Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Review: "25 All-Time Greatest Hits" - Charlie Rich

Charlie Rich was one of the great crossover country artists of the 70's.

Although he later became known as a bit of a curmudgeon (see his announcing of John Denver as a country music award winner and his subsequent lighting of the card on fire), he actually started his career as part of the Sun Records stable in the 50's, starting as a session musician and eventually scoring a top thirty hit hit in 1960 with the song Lonely Weekend.

After leaving Sun in 1963, he recorded for RCA, Groove, Smash and Hi before finally settling down with Epic Records in 1967 where Billy Sherrill reshaped his sound to a more Countrypolitan sound, eventually launching his career into the stratosphere.

Epic, Sony Music and Varese Vintage has just released a new 25-track compilation showcasing Rich's resurgence and his huge success during the 70's with 25 All-Time Greatest Hits. Starting with his minor 1968 country hit Set Me Free (#44 country), the album moves through his biggest songs including the pop crossover tracks Behind Closed Doors (1973 / #15 Pop / #1 Country), The Most Beautiful Girl (1973 / #1 Pop / #1 Country), There Won't Be Anymore (1973 / #18 Pop / #1 Country), A Very Special Love Song (1974 / #11 Pop / #1 Country) and Every Time You Touch Me (I Get High) (1975 / #19 Pop / #3 Country) along with his other six country top ten hits and a number of lower charting singles.

What the album really proves is that Rich was in a class of his own, not only in his delivery of a country ballad, but in his selection of material. While he was a songwriter, only three of the tracks on the album were self panned, the previously mentioned There Won't Be Anymore plus the later songs My Mountain Dew (1977 / #24 Country) and On My Knees (with Janie Fricke / 1978 / #1 Country).

Instead, he relied much of the time on some of Nashville's best songwriters like Curly Putnam, Kenny O'Dell, Harlan Howard, James Throckmorton and, on a number of songs, Sherrill with each being an excellent example of finely crafted, hook filled, music.

Rich, who died in 1995, has been relegated to a footnote in both pop and country music when he should be recognized as a classic crooner with exquisite music taste.