For the first share offered at Bostworld -- and the opening salvo in our series on country music -- we've chosen a classic album by none other than the prodigious Anita Kerr Singers.
During her heyday, demand for Anita Kerr's backing vocal arrangements was so high that she is said to have appeared on a quarter of the country records released during the late 50s and early 60s. Kerr's commercial sweetening on hits like Faron Young's "Hello Walls," Leroy Van Dyke's "Walk On By" and many other songs of emotional ruin and social misadventure gave them just the cheerful touch they needed to appeal to a wider audience.
Solo albums by the Anita Kerr Singers were aimed strait at the easy listening market, which is why "The Genius in Harmony," their second for RCA, seems like such an odd choice. The record is made up entirely of songs written by or associated with Ray Charles. Ray had himself just crossed over onto the country charts, so the idea of pairing one of the squarest vocal groups of the day with the man hailed as the "genius" of soul may not have seemed so far-fetched at the time.
In truth, the record works quite well. Aside from the occasional expected misfires, "Genius" is an intelligent, original album, with plenty of variety and lots of strong performances. The group acquit themselves more than serviceably on the up-tempo numbers like "Swanee River Rock" & "Hit The Road Jack," do no harm on the pop hits ("Yes Indeed," " Georgia On My Mind," "Ruby") and keep the ill-advised choices to a minimum ("What'd I Say" & "I Got A Woman" require more energy than they can muster). But they really shine on the mid-tempo blues like "I Believe To My Soul" and "Drown In My Own Tears." On the best track, "Hard Times," the group lends polish and charm to an anthem of destitution, hopelessness and death, creating an atmosphere of fresh-scrubbed surrealism entirely palatable to viewers of the Ed Sullivan Show or Kraft Music Hall.
The Anita Kerr Singers released several other such "tribute" albums during their long career, devoting whole sets to the work of Burt Bacharach, Henry Mancini, Bert Kaempfert and others, but none of those records have going for them the sheer conceptual strangeness of this one. And so, for your head-scratching pleasure, we offer in it's entirety: