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The Memphis Sound

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Album Review

With his idiosyncratic musical mixture of gospel, country, jazz, blues, and soul, Charlie Rich is perhaps the most singular country artist this side of Johnny Cash. He may also be the most reticent, and even when he goes for a directly commercial sound, he ends up going down a road that only he would try to explore. Rich's first recordings were done at Sam Phillips' legendary Sun Studios, where Rich started out as a session pianist in 1958, and he cut several sides that were released on the Sun Records subsidiary Phillips International between 1958 and 1964, and all of these had the same slightly skewed affinities that Rich would improve on as his career progressed. Sun brought several of these Phillips tracks together for the LPs The Early Years and The Memphis Sound, and both have been combined here to make this 20-track single-disc CD. What keeps the resulting collection from being anything close to essential, though, is that it lacks the three biggest sides Rich recorded for Phillips, "Lonely Weekends," which was a mid-chart pop success in 1960, and a pair of songs that have been staples in Rich's live sets ever since, "Who Will the Next Fool Be?" and "Sittin' and Thinkin'." What's here is certainly interesting, but in the end the omissions are telling.


Born: 14 December 1932 in Colt, AR

Genre: Country

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Charlie Rich was simultaneously one of the most critically acclaimed and most erratic country singers of post-World War II era. Rich had all the elements of being one of the great country stars of the '60s and '70s, but his popularity never matched his critical notices. What made him a critical favorite also kept him from mass success. Throughout his career, Rich willfully bended genres, fusing country, jazz, blues, gospel, rockabilly, and soul. Though he had 45 country hits in a career that spanned...
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