Johnnie Ray

16 Most Requested Songs

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Johnny Ray's cultural significance -- which was only slightly less substantial than that of Elvis Presley -- can be summed up with this 45-minute compilation of his hits from 1951 through 1956. The singles are an amazing array of jazz and blues-inflected performances by a white singer, not unheard of at the time, but seldom spoken of as a desirable trait in the pop field in those days. Among those tracks, "All of Me," "Whiskey and Gin," "Walkin' My Baby Back Home," "Don't Blame Me," and "As Time Go By" are worth the price of the CD. There's also a good deal of pop music here, including the duet "Let's Walk That-A-Way" with Doris Day, which, unfortunately, fits easily into her '50s pop music output, and the pop choruses backing him on "Just Walkin' in the Rain" break the spell created by his most interesting vocal performances, but this CD is still a vivid portrait of a singer who broke lots of barriers -- and annoyed a lot of critics while doing it -- while Elvis Presley was still in high school. The sound is excellent, incidentally, and the notes by Will Friedwald are thorough, though one wishes there were recording and release dates attached to each song.

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