Song of the Week: What’d I Say, Parts 1&2, Ray Charles

Click Here to listen to “What’d I Say, Parts 1&2,” by Ray Charles

I didn’t know the name Milt Turner before I sat down to write this blog post, but his is really the only name you need to know on this song. Ray Charles may have his name on the cover, but without Turner’s drums this song is nothing. His mind-boggling drum pattern is my favorite thing that any drummer has ever played—Latin-inspired, but spread out over the range of the kit so that it’s an aural delight that defies comprehension. How can one man be keeping that many things going at once? Just listen to the ride cymbal alone: Turner gets about three different sounds out of that one piece of metal while keeping impeccable time and swinging like a mother. If I could notate the drumbeat to this song, I would probably get it tattooed on my arm. That’s how much I like it.

Ok, we can’t give everyone else short shrift. The horns sound great. There’s fantastic interplay between all of the vocalists. They still sound outrageously sexy, and 5:30-5:34 is borderline explicit. Even the “oh we stopped playing” moment—which almost always sound artificial—comes off well. Ray’s electric piano is almost as sonically luxuriant as Turner’s drums, fuzzy and taut. The quality on the whole recording is just so perfect—by 1959 or 2015 standards—the sounds almost feel tangible to me, like they have distinct form and taste and texture.

Please don’t think I’m crazy.

I think this is a very evocative song. Not in an abstract sense, but in a very literal way. When I listen to this song, I can almost put myself in the small, stale recording studio, filled with cigarette smoke, and I can almost see the musicians glistening with sweat and oil. It’s music as a tear in the space-time continuum. But let’s not get too far away from what’s important: that drumbeat. My, my, that drumbeat.

2 thoughts on “Song of the Week: What’d I Say, Parts 1&2, Ray Charles

  1. Absolutely spot on, an all-time masterpiece. My favourite part was always the interplay between Ray and the girls in the song’s second part, particularly the way it speeds up. But will have to listen more closely to the drums after reading this.

  2. Pingback: Song of the Week: Sexy Weekend, Scoundrels | Vintage Voltage

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