Klinger: The Great List, that mathematical compendium of critical rankings that has served as our lord and master for the past four years, is an incredible resource for both discovering musical milestones and inspiring beer-fueled arguments. It also helps point out certain blind spots in the critical canon. One of the main issues we see is that it doesn’t really get going until about the mid-‘60s when writing seriously about rock music first became an semi-legitimate profession. As a result, many of the forefathers and foremothers of rock ‘n’ roll have been given short shrift. The case of Ray Charles is a prime example.
Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, which came out in 1962, marks Ray Charles’ first appearance on the Great List, clocking in at No. 240. That’s a respectable placement, but hardly befitting one of the architects of popular music. I’d do a lot more grumbling about that fact, but luckily for rock critics I’m too busy being enthralled by this masterpiece, which manages to do so much more than just apply Charles’ gospel-infused R&B to the country format. There’s a wealth of influences coming together here, and the end result is a brilliant, understated statement on the state of pop in 1962. But it may not immediately reveal itself right away. Or does it? Mendelsohn?