Monday, March 23, 2020

"Baby Grand" by Billy Joel with Ray Charles

Song#:  3081
Date:  04/04/1987
Debut:  94
Peak:  75
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Blues

Pop Bits:  Joel's album The Bridge would be a double-platinum seller thanks to a pair of Top 10s. A third single would only reach the Top 20. By that point it seemed like the LP was losing steam and its run ready to be wrapped up. Still, the label decided to push out one more single before calling it a day. This duet track was selected and it was a good fit for AC where it reached #3. The more old-fashioned tune couldn't find its footing at Pop and it faltered and fell off after a few weeks. No further singles would be released from the album. It would be two and a half years before Joel would be back on the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  Joel's musical hero was Ray Charles. He even named his kid after Charles - Alexa Ray. So when he got the chance to have Charles guest on one of his recordings, Joel crafted this tune to sound like one of Charles' old songs. He even affected a vocal style to match that of Charles' so that they would meld well together. It was all lovingly done and it was probably a thrill for Joel to work with Charles. That's all great, but in the end the song was a bit of a snoozer. It was just too laid back. If it had a better arrangement that gave the song a boost it might have been better. Charles sounded good. Joel sounded...well...interesting. I appreciate what Joel was going for here, but in the end it just lacked spark.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  The last time Ray Charles was on the Pop chart was in 1975. His version of Stevie Wonder's 1973 #1 R&B/#8 Pop hit "Living for the City" would get to #22 R&B and #91 Pop. It wasn't a major hit, but it did earn Charles a Grammy award for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male. Although Charles was not active on the Pop and R&B charts for most of the 80s, that doesn't mean he wasn't having hits. They were just at a different format. From '83 to '87, Charles placed eleven singles on the Country chart. His biggest hits came from his duets album Friendship, which was released in 1984. That album made it to #1 on the Country chart thanks to five Top 20 hits including the #1 "Seven Spanish Angels," a duet with Willie Nelson.


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