Charley Pride was not only a country trailblazer (as one of the first and most popular African-American country stars...) he was also a captivating performer, a top-selling artist, and a very shrewd businessman. Pride also had surprisingly strong country roots, considering that he came to to fame at the height of the "countrypolitan" era, when syrupy arrangements and flowery music dominated the country scene. Although he recorded his share of slick stuff, Pride also had echoes of Hank, Hank and Lefty, particularly in his sometimes-gruff vocals. Here's a quick look at his work...
Charley Pride "The Best Of Charley Pride, v.1" (RCA, 1969) (LP)
Charley Pride "The Best Of Charley Pride, v.2" (RCA, 1972) (LP)
Charley Pride "The Essential Charley Pride" (RCA, 1997)
Charley Pride "RCA Country Legends" (BMG-RCA, 2000)
You can't judge a book: Ol' Charley Pride made like a bazillion albums back in the 1960s and '70s... and he had like a bazillion hits. He's pretty easy to overlook, in kind of the same way you might discount Conway Twitty or Warner Mack... He just doesn't look like he'd be cool, right? But it turns out that, amid the landslide of watered-down, wimpy countrypolitan that he did record (you weren't totally wrong...) there are plenty of great country songs. Like, real country songs, the kind you'd actually want to hear more than once or twice. To begin with, he had a hit with "Is Anybody Goin' To San Antone," which is a flat-out awesome tune, as well as "Kiss an Angel Good Morning" (ditto) and he sang the original version of "Busted," later a huge hit for John Conlee. Pride had a nice voice, and though his approach may have been a little too controlled, he still fills out these songs with a robust presence, and makes the lyrics live... This is a swell 16-track best-of that covers his major hits, and doesn't falter or stumble until the very end where a couple of icky-sounding disco-ish songs intrude on the fun. Other than that, it ain't bad. If BMG hadn't followed this up with the vastly superior 2-CD Anthology collection, this would be the Pride set to shoot for. Still, is, if you're on a budget.
Charley Pride "Anthology" (BMG-RCA, 2003)
As mentioned above, this 2-CD set really kicks ass. I mean, look, Charley Pride is considered a Nashville hack by a lot of hard-country purists, so when somebody puts together a collection with so many songs that simply don't suck, you have to take a step back and reconsider your assumptions. Pride had a nice, deep voice, with sort of a smoothed-out Merle Haggard feel to it, and more importantly he (or perhaps his managers...) had a knack for picking really good material. One song after another rolls past, of a high enough calibre that you not only like it when you hear it, you wind up being a little amazed that honkytonk pop this strong actually did so well back at the height of the Nashville Sound/countrypolitan years. Okay, the guy isn't the second coming of Hank Williams or anything, but he was good, and he had a lot of big hits, and it was clearly on account of his talent, and not any kind of tokenism. This generously programmed retrospective really gives a solid impression of his career, with a depth that most modern best-ofs seldom attain. It's a class act, and well worth checking out.
Charley Pride "The Very Best Of Charley Pride" (Varese Sarabande, 2003)
(Produced by Ray Baker, Jerry Bradley & Charley Pride)
This is probably the definitive look back at Charley Pride's work on the short-lived 16th Avenue record label, drawing on three album recorded in the late '80s, After All Ths Time (1987), 1988's I'm Gonna Love Her On The Radio and Moody Woman, from 1989. Pride had surprising success on the charts with this material, pegging into the Top 40 several times, and even scoring a Top Five hit with Jerry Jarrard's "Shouldn't It Be Easier Than This." It's also interesting to hear how the semi-retired 'Seventies superstar came back to life over the course of these records... In '87, he sounded old and rigidified, but he actually loosened up a lot and came back to life during the next couple of years, presumably as he got more confortable being back in the studio. Vocally, he sounds like a geezerly blend of Tom T. Hall and Randy Travis, and those comparisons alone should be enough to pique the interests of certain segments of the country fanbase... It's not the greatest country music ever made, but it's certainly worth checking out, particularly if you were already a Charley Pride fan.
Charley Pride "The Essential Charley Pride" (RCA Legacy, 2006)
Charley Pride "Pride And Joy: A Gospel Music Collection" (Music City, 2006)
Charley Pride "The Ultimate Hits Collection" (Music City, 2008)
Charley Pride "30 Years Of Pride: Thirty Great Songs" (BMG-International, 1998)
A 2-CD best-of set originally released in Australia...
Charley Pride "Country" (RCA, 1966)
Charley Pride "The Pride Of Country Music" (RCA, 1967) (LP)
Charley Pride "The Country Way" (RCA, 1967) (LP)
Charley Pride "Make Mine Country" (RCA, 1968) (LP)
Charley Pride "Songs Of Pride... Charley That Is" (RCA, 1968)
Charley Pride "Charley Pride In Person At Panther Hall, Fort Worth Texas" (RCA, 1969)
Charley Pride "The Sensational Charley Pride" (RCA, 1969)
Charley Pride "Just Plain Charley" (RCA, 1970) (LP)
Charley Pride "Charley Pride's 10th Album" (RCA, 1970) (LP)
His tenth album? Really? Oh, yeah, I guess so, if you include his Best Of album, from 1969...
Charley Pride "Christmas In My Hometown" (RCA, 1970)
Pride's first holiday album, reissued on CD as Happy Christmas Day... (By the way, if you like Christmas music, check out my Hillbilly Holiday section, too...!)
Charley Pride "From Me To You" (RCA, 1970) (LP)
Charley Pride "I'm Just Me" (RCA, 1971) (LP)
Charley Pride "Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs" (RCA, 1971) (LP)
Charley Pride "Did You Think To Pray?" (RCA, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Clement)
Earning two Grammys, this album was a winner for Pride and is still considered a gem by many fans... The churchy approach taken on many tracks -- with Pride crooning over an organ and vocal chorus -- may seem a bit antiquated, though, and even Southern Gospel fans may take a while to warm to the album. The set list is packed with 19th Century hymns, as well as a few modern country-gospel tunes that fit comfortably alongside the oldies. "Let Me Live," written by Ben Peters, won a Grammy for Best Gospel Performance, and Ann J. Morton's "Time Out For Jesus" is an album highlight, taking familiar religious themes of devotion and sacrifice and giving them a clever new twist. (Note: the 2012 CD reissue includes a nice Chet Atkins-produced bonus track of "Wings Of A Dove," which I had not realized was a song written by RCA stalwart Bob Ferguson(!) and which compares nicely to the old Ferlin Husky hit.) For country gospel fans, this one's definitely worth a spin.
Charley Pride "A Sunshiny Day With Charley Pride" (RCA, 1972) (LP)
Charley Pride "Songs Of Love By Charley Pride" (RCA, 1972) (LP)
Charley Pride "Sweet Country" (RCA, 1973) (LP)
The Pridesmen "Charley Pride Presents The Pridesmen" (RCA, 1973) (LP)
A "solo" album by the Pridesmen, Charley Pride's mid-1970s backing band...
Charley Pride "Amazing Love" (RCA, 1973) (LP)
Charley Pride "Country Feelin' " (RCA, 1974) (LP)
Charley Pride "Pride Of America" (RCA, 1974) (LP)
Charley Pride/Various Artists "In Concert With Host Charley Pride" (RCA, 1975) (LP)
A double album with live performances by Charley Pride and a slew of other artists in the mid-1970s RCA lineup, including stalwarts such as Dolly Parton and Jerry Reed, as well as newcomers Ronnie Milsap and Gary Stewart...
Charley Pride "Charley" (RCA, 1975) (LP)
The Pridesmen "The Pridesmen" (RCA, 1975) (LP)
Another set of instrumental music by the Pridesmen...
Charley Pride "The Happiness Of Having You" (RCA, 1975) (LP)
Charley Pride "Sunday Morning With Charley Pride" (RCA, 1976) (LP)
Charley Pride "She's Just An Old Love Turned Memory" (RCA, 1977) (LP)
Charley Pride "Someone Loves You Honey" (RCA, 1978) (LP)
Charley Pride "Burgers And Fries" (RCA, 1978) (LP)
Charley Pride "You're My Jamaica" (RCA, 1979) (LP)
Charley Pride "There's A Little Bit Of Hank In Me" (RCA, 1980)
Charley Pride "Roll On, Mississippi" (RCA, 1981) (LP)
Charley Pride "Everybody's Choice" (RCA, 1982) (LP)
Charley Pride "Live" (RCA, 1982)
Charley Pride "Charley Pride Sings Country Classics" (RCA, 1983) (LP)
Charley Pride "Night Games" (RCA, 1983)
Charley Pride "The Power Of Love" (RCA, 1984) (LP)
Charley Pride "Back To The Country" (RCA, 1986) (LP)
Charley Pride "The Best There Is" (RCA, 1986) (LP)
Charley Pride "After All This Time" (16th Avenue, 1987) (LP)
Charley Pride "I'm Gonna Love Her On The Radio" (16th Avenue, 1988) (LP)
Charley Pride "Moody Woman" (16th Avenue, 1989)
Charley Pride "My Six Latest And Six Greatest" (Honest, 1994)
Charley Pride "Classics With Pride" (Honest, 1996)
Charley Pride "Branson City Limits" (Unison, 1998)
Charley Pride "A Tribute To Jim Reeves" (Music City, 2001)
Charley Pride "Comfort Of Her Wings" (Music City, 2003)
Charley Pride "All Time Greatest Hits, v.1" (Music City, 2005)
Charley Pride "All Time Greatest Hits, v.2" (Music City, 2005)
Charley Pride "Pride And Joy: A Gospel Music Collection" (Music City, 2006)
Charley Pride "Just For The Love Of It" (Music City, 2009)
Charley Pride "Choices" (Music City, 2011)
Neal McCoy "Pride: A Tribute To Chaley Pride" (Slate Creek, 2013)
"Pride: The Charley Pride Story"
Written by Charley Pride & Jim Henderson
(Quill Books, 1995)
Hick Music Index