Johnnie Ray

High Drama: The Real Johnnie Ray

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Except for the inevitable inclusion of "Cry," the 17 track, 44-and-a-half minute High Drama: The Real Johnnie Ray is a rarities compilation. Two tracks, an early version of "She Didn't Say Nothin' at All" and "Paths of Paradise," also recorded in 1951, are previously unreleased; "Ooh! Aah! Oh!," recorded with the Les Elgart Orchestra, "The Lonely Ones," backed by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, and a live take of "Such a Night" from the London Palladium are given their first U.S. issue; and "I Want to Be Loved" and "I'll Make You Mine" are presented in stereo for the first time. Ray alternated between the pre-rock R&B style for which he's best remembered and a more conventional classic pop approach. As its title suggests, this collection's thesis is that the former represents the highly dramatic sound of the "real" Johnnie Ray, and compilation producer Al Quaglieri supports that contention by using bluesy and rockish material, such as "Flip, Flop and Fly" and "Such a Night," songs later covered by Elvis Presley. Five tracks are drawn from Ray's 1957 album The Big Beat, which found him confronting the rock & roll trend, albeit with backing by orchestras led by Ray Ellis and Ray Conniff. The result doesn't quite enlist Ray in the rock & roll revolution, but it more than justifies the notion that he was a major precursor to it.

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