CD Reviews

Oct 262004
Authors: Nicholas LoFaro

Ray, Motion Picture Soundtrack (Music by Ray Charles)

Best of the Legend Captured on Soundtrack of His Life

(4 out of 4 Ramheads)

Spanning a career over seven decades, 13 Grammy awards and

top-10 hit songs in five music categories has made Ray Charles one

of the greatest musicians ever to grace the music world. Blind

since age seven, Charles was aided only by vengeful ambition, and

he expressed that through his lifetime as an artist.

Taylor Hackford, the director of the new film “Ray,” first met

Charles in 1988 in Los Angeles. Hackford selected and placed each

of Charles’ songs into his script to reflect specific drama in

Charles’ lifetime. On the soundtrack as well as in the film,

Charles used only his best live and studio recordings. Charles

personally pulled the live recordings from his vault of a 1964

concert. The classic Charles songs “What’d I Say,” “Hallelujah I

Love Her So” and “You Don’t Know Me” are all from a Los Angeles


For the rest of the songs on the film and soundtrack, Hackford

had Charles go back into the studio and remarkably create music to

correlate with the emotional context and dramatic conflict between

the characters in the film. Prior to filmmaking, Charles personally

tested Jamie Foxx, who plays Charles in the film, when they met.

Charles demanded that Foxx, as an accomplished pianist and actor

himself, sit down at a piano and jam with Charles side by side, for

two hours. Revealing his own phenomenal talent, Charles praised

Foxx, and Foxx returned the praise by offering a stunning

performance as the man himself in the new film “Ray.” The album’s

best song, “Hard Times,” was an autobiographical piece by Charles

himself. Charles’ music had become timeless long before his death.

Charles’ image, personality, music and most of all his life

struggles and perseverance made him a human being who will be

remembered and listened to far into the future.

Sum 41, “Chuck”

The Kings of Pop/Punk Are Now the Kings of Youth Metal

(3 out of 4 Ramheads)

In dropping their Carson Daly-friendliness and turning their

back on fart jokes, the members of Sum 41 welcome you to their

personal hell. The band that made you bang your head and laugh at

the same time has grown up and yet managed to maintain its

signature youth energy. Will they be taken seriously? Being that

the group’s new album is named after a man who saved the band’s

life and the lives of 40 other people in a Congo war conflict

during the past year, listeners will not be shaking their heads.

Propelled by aggression acquired by watching the war in Iraq, the

sounds on “Chuck” are full of melody and harmony but contain more

thrash and metal counterparts. The single “We’re All To Blame”

drops its own bombs on the country responsible for dropping real

bombs: “Telling lies as alibis/selling all the hate that we

breed/super-size our tragedies/bought in the land of the free.” The

songs “No Reason,” “Angels with Dirty Faces” and the directly

Metallica-fueled “The Bitter End,” easily mark the album’s power.

“Open Your Eyes” is a mean jam, and “Slipping Away” and “Pieces”

are somber, hopeless songs. The song “Welcome to Hell” is a great

punk screamer, and “Some Say” is a catchy pop hard-rock song that

captures the band’s biography: “Some say we’re never meant to grow

up/but I’m sure they never knew enough/it’s too late to even have

faith/don’t think things will ever change.” Pianos also appear amid

the Ritalin drums and Iron Maiden guitar riffs, and the album is

full of crazy and fast guitar solos and shows that Sum 41 has grown

not only in personality but also in musicianship. The youth will

drop bombs as well.

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