Record Roulette: Ray Charles

I love Ray Charles. When my musical interests were still infantile, the sounds of “Mess Around” and “(Night Time Is) The Right Time” enticed me. The biographical movie Ray blew the door open to a sea of old R&B, gospel, and soul music. The history in this type of music is remarkable. The slave roots. The oppression. The fight for equality. No matter your race, how could music with this much power behind it not grab you? It definitely gripped me tight. I was running around like little Rudy Huxtable, crazy about Ray Charles. And I knew when I found this record, that I needed to share it. Enjoy.

The Location: Some thrift store in Melbourne.

The Artist: Ray Charles

The Record: The Best of Ray Charles

The Price: $1.00

The Draw: Before I listened to music, I listened to Ray Charles. He is “The Genius.” And I would have paid $1 just to hear “St. Pete Florida Blues.”

I’m going to need a needle after this one. You get what you pay for, and I payed a dollar for 10 songs. The sound is so distorted, that I feel like it could break at any second. Seriously, was this the first record Charles ever laid down to wax? Nope. Actually, Design Records released The Best of Ray Charles in 1966. Okay, The BEST of Ray Charles. So… where are classics? “Georgia on my Mind?” “Hit the Road Jack?” “What’d I Say?” Nowhere on here. It seems that biggest hit Design Records owned the rights to was “Rocking Chair Blues.” You know, the summer smash of 2010? Who doesn’t remember “Rocking Chair Blues?!” That didn’t happen? Oh.

The ever-looming crackling on The Best of Ray Charles adds a somber tone to Charles’ typical sultry voice. Most of the songs on the compilation feature dark subject matter, and condition of the record only adds to Charles’ ever-growing blues. As for “St. Pete Florida Blues,” the song feels like home. It’s simple in structure, but Charles’ has always found a way to make familiar sounds feel special. There’s what I think is a guitar solo towards the end of the track, that is bare-bones in composition. It sounds like one string tied to a wall, being plucked at mercilessly. The guitar’s striped elements mirror the  black musicians from The Great Depression: intense sorrow and ruthless struggle. Just because these aren’t the hits, doesn’t mean they’re not good. “The Genius” never disappoints.

 

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Record Roulette: Shadow Huntaz

$5, an open mind, and time to kill. This is Record Roulette. Enjoy.

Read the other installments of Record Roulette! You know you want to.

 

The Record Store: Park Ave. CD’s Orlando, Fl

The Artist: Shadow Huntaz (OH GOD WHY)

The Record: Dark Matter

The Price: $5.00

The Draw: I don’t know. Maybe I hate myself. Maybe I like to play with fire. But, how could I resist track names like “Alien Prophecies” and “Shadow Statiz (feat. Akila Da Hun).” This is going to be painful.

 

Maybe I’m overreacting. From what I can find, Shadow Huntaz is an experimental hip hop group comprised of various electronic artists and MC’s, who came together in 2009 to create Dark Matter.  Most notable is the duo from The Netherlands who go by Funckarma. Upon first listen, I’m instantly confused. Not by the music or the lyrics, but by the actual packaging itself. My copy of Dark Matter (hell, maybe all of them) is misprinted. The songs on wax are in all different orders than the packaging. Track two on side-A, as implied by the back of the jacket, is “Implant.” But, it’s not! It’s actually “Goodnite,” which is labeled as side-B track two. “The Flames,” supposedly side-C track one, as actually side-B track one! And, almost every track is like this! It’s even mislabeled on the record’s label. I had to go online to find the right track list. I know it’s not a huge deal, but why is this wrong?

Dark Matter is essentially an album of rappers trading bars over experimental electronic tracks. The hooks are only breaks between cyphers, with each MC bringing their own diction. Unlike many rap groups, it’s easy to tell who’s rapping when, which doesn’t make the MC’s blur together. What does however blur together are the beats. The music has an almost lava lamb-type quality, with sounds distorting and morphing into each other. Songs like “Lock, Stock & Barrel,” a melodic highlight, could be featured on the soundtrack to a film in the Alien franchise. The instrumentals in whole sounds other-worldly. Fitting.

The MC’s come together and spit their verses, but I don’t hear much group harmony. I compare all rap groups to Wutang Clan, and Shadow Huntaz just kind of raps; they don’t seem unified towards something, and in whole lack purpose. Also, the MC’s sounds don’t always mesh particularly well, and sometimes clash. There’s a white guy who’s pretty annoying, and whenever he comes in, I’m done. “Shout Louder” is the worst example: his words are overly reverbed and the beat is ill-fitting. Dark Matter’s a bust.