My Essential 100 Albums – 7 The Original by Ray Charles

This just has to be in my list of 100 essential albums because it is the first record I ever bought!

 At 13 I had a Saturday job working in a hardware shop in Stokes Croft in Bristol.  At the time Stokes Croft was not the best area in Bristol and the customers seemed to consist of drunken men and shoplifters.  My job was to be the odd job boy and to serve the various down at heel customers who actually wanted to pay for things.  One of my other duties, as I remember, was to spend my time in the cellar unwrapping bamboo canes from their covering.  They came in large bundles done up with matting made from bamboo leaves.  I believe that they were imported from China, although that might be my memory playing tricks.  What is certain is that the bundles sometimes held things other than bamboo, exotic looking spiders.  As someone who is not keen on spiders you can imagine my delight at finding large, hairy spiders looking at me from the bundles.

 Anyway, the second week I got paid.  The first week I was told had been a trial (unpaid) day.  With my £1 in my pocket I wondered off to spend it.  That was probably as much money as I had ever owned and I never was one for saving.  Just down the road was a second hand shop with a stack of records outside.  Looking through I came across this record.  I knew nothing of Ray Charles but felt drawn to it. 

 I have always been lucky when it comes to finding good records, CDs, and artists.  Luck is really how I found Beefheart, Tim Fite, George Thorogood, Daniel Johnson and so many more. 

 I parted with my hard earned cash and took my record home.  Naturally, my parents did not like Ray Charles, I later realised that if my parents disliked or did not approve of someone I was probably on a winner!

And so it proved.  This is a tremendous record.  Previously the only song that really excited me was Fever by Helen Shapiro.  This one soared past that instantly.  It also introduced me to one of my favourite songs ever, Sitting On The Top Of The World.  I love that song in its many reincarnations by various artists.  There was also; Jack, She´s On The Ball, You Always Miss The Water, and St. Pete Florida Blues.

 The record was scratched and the sleeve bent, but it all added to it in my mind.  However, I must say that years later I found a pristine copy, complete with the original receipt from 1959 that I have to this day.

 Wonderful


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