Charlie Rich

The Early Years/Memphis Sound

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With his idiosyncratic musical mixture of gospel, country, jazz, blues, and soul, Charlie Rich is perhaps the most singular country artist this side of Johnny Cash. He may also be the most reticent, and even when he goes for a directly commercial sound, he ends up going down a road that only he would try to explore. Rich's first recordings were done at Sam Phillips' legendary Sun Studios, where Rich started out as a session pianist in 1958, and he cut several sides that were released on the Sun Records subsidiary Phillips International between 1958 and 1964, and all of these had the same slightly skewed affinities that Rich would improve on as his career progressed. Sun brought several of these Phillips tracks together for the LPs The Early Years and The Memphis Sound, and both have been combined here to make this 20-track single-disc CD. What keeps the resulting collection from being anything close to essential, though, is that it lacks the three biggest sides Rich recorded for Phillips, "Lonely Weekends," which was a mid-chart pop success in 1960, and a pair of songs that have been staples in Rich's live sets ever since, "Who Will the Next Fool Be?" and "Sittin' and Thinkin'." What's here is certainly interesting, but in the end the omissions are telling.

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