Johnnie Ray: Underrated as Shit

Artist: Jonnie Ray

Album: Johnnie Ray

Year: 1952

Genre: Pop

Grade: A-

Johnnie Ray was an early antecedent of rock ‘n’ roll — his affected overemoting is sultry and full of starpower. Ray was a proto-Presley crooner, backed by R&B chord progressions and relaxed electric jazz. On “Walking My Baby Back Home,” he splits the bill between swing, R&B and traditional pop, making for a sensual performance that tingles when he leans in close to the mic. On “All of Me,” he becomes soda-jerk teen heartthrob, his rhyme timing pretty much close to perfect.

Although not featured on this debut, the single “Cry” is a Roy-Orbison-inspiration that is practically a decade ahead of its time. Ray’s achievement with this song simply can’t be ignored — the performance is romantic as fuck, even though his ambiguous sexuality lends every tune a backdrop of uncertainty.

Ray’s singing is full of ’50s adolescence and whiskey and gin. A voice like that is capable of starting a revolution.

 

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