Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always found on the turntable, in the CD player, or in the MP3 player. Classic Album Review time, and today, it’s a look back at some early Charley Pride. The Country Way was Charley’s third album release for RCA Victor. Hitting the stores in December, 1967, it would not only become Charley’s first top ten album, but also his first number one album, spending a week on top in May, 1968. It also became his first Top 200 album, peaking at one ninety-nine. Two singles came from the album, “Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger” and “The Day The World Stood Still”, both top 10 hits.
The album opens with a track that should have been a single (in my opinion), “Too Hard To Say I’m Sorry”. An album cut so good that it was even included on his first Best Of release. Outstanding performance of an outstanding song.
“Little Folks” drops off, very little, providing another high quality album track, with a slightly slower pace, with more great vocal work by Charley Pride, on a song that wonders w hat will happen to the children in a marriage about to come to end.
Poor Carl Belew. In 1965, he just missed the top 10 with “Crystal Chandeliers”, itself, a great record. Yet in the ensuing forty-six years, Charley Pride’s version has gotten seemingly much more air play, despite being an album track. While Charley’s version wasn’t a hit, it would have been were it a single. One of my favorite cuts on the album.
Next, Charley covers the Buck Owens classic “Act Naturally”. Not a bad cover, but not nearly as good as the original.
If you’ve never heard this album, there’s a good chance you’re not familiar with this version of “Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger”, where the track starts with a vocal refrain that’s missing on the single version (which also appeared on the Best Of album, and got most of the air play. One of Charley’s underrated hits, not getting nearly the acclaim it deserves. This one hit the charts in the Fall of 1967, climbing to four. Also worth noting that it was the last single to be credited to “Country” Charley Pride, as “Country” was dropped on all later releases.
As you know, I’m not always a big fan of death songs, but there are exceptions and the final track on side one is a good example. “Mama Don’t Cry For Me” contains some very strong lyrical content, mixed perfectly with a stellar melody. Of course, Charley singing only further enhances the overall experience.
Side two begins with the album’s other hit single, ‘The Day The World Stood Still”, again, a Charley Pride hit that deserves more acclaim than it often gets. Also a number four hit, a great ballad that sticks in your head with an outstanding melody and great lyrics. Great track.
Next, Charley covers the Glaser Brothers single, “Gone, On The Other Hand”. The track is nearly identical in sound to the original, yet doesn’t quite have the feel of copy-cat to it. Good track.
“You Can Tell The World” is another good track on the album. Nothing fancy, just good solid music.
“I’ll Wander Back To You” is a another nice little mid tempo track. The oft-used tale of a man who just can’t stop wandering around the land, turns out to be a pretty effective subject, here. Like the preceding track, nothing fancy, just good, solid music.
Charley Pride also gives a fine cover version of the Mel Tills hit “Life Turned Her That Way”. Of course, the song’s day-in-the-sun would come many years later, via Ricky Van Shelton. I like this version. Really good.
The album ends with a cover of the Merle Haggard hit “I Threw Away The Rose”. Kudos, here, for a fine performance on this track. While no one could possibly do it as well as Merle Haggard could, not too many could improve upon Charley Pride’s version. Good end to the album.
Long out of print, this is an album that should be a prime candidate for a digital reissue. As it is, for now, you’ll have to settle for a good used vinyl copy. They are plentiful, and the ones I saw were inexpensive, as well, ranging from $4 to $14.
My Standout Track is “The Day The World Stood Still”, though both singles are outstanding. My Hidden Gem is “Crystal Chandeliers”, though in it’s time, it got nearly as much air play as the singles. None of the tracks are really bad or for that matter, even average. If I had to choose a Weakest Track, I’d go with “Act Naturally”, simply because it’s the one I liked, least. And even at that, I still like the track.
Overall, one of Charley’s best efforts. Good covers mixed with some strong original material make this album one that is worth listening again and again, even as it nears it’s forty-fifth anniversary. I rate it a 5 out of 5.