The Essential Charley Pride [RLG Legacy]
Country music has been so inhospitable to black artists that to call Charley Pride the preeminent African American in the genre is almost an insult -- Pride could have achieved a fraction of his success and still have lapped his closest competitor (Dobie Gray?). Rather, call Charley Pride one of the preeminent artists in country music history and one of the most distinctive and appealing vocal stylists of his generation, with no less than 23 No. 1 hits, all present in this double-disc anthology. As in the case of Jim Reeves, a baseball injury forced Pride to change his career goals and give music a shot. That worked. Signed in 1966 to RCA and teamed in the studio with the legendary "Cowboy" Jack Clement, who not only produced but also penned several of his early Top 10 hits, Pride became a hit-making juggernaut in warp time, his warm baritone voice resting atop exquisite countrypolitan arrangements that incorporated strings and pop-style background choruses burnishing the stylings of a tight, basic guitar-bass-drums-piano-pedal steel-fiddle ensemble. This collection charts the astonishing run he had between 1966 and 1985, and includes classics on the order of "Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone" and "Kiss an Angel Good Morning;" the overlooked gospel gem from 1971, "Did You Think to Pray"; and even a Clement-produced collaboration with Henry Mancini on "All His Children," a No. 2 country hit for Pride that was featured in the film version of Ken Kesey's novel Sometimes a Great Notion. The 40 tracks herein are as well crafted as anything that's ever come out of Nashville, and that's saying something. So is Charley Pride.