Friday, August 05, 2005:

Half as much

Charlie Rich -- Half As Much
Charlie Rich -- There's Another Place I Can't Go
Charlie Rich: country/rock/pop/soul/R&B singer/crooner/wailer, and a mite more soulful than most country singers. But Rich probably doesn't need an introduction. I'm impressed with the way he mixes genres so seamlessly; plus he can sing, without aid from a computer program, which is always a plus.

"Half As Much" tells a story of a man who's convinced that his woman takes him for granted. It's a Hank* Curly Williams cover taken from Rich's Sings the Songs of Hank Williams and Others LP. The LP is pleasant, which isn't exactly a sterling recommendation--I think that on some tracks it's a real mismatch with Hank Williams' lyrics, which generally call for a gritter vocal approach. And then, on other tracks, the smooth approach has some surprsing rewards. The syncopated funkiness of "Hey Good Looking" was a nice surprise, and "Cold Cold Heart" took a surprisingly suave and melodic turn (two decades before another pianist came along and decided the song really belonged in every coffeehouse in the country), but for me the star of the show is this "Half As Much."

The LP was re-released as half of a double-disc set; the other disc was all R&B. I didn't manage to pick up that disc; it's gone out of print now, and at $50 for the set I think I'll stick with the slightly muddy sound.

"There's Another Place I Can Go" is off Feel Like Going Home: The Essential Charlie Rich, which is still in print and has some fantastic tracks on it. It's about a relationship that's already over, the man left behind hurt by memories and feeling constrained by everything he has to avoid. It has a nicely understated bass line, some muted guitars, some wonderful organ and backup vocals; it would be easy to make it mournful and dirgelike, but the approach here is light and deft.
[Feels Like Going Home: The Essential Charlie Rich @]

*Actually, it was written by Curly Williams and, yes, performed by Hank Williams and on a number of his recordings, but it was also covered by Patsy Cline, Rosemary Clooney, Ray Charles, and a number of others.

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