Monday, December 16, 2013

Ray Price's early '70s pop chart streak


Ray Price, who we lost today at age 87, was one of early '70s country radio's crossover kings. As the Billboard ads above illustrate, a country artist's ability to chart in multiple genres was something to brag about in an industry eager to bust out of an insular phase. Although there's much more to Price's extraordinary legacy than this, his streak of six pop chart appearances between 1970 and 1973 bear special notice here. The orchestrated countrypolitan sounds that led Price to the pop and easy listening charts during this era may still offend the ears of some hardcore country fans, but there's no denying the interpretive authority of a true master, whatever the genre, when you listen to these:

Ray Price - "For the Good Times" (Billboard #11, entered 8/29/70; country #1). Written by Kris Kristofferson. Produced by Don Law. 45: "For the Good Times"/"Grazin' in Greener Pastures" (Columbia 1970). LP: For the Good Times (Columbia 1970).

These six records also stand as memorials to Don Law's final years of prominence.

Ray Price - "I Won't Mention It Again" (Billboard #42, entered 3/20/71; country #1). Written by Cam Mullins, produced by Don Law. 45: "I Won't Mention It Again"/"Kiss the World Goodbye" (Columbia 1971). LP: I Won't Mention It Again (Columbia 1971).

Cam Mullins gets label credit as the arranger/conductor for this, but he took care of those roles for all of these.

Ray Price - "I'd Rather Be Sorry" (Billboard #70, entered 8/14/71; country #2). Written by Kris Kristofferson. Produced by Don Law. 45: "I'd Rather Be Sorry"/"When I Loved Her" (Columbia 1971). LP: I Won't Mention It Again (Columbia 1971).

Ray Price - "The Lonesomest Lonesome" (Billboard #109, entered 4/29/72; country #2). Written by Mac Davis. Produced by Don Law. 45: "The Lonesomest Lonesome"/"That's What Leaving's All About" (Columbia 1972). LP: The Lonesomest Lonesome (Columbia 1972).

Ray Price - "She's Got to Be a Saint" (Billboard #93, entered 1/6/73; country #1). Written by Joe Paulini and Mike DiNapoli. Produced by Don Law. 45: "She's Got to Be a Saint"/"Oh Lonesome Me" (Columbia 1973). LP: She's Got to Be a Saint (Columbia 1973).

Ray Price - "You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" (Billboard #82, entered 8/25/73; country #1). Written by Jim Weatherly. Produced by Don Law. 45: "You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me"/"Like a First Time Thing" (Columbia 1973).

More crossing over: Gladys Knight and the Pips took their version of this song to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1974 and #1 on the soul chart. No more Price singles reached the Hot 100 after this, although his country chart success continued until 1982.

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