CHARLEY PRIDE-YOU’RE MY JAMAICA, ROLL ON MISSISSIPPI, EVERYBODY’S CHOICE AND CHARLY PRIDE LIVE.

Charley Pride-You’re My Jamaica Roll On Mississippi, Everybody’s Choice and Charley Pride Live.

Label: BGO Records.

By the time Charley Pride was preparing to release his new album You’re My Jamaica in 1979, he was one of the most successful country singers. He had already enjoyed twenty-one number one singles and eleven number one albums on the US Country charts, while eleven of Charley Pride’s albums had been certified gold. It was a remarkable transformation for the onetime ball player from Sledge, Mississippi, had come a long way since he released his debut album Country in 1966. 

In the space of just thirteen years, Charley Pride had become one of RCA Victor’s biggest selling artist. The only artist who outsold Charley Pride was Elvis Presley, who had died two years ago. With Charley Pride now RCA Victor’s biggest selling living artist, the company were relying on him to continue to release successful albums and hit singles. However, there had been a worrying trend over the last three years.

Nearly six years had passed since Charley Pride had enjoyed a number one album with Amazing Love in October 1973. Since then, six of the seven album Charley Pride released had made the top ten in the US Country charts. However, during the same period, Charley Pride had enjoyed eight number one singles in the US Country charts.  Charley Pride still had the Midas Touch, and it was only a matter of time until one of his albums returned to the top of the US Country charts. His next album was You’re My Jamaica which is one of four albums on a two CD set released by BGO Records. You’re My Jamaica is joined by Roll On Mississippi, Everybody’s Choice and Charley Pride Live, and covers the period between 1979 and 1982. Charley Pride was hoping he would enjoy his elusive twelfth number one album during this period.

You’re My Jamaica.

For what would be his last album of the seventies, Charley Pride decided to record an album that would find an audience way beyond the country music fans. He had been one of a small number of country artists whose music crossover appeal. Some fans of popular music had been won over by Charley Pride’s music over the past thirteen years. This time around, Charley Pride decided that his latest album should have widespread popular appeal. 

For what became You’re My Jamaica, Charley Pride chose ten songs to cover. These songs had one thing in common, they would appeal to fans of country music, and would also have crossover appeal. This included Bob Mc Dill’s What’re We Doing, Doing This Again. Charley Pride decided to cover a trio of songs penned by Kent Robbins, You’re My Jamaica, One More Time and I Want You. They were joined by the Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan composition Missin’ You. It was a song that Charley Pride had high hopes as he headed into the studio.

Just like previous albums, Charley Pride and Jerry Bradley co-produced You’re My Jamaica. They were joined at Music City Music Hall Studio in Nashville, by some of the city’s top session players, and The Jordanaires. Nine of the ten songs on You’re My Jamaica were recorded in Nashville, The exception was You’re My Jamaica, which was recorded Audio International in London. Now the album was complete, and ready for release.

Critics on hearing You’re My Jamaica, remarked upon an album that should appeal not just to country music fans, but fans of popular music. This hadn’t been easy. Charley Pride was trying to appeal to two different audiences. In doing so, Charley Pride took care not to alienate his loyal fans. They had supported him since he released his debut album Country in 1966. However, on You’re My Jamaica included songs that appealed to both fans of country music and popular music. 

There were a number of country ballads on You’re My Jamaica, which was something that Charley Pride excelled at. This included No Relief In Sight, Heartbreak Mountain, To Have And To Hold, Let Me Have A Chance To Love You (One More Time) and I Want You. There were other ballads on the album, including the string-drenched What’re We Doing, Doing This Again and the soul-baring Missin’ You. Both had crossover appeal, and had the potential to introduce Charley Pride to a much wider audience. So had You’re My Jamaica, which was very different to the rest of the album. However, it featured the all important hook. This would prove important when it was released as a single.

You’re My Jamaica was chosen as the lead single, and released later in 1979. Not only did it reach number one in the US Country charts, but the Canadian Country charts. This augured well for the release of the album. When You’re My Jamaica was released, it reached number eleven in the US Country charts and number six Canadian Country charts. While You’re My Jamaica had missed out on the top ten in the US Country charts, which was disappointing, further success wasn’t far away. Missin’ You was then released as a single, and reached number two in the US Country and Canadian Country charts. What proved to be Charley Pride’s last album of the seventies, was seen as a success.

There’s A Little Bit Of Hank In Me.

As a new decade dawned, Charley Pride returned with his first album of the eighties, There’s a Little Bit of Hank In Me. It was released in January 1980, but had been recorded during the second half of 1979.

There’s A Little Bit Of Hank In Me was recorded at Castle Studio, Nashville with producer Fred Rose. Charley Pride was accompanied by some of Nashville’s finest sessions players as Charley Pride paid tribute to country music legend Hank Williams. Charley Pride covered twelve of Hank Williams best known songs. He breathed life, meaning and emotion into songs like Mind Your Own Business, Honky Tonk Blues, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, Why Don’t You Love Me and You Win Again. These songs became There’s A Little Bit Of Hank In Me.

When There’s A Little Bit Of Hank In Me was released in January 1980, it was to widespread critical acclaim. The album reached number one in the US Country charts and was certified gold in Canada. Honky Tonk Blues was released as the lead single and reached number one in the US and Canadian Country charts. You Win Again gave Charley Pride another number one single in the US Country charts, but reached just number two in the Canadian Country charts. Charley Pride had started the eighties as he meant to go on.

Roll On Mississippi.

Despite the success of There’s A Little Bit Of Hank In Me, Charley Pride wasn’t in any hurry to release a new album. The rest of 1980 passed without a letter home from Charley Pride. However, in the spring of 1981, Charley Pride returned with his new album Roll On Mississippi.

For his new album, Charley Pride chose another Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan composition Roll On Mississippi. He hoped that it would follow in the footsteps of Missin’ You. Charley Pride also covered You Almost Slipped My Mind which was penned by Don Goodman and Troy Seals. They joined another eight songs which Charley Pride and producer Jerry Bradley hoped would have crossover appeal.

Just like You’re My Jamaica, Charley Pride and Jerry Bradley co-produced You’re My Jamaica at Music City Music Hall Studio in Nashville. They were joined by some of Nashville’s top session players, while The Jordanaires again, added vocal accompaniment and were joined by The Nashville Edition. Sweetening the sound was The Shelly Kurland Strings. Once the album was complete, RCA Victor scheduled the release for the spring of 1981.

Critics on hearing Roll On Mississippi, were won over by another album that had crossover appeal. This included the ballad Roll On Mississippi, which not only tugged at the heartstrings, but had single written all over.  Just like You’re My Jamaica, Roll On Mississippi featured a number of beautiful, emotive and heart wrenching ballads. Among them were I Used To Be That Way, Taking The Easy Way Out, plus She’s As Good As Gone, He Can Be An Angel, Fall Back On Me which were sweetened by lush strings. Make It Special Again was an uptempo song with crossover appeal, while the tempo drops on the hurt-filled country ballad You Beat ‘Em All. Ghost-Written Love Letters has made in Nashville written all over it. Bookending the album was a carefully crafted, ballad You Almost Slipped My Mind, where Charley Pride sounds as if he’s experienced the hurt and loss. Roll On Mississippi was well worth the fourteen month wait.

Before the release of Roll On Mississippi, the title-track was released as a single, reaching number seven in the US Country charts and two in the Canadian Country charts. When Roll On Mississippi was released in March 1981, it stalled at seventeen on the US Country charts. This was Charley Pride’s lowest chart placing since The Pride of Country Music in June 1967. For Charley Pride this was a disappointing, especially considering the quality of the album. However, when You Almost Slipped My Mind was released as a single, it reached number four in the US Country charts and five in the Canadian Country charts. This was another top five hit for Charley Pride. He could only hope that his next album would prove more successful.

Greatest Hits.

Later in 1981, Charley Pride returned with the fifth Greatest Hits album of his career so far. Not all the songs on the album were Greatest Hits. Charley Pride’s cover of Wayland Holyfield and Norro Wilson’s Never Been So Loved (In All My Life) hadn’t been released yet. This would soon change.

In June 1981, Never Been So Loved (In All My Life) was released as a single and reached number one on the US and Canadian Country charts. This helped Charley Pride’s latest Greatest Hits album reached number 185 in the US Billboard 200 and number eight in the US Country charts. It looked like Charley Pride’s luck was changing.

Charley Sings Everybody’s Choice.

For Charley Pride, 1982 was another busy year, that saw him release another two albums. The first of these albums was Charley Sings Everybody’s Choice. It saw Charley Pride dig deep into the songbooks of some of country music’s best songwriters.

This included Kent Robbins who had provided Charley Pride with several hit singles. Charley Pride hoped that I Don’t Think She’s In Love Anymore would give him another hit single. Charley Pride  had covered many of Ben Peters’ songs, and this time around, chose two of his songs You’re So Good When You’re Bad and Cup Of Love. They joined John Schweers’ Love Is A Shadow and Harold Dorman’s Mountain Of Love. These were just five of the songs that Charley Pride recorded for Charley Sings Everybody’s Choice.

When recording began, there was no sign of Jerry Bradley, who had produced so many of Charley Pride’s album. Instead, Charley Pride would co-produce Charley Sings Everybody’s Choice with Norro Wilson. With a crack band of Nashville session players, recording got underway in the familiar surroundings of Music City Music Hall Studio. This time, there was no sign of The Jordanaires, although strings were used to sweeten four of the songs. It was the start of a new era for Charley Pride.

Critics had heard that Charley Pride had been working with new producer Norro Wilson, and awaited the results of their first album together. The album opener I Don’t Think She’s In Love Anymore showcased a much more contemporary sound. However, it had hit written all over it. It gives way to the rueful ballad I See The Devil In Your Deep Blue Eyes. You’re So Good When You’re Bad is another song that showcases the new, contemporary sound. It’s also got crossover appeal, and has a much more commercial sound. This commercial sound continues on When She Dances and Mountain Of Love which are both carefully crafted ballads. Oh What A Beautiful Love Song is the perfect description of this string drenched ballad.

By contrast, I Haven’t Loved This Way In Years has a minimalist arrangement that allows Charley Pride’s vocal to take centre-stage. The balladry continues with a cover of Ben Peters’ Cup Of Love and Love Is A Shadow. Closing the album was I Hope (You Never Cry Again), which was one that Charley Pride’s longterm fans would embrace and enjoy. It brought to an end Charley Sings Everybody’s Choice, which oozed quality.

Prior to the release of Charley Sings Everybody’s Choice, I Don’t Think She’s In Love Anymore was released as a single and reached number two in the US Country charts and number one in the Canadian country charts. This augured well for the release of Charley Sings Everybody’s Choice. When it was released, it reached number ten on the US Country charts. For Charley Pride this was an improvement on Roll On Mississippi. Especially when Mountain Of Love reached number one on the US and Canadian Country charts. Then You’re So Good When You’re Bad gave Charley Pride his twenty-seventh US Country number one and reached number two in the Canadian Country charts. Charley Pride’s first album with Norro Wilson had resulted in two more number one singles in America and Canada, and top ten album. Things were looking good for Charley Pride.

Charley Pride Live.

Given the success of Charley Sings Everybody’s Choice, many artists would’ve returned to the studio and recorded another album. Not Charley Pride, who sometimes, seemed almost contrarian. An example was waiting fourteen months to release the followup to You’re My Jamaica. Some critics thought that was a strange decision at the time. However, Charley Pride was his own man, and later in 1982, decided to release his second live album Charley Pride Live.

Charley Pride had released his first live album Charley Pride In Person, thirteen years earlier in 1969. It reached number two, sixty-two in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Charley Pride Live had a lot to live up to.

Charley Pride Live was recorded at the Grand Ole Opry, and featured fifteen songs. Fittingly, he opened the set with A Whole Lotta Things To Sing About, before covering the ballads Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’ and Just To Be With You, before Charley embarks on a cover of My Love Is Deep, My Love Is Wide and then an emotive reading of Is Anybody Goin’ To San Antone. After that, Charley Pride revisited  songs like Since You Came Into My Life, Why Baby Why, Tennessee Girl and his 1981 hit single You’re My Jamaica. It gave to a heartfelt renditions of It’s So Good To Be Together and I Discovered You. When he delivers Let Me Live, Charley Pride’s vocal oozes emotion. However, there’s still one more song left When I Stop Leaving (I’ll Be Gone). After that, Charley Pride takes his leave.

When Charley Pride Live was released later in 1982, the album was received by the critics. Alas, Charley Pride Live stalled at a lowly sixty-two in the US Country charts. However, when Why Oh Why was released as a single, it reached number one  in the US Country charts and number four in the Canadian Country charts. By now, Charley Pride had amassed twenty-eight number one singles in the US Country charts. While country music was changing, Charley Pride was still one of its biggest names.

That had been the case since 1966, when Charley Pride released his debut album Country. Since then, he had enjoyed sixteen years of uninterrupted commercial success. He had enjoyed twenty-eight number one singles and twelve number one country albums in America by the time he released Charley Pride Live in 1982.  This made Charley Pride one of country music’s biggest names. During this period, Charley Pride was in his prime musically.

A reminder of Charley Pride in his prime can be found on BGO Records’ recently released two CD which features You’re My Jamaica, Roll On Mississippi, Everybody’s Choice and Charley Pride Live. These four albums were released between 1979 and 1982, and although they didn’t sell in the same quantities as the albums Charley Pride released between 1966 and 1973, feature a giant of country music at the peak of his powers.

Eleven year after releasing Charley Pride Live in 1982, which was recorded at the Grand Ole Opry, Charley Pride accepted that venerable institution’s longstanding invitation and joined the Grand Ole Opry. He had come a long way since he made his debut as a guest artist at the Grand Ole Opry in 1967.  Back then, he was the first African-American to play at the Grand Ole Opry. Fifty years later, and only Charley Pride and Darius Rucker are the only two African-American members of the Grand Ole Opry. That is one of the biggest honours for a country music.

Nowadays, Charley Pride is seventy-nine years old, and is regarded as a legend of country music. He’s sold over seventy-million albums, and is still, RCA Victor’s second biggest selling artist of all time. Only The King, Elvis Presley outsold Charley Pride. Ironically, Charley Pride never dreamt of making a career out of music, and instead, had hoped  make a living as a baseball player. While that dream never came true for Charley Pride, the man form Sledge, Mississippi is the living embodiment of the American Dream.

Charley Pride-You’re My Jamaica Roll On Mississippi, Everybody’s Choice and Charley Pride Live.

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