The Silver Fox’s complete Groove and RCA recordings in one place for the first time, including several new-to-CD tracks and one previously unissued. A high-class fusion of R&B, Country, Pop, Jazz and Easy Listening, produced by Chet Atkins in Nashville 1963-1965.
Charlie Rich looked and sang like Elvis’ brother – his mature older brother, hair a silver grey, and more into jazz than the jumped-up country sound that had taken over the world in the mid-50s. Like Elvis, Charlie Rich started out his recording career with Sam Phillips in Memphis. And like Elvis, he was an incredibly versatile performer, with a seemingly effortless style and a soulful vibrato; Greil Marcus once said he “could make it on all the charts at once: R&B, Pop, Easy Listening and Country. [He has] that much range.”
There were also several very real differences between Elvis and Charlie Rich. Although he was also a terrific pianist – mixing jazz, blues, even classical – Rich entirely lacked Elvis’ extrovert streak, and ultimately this meant that his versatility counted against him. Record companies never knew where to position him; he was a distinguished-looking man but not exactly a pin-up. He wrote songs, and so did his wife Margaret Ann, but they both knew his self-destructive personality wasn’t built for a career in the music industry. Record companies and critics had always known he should have been having hits, even if the public largely ignored him.
With such an unpredictable yet productive career, it can be difficult to find a way in to Rich’s tangled catalogue. The trickiest period of all to make sense of has been his stint with Groove, an RCA subsidiary, where he was signed by Chet Atkins from 1963 to 1965. This compilation marks the first time all of his Groove recordings have been assembled in one place, with eight making their first appearance on CD and one song, ‘One More Mountain’, previously unheard anywhere.
Rich’s warm, soulful vocals were tested by Atkins on a southern stew of popcorn R&B (the terrific ‘Lady Love’, Margaret Ann’s ‘Turn Around And Face Me’), jazz standards (‘River, Stay ’Way From My Door’, ‘Ol’ Man River’), tough rockers (‘Big Boss Man’, ‘Big Jack’) and blue-eyed soul (‘Are You Still My Baby’, which would be covered by the Shirelles). Three of the more countrypolitan cuts – ‘There Won’t Be Anymore’, ‘I Don’t See Me In Your Eyes Anymore’, ‘She Called Me Baby’ – would, incredibly, become country chart #1s a full decade after they were recorded.
Charlie Rich’s Groove recordings have been maybe the most overlooked of his career, scattered for years over endless compilations – this set finally does them justice, and means that all of his 60s recordings have finally been released on CD.