Charlie Rich

Big Boss Man: The Groove Sessions

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After a sporadic career at Sun Records in the late '50s, Charlie Rich hooked up with Nashville sound architect Chet Atkins in 1963 to record for RCA's R&B subsidiary, Groove. Rich proceeded to cut his usual mix of country, rockabilly, blues, and pop sides but with added, Nashville sound touches like choral backing and strings; it was a style that landed somewhere between the raw sound of his Sun hits ("Rebound") and the pop crossover tone of his Epic smashes ("Behind Closed Doors"). Fortunately, the glossier elements of the Groove sides collected on Big Boss Man are neutralized by Rich's powerful tenor voice and solid, jazz-tinged piano work. The mixed set includes blues-rockers like "Big Boss Man" and "Big Jack," as well as swinging lounge treatments of "River Stay Away from My Door" and "Ol' Man River." Rich also applies his varied musical approach to many excellent originals here, like the driving, shuffle-beat tune "The Ways of a Woman in Love," the sanctified ballad "Rosanna Now," and the straight pop song "Are You Still My Baby." Throw in a fine, Ray Charles-style number like "Tomorrow Night" and the touching country ballad Rich co-wrote with wife and tunesmith Margaret Rich, and you have a completely satisfying set. Multifaceted artists are usually not tended to by a record industry comfortable with distinct categories, and this certainly explains why it took Rich so long to achieve stardom. Rich's fans, though, love his ability to forge a very distinct sound out of all kinds of music; this excellent Koch reissue of many of his Groove sides certainly proves the point. [The CD reissue contains five bonus tracks.]

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