Charlie Rich, The Complete Sun Recordings: Band Tracks, Vol. 1

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
This Sun legend invested passion and emotion into everything he did

A loping, countryish blues with jazzy guitar fills and assured vocals, "My Baby Done Left Me" is an apt introduction to Charlie Rich. Of the three versions of "C.C. Rider," the middle one is best, with a bari sax lending a New Orleans feel and that simple, deliberate guitar line insinuating itself over and over until you can't get it out of your head. "Popcorn Polly" gives you a good idea of just how forcefully strong, singular music can overcome an inane lyric. "Juanita" is a swaying ballad with Charlie's throbbing vocals delivering some of his better lyrics for what is, after all, a pretty straightforward song. "My Heart Cries for You" is nearly as simple and yet even more nakedly emotional, Rich's vocals pleading their way into higher registers that strike closer and closer to the bone. "Now Everybody Knows" is another of those trademark Rich blues-like lounge laments. And do not overlook these two alternate versions of "Lonely Weekends," Rich's first and only hit at Sun. This is the way he wanted us to hear the song, but the label added background voices and (too much) echo that managed to effectively take the sting out of the dark, desperate feelings Charlie conveyed when he cut it. Which might make for a more palatable teen-market single, but sure doesn't do much to enhance the man's art.