I’m excited to talk about this Ray Price album. It’s a classic, and arguably one of the greatest albums ever made in country music. “Night Life” deserves classic status, boasting twelve powerful performances from a true stylist. Listening to these tracks, the listener is reminded, why Ray is one of the greatest vocalists in country music history.
Except for the previously released singles, “The Twenty-Fourth Hour” and “Pride”, the album was recorded in February, 1963, featuring many of Nashville’s top session musicians including Hargus Robbins, Grady Martin, Tommy Jackson, and Buddy Emmons, among others.
Released in April, 1963, the album’s sales were consistently strong for well into 1964. As proof, Billboard began tracking country albums in January, 1964, and in the second week of the chart, this was the number one album.
“Night Life” is among the greatest of the many classics that have come from Willie Nelson’s pen. This is the “go-to” version. While not a big hit as a single (it was the B-side to “Make The World Go Away), Ray’s version has still managed to entrench itself as a true classic. Ray’s vocals, mixed with a lonely steel guitar, and a heavy dose of blues is an incredible combination to hear. It’s also one of those songs that screams for loud play.
Two other tracks had seen life as singles. “The Twenty-Fourth Hour” is an often overlooked nugget that deserves more acclaim. Chances are your local classic country show has even forgotten it. It did make the top twenty in 1961, as the flip-side to “Heart Over Mind”. Ray’s soulful Texas stylings make the listener feel his loneliness. “Pride” was a 1962 top five hit performed in the classic Ray Price shuffle sound. It’s real country at it’s best.
Several covers are also found on the album, as was the norm, back then. First, there’s Andy Williams’ “Lonely Street”. Ray’s version is outstanding, a track that should have been a single.
Ray also tackles the Hank Thompson classic “The Wild Side Of Life”, with a stellar performance that’s as good as the original.
“Sittin’ And Thinkin’, The Charlie Rich song, is given a completely different interpretation, here. Charlie’s version is a pop track with more than a little R & B influence. Ray keeps that influence, integrating his style to create a work that is simply a pleasure to hear. A bit quicker paced and harder edged, it is a great sound.
“Let Me Talk To You”, the album’s final track, is remake of a 1955 Ray Price single (flip-side of “Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes”). Ray’s ballad skills are highlighted on this track. It’s also a bit of a precursor of things to come. The track features a slightly softer, more lush sound signalling a slow transition in his style from the classic hard country and shuffle to the full lush productions that came with the release of “Danny Boy” in 1967.
As for the album’s other tracks, they are among the strongest album tracks of that era. Often called fillers, these tracks are anything but. “A Girl In The Night” is a song that will remind you both lyrically and melodically, of Ray’s classic “City Lights”.
“There’s No Fool Like A Young Fool” features some of the album’s best steel guitar work, along with some great lyrics.
“If She Could Only See Me Now” could have been a hit, had it been a single release. It’s one of the album’s best tracks, featuring a great melody and nice beat.
“Bright Lights And Blonde Haired Women” is a swinging number that is also one of the hidden gems of this album. It’s catchy, fun, and has the best intro on the album. Ray’s performance, of course, is exemplary. Of course, it’s pure country, here, but this song would also have been a great track for someone like Paul Anka or Bobby Darin.
“Are You Sure” is yet another great ballad.
There isn’t a weak track to be found, here. This is an album that doesn’t warrant skipping around; it’s stellar from beginning to end.
Ray Price made many great records, both singles and albums. This may be the best. Definitely one of his top five. And one of country music’s top five or ten.
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, and focuses on classic country and top 40 oldies music. He convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.