extended court who all addressed each other with a stiff “Mister” around any of the hired help. Think of BB King touring for half a century in a succession of vehicles, well aware that outside of this well regulated environment he is a poorly educated African American with roots sewn very shallowly,if at all in the actual, mean , business world. In contrast, Ray Charles rules Ray Charles Enterprises in cold , hard fact. As a musician,I sat with my jaw in my lap and then felt like jumping up and cheering as I read the section where Ray negotiates a deal with ABC paramount records in 1959.Ray had been with Atlantic records which was a premier ,innovative black R&B label run by the young Turkish jazz fan,Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler since 1952.They had had faith in his ability to truly find his own voice and come out from his initial overt imitations of his idols,the smooth Nat “King” Cole and the rough and bluesy Charles Brown.Their patience had been rewarded first with “I got a woman” and then “What’d I say “. Ray was not yet thirty and coming into all his powers. At this point he went his own way and signed with ABC. It is a thread running through this story that Ray is his own man. ABC offered Ray a 75% his way deal his and would let him produce his own records. Ray was already producing his own sessions and thought the deal was sweet.At the end of the discussions he casually asked if he could own his own master tapes. This brilliant ,fearless question was eventually answered in the affirmative and to this day,Ray owns all his recordings. Many years later,when his post Atlantic records would be re released on many different labels,all the people would have to deal directly with Ray Charles Enterprises. Ray Charles was in control like few others. This is something to see when you tally it with the images of the boy growing up in the poverty of rural Georgia in the Thirties.The little boy who goes blind at the age of seven and is sent off, walking by himself , to a distant school for the blind. He makes his own way in the world better than so many others who should be able to see so much clearer than him. Ray is on his own from an early age.
As a music fan the glimpses this book gives of that great period just after the second world war when mass immigration of African Americans from the South to the North and the great leaps in technology of recording and playing music produced the shapes of sounds to come for the next half century.The characters involved here are a roll call of icons.Ertegeun and Wexler at Atlantic are complemented by their recording engineer,Tom Dowd, who,after witnessing the nuclear blasts at Bikini Atoll as a young physicist, scores a job at a New York recording studio.(At this stage they wear white lab coats to work!) His enthusiasm for work sees him find ways to record sounds loudly yet clearly, just at the edge of distortion. He invents the “Atlantic sound”.
You also get to meet Quincy Jones as a fifteen year old trumpet player and budding arranger.You think of all the other cats moving around the States at the same time.Duke Ellington,Charlie Parker ,Hank Williams ,Wynonie Harris and Count Basie.The level of musicianship required of all these players would make a modern player afraid to walk down the same street! Everybody had to be able to sight read and music was played and listened to in the moment.Vinyl,long playing records were a new technology. Music was experienced. Ray is once again seen moving through this world as a supreme master of his music, unencumbered by ideas of staying in a particular genre. He more or less invents soul music by singing sex drenched street talk against gospel grooves and then has his biggest hit with a country album.Ray learns to read music by braille. First the left hand with the right hand reading and then the other way around. All of his arrangements for his bands were done ,note for exacting note, in his head. He would shoot up some heroin, lay back on his bed and dictate whole arrangements to his musical director,for each instrument! Every transposition and cymbal crash!
This is a big story and it is a long story.Most of the last century in fact. We leave the book and Ray is still on the road. The delightful fact that his big band still sets up with no microphones on stage save for one for Rays piano and one for his voice is seen as a negative. I would love to have heard that band playing like that!
Ray is also seen in these pages as a junkie,a chronic pants man and a cold, distant bastard to family and friends but when all is said and done,it’s the music that will live on. Like any musician, he put everything into the grooves.
- dave graney
- WORKSHY - 2017 memoir out on Affirm Press. Let's get Tight - 2017 CD with Clare Moore. Moodists - Coral Snakes - mistLY. I don’t know what I am and don’t want to know any more than I already know. I aspire, in my music , to 40s B Movie (voice and presence) and wish I could play guitar like Charlie Christian or Grant Green -but not in this lifetime, I know.
2014 solo album from Dave Graney. *****"If I've learnt anything in my years of writing about music it's that if you are going to do anything of worth in this tough game, you better have your own thing. Today's generic is easily replaced by tomorrow's. And yet you need to be flexible, to follow wherever the songs demand. In the case of this, only the second credited as a solo album among 30 or so Graney releases, it's a curious yet welcoming lane he walks you down, with acoustic guitars, not much percussion, vibes, smooth sounds. At the end of it you feel like you've awoken from a strange yet pleasant summer's dream. As shot by Luis Bunuel. It ranges from off-kilter reveries (A Woman Skinnies Up a Man, The Old Docklands Wheel) through to the softly seductive (How Can You Get Out of London) and the downright arch (Look Into My Shades, Everything Is Great In The Beginning.) This is music that is neither folk, nor blues, nor country, but it's all Graney, somewhere out to the left field beyond Lee Hazlewood's raised eyebrow. It's astringent on the tongue but sweetens in the telling." Noel Mengel Brisbane Courier Mail
you've been in my mind
June 2012 super high energy pop rock album - blazing electric 12 strings - total 70s rock drive. Greatest yet! available via paypal - $20 pp
SUPERMODIFIED - August 2010 remixed/re-sung/re-strung//remastered/replayed comp via PAYPAL
also available as a digital album
Knock yourself (2009)-first ever dg solo set-filthy electro r&b-available via Paypal- $20
available as a digital album too
We Wuz Curious (2008)-blazing R&B jazz pop album available via paypal-$20
UNAVAILABLE-COMPLETELY SOLD OUT!!!
AVAILABLE AS A DIGITAL album
Hashish and Liquor (2005 double disc by Dave Graney and Clare Moore) available via Paypal $25
UNAVAILABLE-COMPLETELY SOLD OUT!!!
Single album HASHISH available as a digital release