The Ray Charles Singers

Something Special for Young Lovers

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While the name may remain the same, this Ray Charles has no connections whatsoever to the R&B legend of "Georgia on My Mind" and "What'd I Say" fame. Instead -- and by quite a contrast -- Charles Raymond Offenberg was primarily known for his easy listening and lush adult-oriented remakes of standards from the first half of the 20th century. The Ray Charles Singers were an ersatz conglomerate that held onto the last gasps of the mature middle-of-the-road fare that had all but dominated the pre-British Invasion pop charts. In fact, during the burgeoning days of Beatlemania, the Ray Charles Singers were able to take "Love Me With All Your Heart" from this long-player all the way to number three on the top singles survey -- indeed, a lofty feat for any artist in April of 1964. The majority of the album's dozen entries were recent hits on the stage and silver screen. "More," from 1962's Mondo Cane, has a light samba breeze wafting through the melody. According to the original LP jacket notations, guitarist Tommy Mottola and pianist Dick Hyman, respectively, contribute to the instrumentation -- which is presumably true of the entire platter. The spirited take of the title song to Hello, Dolly! is offered with a suitably gregarious demeanor, although it doesn't hold a candle to Louis Armstrong or even Carol Channing's luminous interpretations. Mottola -- whose effervescent banjo frail is undeniably and infectiously fun -- and Hyman's ragtime-inspired tack piano are again singled out for their efforts. The twinkling music box opening on "What Kind of Fool Am I?" -- from the score to Stop the World, I Want to Get Off -- reinforces the number's strong melancholy sentiment. Conversely, the intimacy is considerably diminished by the extended choral-style vocal arrangement. Enthusiasts of the genre and/or folks seeking a bit of sonic nostalgia will be pleased to note the 2005 CD reissue of both 1964's Something Special for Young Lovers and its follow-up from the same year, Al-Di-La and Other Extra-Special Songs for Young Lovers, by Collectors' Choice Music.

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