Charlie Rich and the Blues (On a Snowy Evening): A Review of The Silver Fox

I'm sitting here listening to Charlie Rich's 1974 LP, The Silver Fox on this snowy evening, drinking hot cocoa, and once in awhile glancing at the snow as it drifts slowly to the ground. The record came out shortly after his countrypolitan breakthrough, Behind Closed Doors, but surpasses that overproduced, yet very satisfying album. Rich feels at ease on this one, telling stories about his development as an artist. The Billy Sherill production does not seem as overblown, and Rich's natural delivery anticipates the MTV Unplugged performances of a decade  and a half later. He does an interesting medley that includes classical pieces he learned as a child, a satisfying bluesy version of "Don't Put No Headstone on My Grave," and a rocking and rolling version of the song "Break-Up," which he had recorded earlier for Sun Records. Rich was a musical chameleon who excelled at many styles and it is never more evident than on the Medley's choice mix of songs. The album also includes the same version of "Behind Closed Doors" that appeared on that earlier album in case any fans missed it. Here it blends seamlessly with Rich's story-telling and performance. The first side ends with a stellar version of Rich's "Feel Like Going Home" that is soulful and rich in emotion. It wouldn't be hyperbole at all to say it is one of the best recordings of his career, borrowing a little bit from each style to create something larger than the sum of its parts.

Side two focuses on covers and does not equal the first. The highlights include: "Your Place is Here With Me," Rich's take on torch-singing complete with strings, Sherill's "My Elusive Dreams," and his wife's simple ballad, "Whatever Happened." Rich still feels at ease, exuding a natural warmth, but the songs are not as strong; they could have used his narration. At times, side two feels like a different record; in fact, it is far closer to his other 1970's output than the first side which recalls not only his Sun sides, but also the looser, less country Smash and Groove material.

Comments

  1. great post on one of my all time fave artists. I have this LP and I agree tat the first side is much better, especially this particular version of "Headstone" with the swingin' horn section. I always found this release interesting because he seems to be doing battle with Sherrill in a way, proclaiming for a moment that "I'm not just the country hits, I'm more than than that" before succumbing to the more doctrinaire 2nd side. You may have seen this on you tube but if you haven't, check it out. opens with "Big Boss Man" then FF through all the other "guests" to the 23:01 mark. Charlie plays a jazz piece and it's so awesome and out of place with all the other crap...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79SZa8z7lVo

    also, nice post on Green Day/Op Ivy/Gilman St. saw both of those bands many times there and Berkeley Square.

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  2. Thanks for the comment. I am always on the look out for other Charlie Rich LPs because there is always plenty of good stuff mixed in with studio decisions. For such a singular artist, I think he gets unfairly maligned because he was so successful working with Sherill. Man, thanks for sharing this video; the jazz piece is so out of place, but excellent with nice horn backing.

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