In 1979 Ry Cooder had more commercial success than he usually had with his solo LPs with the release of “Bop Till You Drop”. This was the first digitally recorded Lp in popular music. The resulting vinyl pinged out at you clearly and brightly. You would play the LP in company & people would want to know what they were listening to. It made a good impression. Over the next few years Ry released 3 more solo albums of well produced, exquisitely played, quite mainstream music. He was never the most prolific of writers and had a music fan’s eye for a classic tune. Here is one he chose to cover.
“That’s The way Loved Turned Out For Me” is from “The Slide Area” (1982). The LP is not his best work. If you are going to cover songs like Curtis Mayfield’s “Gypsy Woman” and Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” then you are not going to make the same impact as the originals however well produced or played. This song though became a big personal favourite. It takes it’s time,there’s a lovely restraint about the song. Ry was assembling an impressive touring band at this time. The backing vocals of Bobby King & Terry Evans were a welcome addition to his recordings and his live show.The use of strings is rare for Cooder but suit the slow build of a song of lost love. To praise the guitar solo is like saying you like to breathe…it’s Ry Cooder ! The 90 second play out is hardly the big soul pleading finish but it raises the pace just enough. The ending is not long enough for me.
I knew that this was not an original song but the writing credits included Ry’s name alongside Quentin Claunch & David Hall. I knew Claunch was closely involved with Goldwax records in the 60s. Nowadays Mr Google sorts out these little mysteries for you. In the 1980s a little more investigation was needed. This is the original version of the song.
What a classic slab of Memphis soul. The almost gospel pleading of the vocal. The guitar, organ & brass section which had made the Memphis sound the only rival to Motown in popular black music of the late 60s. James Carr produced a run of outstanding singles for Goldwax. His most enduring song was “Dark End of the Street” the Dan Penn/Chips Moman song. “Dark End” was written for Carr (in Quentin Claunch’s hotel room) and has been recorded by many different artists. “That’s the Way” was the B-side of the 1969 single “Freedom Train”. Carr suffered from bipolar disorder which gave him a reputation as a difficult man to work with. His personal problems worsened in the early 70s and he stopped recording. If you can obtain a collection of his work for Goldwax you will hear that James possessed one of the great soul voices.
Ry Cooder changed the song completely. He kept the first verse and made it the third one, writing completely new ones to precede it. He ditched the rest of the original lyrics too. Is this taking liberties with a song ? I don’t think so. Ry’s voice & the tone of his music would not suit such an emotional soul vocal. He did, however, love soul music & knew a good song when he heard it. What we have here is two versions of a song which are very different,musically & lyrically, & which are both fine examples of each artist’s work. I don’t have to prefer one over the other I think they are both very good songs.