Ray Charles - Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962), 4/10

Ray Charles reworking of country and western standards does not add any meaningful or enjoyable flavor to the catalogue of either country or R&B. The cliché of “the original was better” holds true, and the album as a project only remains relevant for its stylistic ambition. Charles’ vocals are exceptional in style and technique, but the endless acclaim for the record is baffling considering the basic reformatting, straightforward presentation, and lack of passion from the band backing Charles who carries many of these songs out of the trenches into atmospheric listenability. The vision of the record is clear but its direction meanders from fragmented standards that feel somehow uniform yet stylistically bland. Some of this is inherent to style but the lack of feeling can be witnessed during the majority of these songs, some exceptions being “Worried Mind”, “It Makes No Difference Now”, and “I Can’t Stop Loving You”. The essential mismatch in affection materializing most explicitly with “Hey, Good Lookin’”, a song that is well-written but becomes entirely awkward presented as a soul track. Ray Charles’ talents are misplaced and underutilized in an album such as this, which ultimately becomes a bastardization of country music rather than a worthwhile celebration. Yet despite this sad quality, the greatest sin of the album is being woefully stodgy and dull; a missed opportunity that quickly reveals its musical mediocrity. Fortunately, a few solid covers save it from becoming purely bad but it is not even remotely an essential album.