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Charlie Rich

Feels Like Going Home: The Essential Charlie Rich – 1997 (Epic/Legacy)

Reviewed by Roy Kasten

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CDs by Charlie Rich

Charlie Rich could communicate emotional candor with such vocal grace. His output was vastand these 36 songs are just a taste, moving from his Sun singles, through the shimmering Smash recordings (perhaps his best work), the lush Epic sessions, and the final" Pictures and Paintings."

If the collection is not a definitive history of Rich's art - jazz is slighted, as is his gospel record "Silver Lining," and there's nothing from "Sings Country and Western" - the quality is high.

The second CD, devoted to his work with Billy Sherrill, captures his most commercially successful period, from "Set Me Free" to "Behind Closed Doors."His wife Margaret Ann, who penned a number of classics, once called those productions "bland." To be sure, as often as Sherrill found majesty ("Peace On You" for instance), he took to a swirling, mellow middle-of-the-road. And so it's hard not to wish for a third CD of demos, live recordings, and more originals, like the absent "I Can't Go On." But every lover of American music will love the unreleased take of Rich's masterpiece, "Feel Like Going Home." That 1973 performance, just Rich and his piano, is devastating, painfully beautiful, and the quintessence of his soul-deep art.