Charlie Rich

Boss Man/Very Special Love Songs

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Charlie Rich, one of popular music's most diverse and enduring talents, got a brief shot at stardom in the 1970s with a string of hits that included "Behind Closed Doors" and "The Most Beautiful Girl." That said, Rich was a prolific songwriter who began his long career at Sun Records in the 1950s. The two albums packaged here were recorded at the beginning of Rich's tenure with Columbia -- the label that issued his biggest smashes. Thankfully, the U.K.'s stalwart Edsel has reissued them on a single disc, because they remain out of print in the United States. Boss Man is a hard-swinging collection of modern honky tonk and blues tunes. Issued in 1970, this is one of those all but unheard country classics that contains beautifully arranged country tunes along with stomping blues tunes like the Al Smith and Luther Dixon-penned "Big Boss Man." But more importantly, there are a number of fine Rich tunes here as well, including "I Can't Even Drink It Away" and the gospel ballad "Have a Heart." The latter album, Very Special Love Songs, released in 1974, was one of Rich's first real album-length hits. There are some funny period pieces such as producer Billy Sherrill's "I Do My Swinging at Home," but there are some killer Rich-penned numbers as well, such as the jazzy barroom ballad "Why, Oh Why," the single "Pretty People," and the lovely "Stay" -- all of which were covered by Elvis Presley. The most striking thing about the performances on both these albums is not just Rich the arranger and songwriter, but Rich the singer. With a limited range vocally, he was able to do tremendous things with his phrasing, erasing the line between the song's protagonist and its performer. This is a stellar collection and should be purchased by anyone who is even slightly interested in Rich.

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