R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

A Message For All Time

19 MAY 09 DAVID NATHAN

Credited with introducing the word "soul" into mainstream popular musical vernacular, Ray Charles made one of the funkiest albums of his career in 1972, a year in which black music was enjoying a marked increase in exposure and acceptance on an international level. A Message From The People found him in a serious groove.

He transformed everything from folk/pop singer-songwriter Melanie's "Look What They Done To My Song, Ma" and the black national anthem "Lift Every Voice And Sing" into seriously funky workouts. The album mixed genres in a way only Charles could, dipping from the R&B world of vocal group The Whispers via "Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong" to the country/pop arena of John Denver with "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

Charles' genius was never more evident than on his masterful treatment of Stevie Wonder's plea for peace ("Heaven Help Us All"), his deeply moving version of "Abraham, Martin & John" and his stirring rendition of "America The Beautiful," which became a staple in his repertoire both in concert and on TV. It didn't hurt that he called on musical friends like Quincy Jones for the arrangements on the album which turned out to be a milestone in a catalog filled with brilliance. It's a real treasure and its reissue is a reminder that Ray when it came to soul music, he could throw down like the best of them.

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