COMMENTS: No radio format in the country will play a new Ray Charles record under any circumstances. It's been at least a quarter of a century since the man was considered viable. Why do we need Ray, the radio programmers must be thinking, when we've got Michael Bolton? Hmmm. That leaves a lot of hidden treasure, such as this obscure cut buried at the end of the album Brother Ray Is At It Again.

"Questions" is a basic 12-bar blues worked up to a slow rolling funky boil. Ray never much went for James Brown style rhythms, so it's more like Little Feat or Dr. John. He got a distinctive casual, uncrowded sound built off his piano and percussion. As the track builds, he works in some judiciously applied strings.

Most cool, he came up with a jazzy lead guitar making commentary throughout. It's not anything especially fancy, but it is just right for this recording. The lines are casual and conversational, but they cut right through the mix. It comes out like Ray asks the tough question, then the guitar player's got his back. The guitar seems to be saying "yeah man, for real, what about that?"

He asks mostly basic questions that people have been asking for many years without satisfactory answers. "Why so many people suff-e-e-e-er... when they ain't done nothing wrong?... I seen little children in the hospital...Lord knows they're too young to done anything wrong."

Ray's not the first person to ask most of these questions, but he asks them better than anyone else. He gets a lot of impact in the melodic phrasing from the space between phrases, the way he builds up...then pauses to let it sink in. He does not phrase the statements as rhetorical questions; he asks like he really expects an answer.

He leavens the whole song with a subtle tang of sarcasm. In fact the whole record climaxes with an understated laugh in the last verse. "I didn't mean to sound too morbid, and I hope I didn't spoil your day. [Huh, huh, huh]"  Nobody else could do that little chuckle like Ray, or have it mean even one tenth as much. Suffice it to say, it doesn't sound like Ray was all that sorry if his questions ruined anybody's complacent bliss.

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