Charlie Rich

Lonely Weekends [Sun Entertainment]

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Lonely Weekends is 11 tracks of Charlie Rich at his piano-pumpin' best. Unlike his Sun label mate, Jerry Lee Lewis, Rich and Sam Phillips were able to come to a balance of power and finesse. Rich wasn't only a fine piano player, he was a great writer who knew how to arrange his own material. Phillips was looking for the commercial angle with Rich and got close more than a few times. This set -- besides the rockin' and rollin' title track with the astonishing female backing chorus -- has hints of the Silver Fox to come, in the slow, New Orleans-stroll read of the North/Zaret classic "Unchained Melody." The beautiful and unholy alliance of country, pop, and doo wop in Rich's own "Stay" is only eclipsed by his bona fide treasure "C.C. Rider." While many have covered it, no one has come close to achieving the perfect balance of rhythm & blues-flavored rock, high-lonesome honky tonk swagger, and gospel wail. "Rebound," co-written with Bill Justis, takes a Buddy Holly-style staggered vocal and puts it into Jerry Lee overdrive. Side two is even better, in that other than "Big Man," Rich wrote everything on it: "Who Will the Next Fool Be," covered by everyone from teen pop stars to soul groups to country artists; the searing "I Need Your Love"; and the smoking piano blitz of "Break Up," covered lamely by Elvis. Here it veers, like Lewis' material; it's out of control, with Rich jumpin' and poppin' all over the keyboard. The set ends with another Rich nugget that scored for many other artists, the honky tonk gem "Sittin' and Thinkin'." Rich's version is a tad sweeter -- due, no doubt, to Phillips adding strings to the mix -- but it's till plenty poignant. In all, this is a fine overview of what Rich brought to Sun -- plenty.

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