Friday, May 19, 2006


Ray Charles, I Want to Know.
Ray Charles, Lonely Avenue.

Two from the Genius for the weekend:

"I Want to Know" is one of Ray Charles' more forgotten singles, though it was a decent-sized hit at the time--a shame, because it is one of Charles' key transitional pieces from the sort of R&B created by Louis Jordan and Big Joe Turner, into early soul music. There's a sense of change in the sound, from the use of call-and-response in the chorus to the heavier, more relentless mood that permeates the track.

The same holds true for the singles that preceded it--"Drown in My Own Tears", which is basically a secular gospel song, and "Lonely Avenue". The latter was called a black response to Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel," but it's anything but a novelty.

Charles recorded Doc Pomus’ “Lonely Avenue” on May 16, 1956; issued as Atlantic 1108. With Joe Bridgewater and John Hunt (trumpets), David Newman (alto sax), Emmett Dennis (bari sax), Roosevelt Sheffield (b) and William Peeples (d). The Cookies sang backup. “I Want to Know” was the follow-up, Atlantic 1124, released at the tail end of'56. Find both (heck, find everything he recorded in the '50s) here.

Top: The Suez War, autumn 1956. Or, the end of the old British and French empires. "A terrible waste of time and money."

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, a man fond of metaphors:
"The two main colonial powers were humiliated together by a military and diplomatic debacle in 1956...the government of the United States, keen to demonstrate anti-imperialist credentials, reproved their intemperate allies, who shambled out of the crisis, blinking uncertainly as if with sand-stung eyes...After that, the skirts of empire were lifted with indecent haste..."

On the comments box:

For some reason, the comment boxes have been a royal pain lately. Some readers have told me their messages come up as garble, and now the "number box" does not accurately reflect the actual number of comments. Not that I get that many, but still, it's an irritant. So let me know if you're having trouble with 'em..

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