Charlie Rich, The Complete Sun Recordings: Band Tracks, Vol. 2

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
From blues to gospel to “countrypolitan,” Charlie Rich could do it all

"Red Man," which probably alludes slyly to the chewing tobacco as well as openly (p.c. listeners, stay away) to the Native American, is Rich at his jazziest. "That's Right (That's Rich)" is an even more distinct instrumental — not exactly a rocker, not exactly jazz, but an uptempo, genre-free theme that gets both jazzier and bluesier when the horns enter. On the gospel-laced "Time and Again" Rich sounds like a white Ray Charles, while "Don't Put No Headstone on My Grave" is probably his best-known "unknown" tune. Jerry Lee may have the more prominent version, but this raw recording compellingly encapsulates everything Rich does best. If you could get rid of the background vocals, "You Never Know About Love" would be primo bluesy Rich. "Gentle As a Lamb" may have been written with the RCA Elvis in mind — it's one of Charlie's few tunes with a Brill Building feel — but "Goodbye Mary Ann" is a better example of Rich in his commercial groove, with each succeeding version growing less angry and more reflective. "Closed for Repair" could have been released as is during Rich's "Silver Fox" period in the '70s and few would have noticed the difference, so fully realized is its countrypolitan stance. And "Too Many Years" is an underrated gem, Rich's voice conveying lessons learned while his piano wonders if it was even worth it.