This release is a new presentation of a 1997 album titled Charlie Rich – Feel Like Going Home, a compilation of music that he recorded through the years for several different record companies. It’s now been added to the Epic/Legacy Essential series and is the same music with different packaging, so this review applies to either version.
Although Charlie Rich is remembered primarily as a country music star, he was probably one of the most versatile and talented musicians to ever hit the music business, and had the ability to cross genres with ease. He was at home in every type of music from rockabilly to jazz to ballads, but he was at heart a bluesman, which probably isn’t surprising given his upbringing in rural Arkansas just over the state line from Memphis.
Sun Records in Memphis, headed by Sam Phillips and famous for being instrumental in the early careers of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and others, was also very involved in the emergence of Charlie Rich, who was always a little bit of a mystery to many. Phillips called him the second-most bashful performer he’d ever known (Elvis was first) but also one of the most talented. He was shy and reserved — and yet in 1975 he made headlines by burning the envelope after announcing the CMA Entertainer Of The Year winner as John Denver.
Although this double album does include the two mega-hits that he’s most remembered for, “Behind Closed Doors” and “The Most Beautiful Girl”, the balance of the album does a great job in presenting the amazing variations in his music. There are some that were lesser hits for him, such as his “Lonely Weekends”, a song where he’s backed by singers and giving us an Elvis-like rockabilly sound with gospel undertones. For a more traditional country sound, there’s “Sittin’ And Thinkin'”, and yet he’s completely at home with a bluesy “Life’s Little Ups And Downs”. You can enjoy an even more pure blues sound on “Milky White Way” or the wonderful “Don’t Put No Headstone On My Grave”.
You can also appreciate his talent by listening to his versions of other singers’ hits, such as his “I Almost Lost My Mind”, which I like better than that of Pat Boone. To get an idea of his versatility, contrast his version of Lenny Welch’s signature tune, “Since I Fell”, with his cover of Stonewall Jackson’s “I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water”.
Charlie Rich had a long career and died in 1995, but although he’s still appreciated and remembered by many, probably never reached the stardom he deserved.