Friday, August 17, 2007

"Crying Time" / Ray Charles

And while I'm down there in the vault, I have to pay homage to this 1966 track by the master, Ray Charles. (For the record: I was a Ray Charles fan long before that movie Ray came out.)This was always my favorite hit of his, even when I was a kid. It never occurred to me, of course, that as a black R&B artist he shouldn't sound so much like a country & western crooner (in fact the song was recorded first by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, but I didn't know that). It certainly never occurred to me that the track was loaded with schmaltzy strings, in a way that no self-respecting R&B song ever should have been. All I knew was that the song was supposed to be about lonesomeness and heartbreak, and it simply oozed lonesomeness and heartbreak. It got the job done.

I love the hesitant way he launches into those first few notes, like he can't bear to broach the subject with his woman: "Oh oh it's cryin' time again, / You're gonna leave me." There's something sweet about how much attention he's been paying to the signs, too -- "I can see that faraway look in your eyes / I can tell by the way you hold me darlin' / Oooh / That it won't be long before it's cryin' time." Those woozy harmonies on "faraway" and "I can tell" are so grinding, so miserable -- so perfect.

He lets a velvety hoarseness creep into his voice as he pleadingly repeats all the old adages, with that mocking little back-up echo: "Now they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder (fonder)/ And that tears are only rain to make love grow / Well my love for you could never grow no stronger (stronger) / If I lived to be a hundred years old." He makes himself sound about a hundred years old, too, weary and croaking and worn out. Ray Charles was such an expressive singer, and such a storyteller, he never forgot what the song was about.

Just hear how he begins to fumble the rhythm as he regretfully reminds her of what she's done: "Now you say you've found someone that you love better (better) / That's the way it's happened every time before / And as sure as the sun comes up tomorrow ('morrow) / Cryin' time will start when you walk out the door." She should feel guilty, she really should, and yeah, he's playing for sympathy. But he's also feeling doggone sorry for himself -- and he should.

We don't know anything about this woman, why he loves her, where they've been together (except that she's left him before, and come back, apparently). We're in the moment with him, negotiating as hard as he can for her to stay. This song is pure cornball emotion -- but Ray Charles never was one to back off from emotion. Let's just go for it; why not? And if it makes you get a little choked up, well, good -- that's the way it's supposed to work.

Crying Time sample


G12 said...

Nice one Holly! I've always liked this song too, a real country classic,up there with vintage George Jones!

Ray really was an interpeter of the American Songbook quite unlike any other. I like Buck Owens, and have some of his work, but he was a bit too stilted to really get this song across. Ray is suited perfectly. I was sure I've heard The Statler Brothers do it, but I couldn't track it down.

Here's a live one with Glen Campbell!


jeffcdo said...

Great one! Have you seen this clip of Ray with the Beach Boys? My favorite version of this song..