Donnie Ray (21st Century)

Daddy B. Nice's #32 ranked Southern Soul Artist



Portrait of Donnie Ray (21st Century) by Daddy B. Nice
 



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"Who's Rockin' You?"

Donnie Ray (21st Century)

Composed by Donnie Ray Aldredge




July 18, 2016:

DONNIE RAY: Two Way Love Affair (CDS) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.


The arrival of two new Ricky White-produced albums from CDS, Donnie Ray's TWO WAY LOVE AFFAIR and Ricky White’s COMBINATION 3: VARIOUS ARTISTS, follows a relative hiatus of a couple of years for the label and a short-lived affiliation with producer Jonathan Burton after the departure in 2011-12 for reasons of health of Carl Marshall.

CDS CEO Dylann DeAnna, who started out with grand intentions of utilizing all live instruments (in the manner of Jackson, Mississippi's Malaco Records in its heyday) soon fell victim to the financial realities. As the years have passed, he's also shown less relish to risk money on marginally-marketable recordings, which--to his credit--he often did in the early years, publishing an unknown Stephanie Pickett, a forgotten Cicero Blake and Stan Mosley, not to mention many artists (Captain Jack Watson, Jody Sticker, Mister Zay, Bobbye Johnson RIP) whose CDS recordings represented their last shots to date.

Meanwhile, Ecko Records, frequently--and often unfairly--criticized for repetitive production under the guidance of CEO John Ward, has soldiered on, maintaining a stable core of veterans with few new additions or exceptions, and pressed a lot more records than CDS over the same time period. The reason all this is relevant is that TWO WAY LOVE AFFAIR marks the defection of Donnie Ray Aldredge from Ecko to CDS.

While being one of the most consistent recording acts on the chitlin' circuit (I count eleven CD's for sale on Ecko Records' Donnie Ray page alone) and unfailingly charismatic and professional with his vocals, Donnie Ray has nevertheless caught "lightning in a bottle" only twice: his early career-making hit, "A Letter To My Baby," first published with Stan and Lenny Lewis' Shreveport-based Suzie Q Records around 2002) and 2011's Ecko-published "Who's Rockin' You?"

Both are great records many artists would "die for," but Donnie Ray was undoubtedly due for a change, and TWO WAY LOVE AFFAIR, packaged in sumptuous red and white cover art, is the result.

Headlining both Donnie Ray's new set--the first designated single, released a month ago--and kicking off the third in Ricky White's popular COMBINATION series, is "Pop It, Baby (or "Pop That Thang") It's brassy, it's slick, it's pumped-up on musical steroids, and it may be the biggest miscalculation of Donnie Ray's career.



Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Pop It, Baby" on YouTube.

Any vestiges of the "middle ground," the subtly-swinging, rocking-the-cradle sound of Donnie Ray's southern soul oeuvre throughout his Ecko years (including the classics "A Letter To My Baby" and "Who's Rockin' You?"), are blown away by the crater left by Ricky White's nuclear-bomb, throw-in-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production of "Pop That Thing."

Why am I left unfazed by this, when a Bigg Robb "techno" track never fails to get me moving, and simultaneously still sounds like authentic southern soul? There's something empty or missing at the core of "Pop It Baby," in a way that it's not missing from a similarly dance-'till-you're-senseless tune like Lil' Jimmie's "She Was Twerkin'." Lil' Jimmie sounds authentic. You can visualize the woman he's singing about twerking. "Pop It Baby" is music about music, twice removed from reality. You don't experience reality. You don't see the gal.

It almost seems like the CDS crew--and it's a good one, including longtime background singer Jamonte Black, respected Jackson guitarist Stevie J., and even a saxophonist on one glorious track--is trying to "clean up" southern soul for a northern, urban taste. If "Pop It, Baby" had southern soul timing and modesty, it might be compared to Denise LaSalle's "Snap, Crackle And Pop," but the only thing it has in common with the latter is the title, which so aptly describes its arrangement.

Added to the razzle-dazzle is Ricky White's continued use of programmed horns, a technique that sounded outdated on southern soul records already a decade ago. As a producer, the multi-talented White is so close, yet so far, from taking the next step. The faux horns cheapen--even ruin--the arrangement even when it's trending up, and the solution--piano, guitar, accordion, blues harp, violins (even faux-violins)--is so readily available.

Only listen to "Outside Love Affair," which starts out with a real saxophone (Jesse Primer) and continues with the feathery trills of Stevie J.'s real guitar, and adds texture with some interesting pizzicato violin. Instantly, almost with relief, we're transported to true southern soul territory, and even the limitations of the song and its derivative melody can't dampen the joy the arrangement proffers. And the difference between "Outside Love Affair" and "Pop It, Baby" is illustrative of how little effort it would cost Ricky White to take that next step.

The balance of the album swings between the two extremes of "Pop It Baby" and "Outside Love Affair." "Two Way Love Affair," the title tune, is closer to the reassuring soul of "Outside Love Affair." It's not as good because it's riddled with those long, boring, faux-horn fills and the cheap, quick-popping, faux-horn transitions, but halfway through the song, a beautiful (partly because we haven't heard it before), lower-registered (mute-mimicking) horn sound (programmed, but still okay because different), transforms the song for the better.

"It's Friday" is a tough song with an overpowering, in-your-face bass track that should translate to success. Donnie Ray's vocal is a thing of beauty. He stretches out. But neither Jamonte Black's vocal nor Ricky White's arrangement lend any additional originality to the proceedings.

"Dog House" is a quintessential southern soul vehicle that somehow fails to coalesce, due to the ever-present programmed horns. They're everywhere, distracting and intrusive, although once again, about halfway-through the song, a promising horn fillip (because different) pops up and just as quickly disappears.

The sharp, stinging, opening notes of Stevie J's guitar, so under-utilized on the rest of the album, open "Who's Loving You (Remix)". After the murkiness of the horn programming, it's like a bracing bucket of water in the face. Nevertheless, all "Who's Loving You?" proves is that it wouldn't have been a hit if this had been the original.

More typical are "I Wanna Be Your Man" and "Don't Want To Be Lonely," where you can hear a little Stevie J. guitar, but it's meager--too tentative--and buried at the end of each instrumental phrase by the programmed horns you've heard on every Ricky White-produced album of the last five years.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Donnie Ray’s TWO WAY LOVE AFFAIR CD at iTunes.

Sample/Buy Donnie Ray’s TWO WAY LOVE AFFAIR CD at Soul Blues Music.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

July 1, 2016:

NEW ALBUM ALERT!




Sample/Buy Donnie Ray's new TWO WAY LOVE AFFAIR CD at Soul Blues Music.

Sample/Buy Donnie Ray's new TWO WAY LOVE AFFAIR CD at iTunes.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Pop It Baby" on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Outside Love Affair" on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Doghouse" on YouTube.



Daddy B. Nice notes: Donnie Ray leaves longtime label Ecko Records for CDS Records for his new CD, TWO WAY LOVE AFFAIR. All the songs were written and produced by Ricky White.



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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide
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Note: Donnie Ray also appears on Daddy B. Nice's original Top 100 Southern Soul Artists (90's-00's), where he first charted at #71. The "21st Century" after Donnie Ray's name in the headline is to distinguish his artist-guide entries on this page from his artist-guide page on Daddy B. Nice's original chart.

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For the latest updates on Donnie Ray, scroll down to the "Tidbits" section. To automatically link to Donnie Ray's charted radio singles, awards, CD's and other citations on the website, go to " Donnie Ray" in Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.

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Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Who's Rockin' You" Live Onstage on YouTube.

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December 28, 2012: DADDY B NICE'S 21st Century PROFILE of Donnie Ray:





Donnie Ray's "Who's Rockin' You?" is the kind of song you hear and like at once but fear will grow repetitive, age quickly and become music non grata. Just the opposite process applies. You tend to underestimate the song, but the disappointment--the familiarity-breeds-contempt phase of the song cycle--never arrives. Although you fear the tune will grow as tiresome as a TV commercial, the song just grows on you and continues to grow.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Who's Rockin' You?" on YouTube.

If I had to say any one thing about Donnie Ray, it's that I've continually underestimated him. Until "Who's Rockin' You," that is. Who's Rockin' You?" takes over from the very first bar. It's like a fifty-mile-an-hour tailwind, and if you're not holding onto something, you're going to be carried along in its charismatic sweep.

Who's Rockin' You" is actually a more creatively successful reworking of "Come On, Let's Dance" from Donnie Ray's preceding album, "It's BYOB" (originally issued on Donnie Ray's Don't Stop My Party album).

Donnie Ray has been nothing if not consistent over the last decade. His first significant recording--his signature tune, if you will, until the appearance of "Who's Rockin' You?"--was "A Letter To My Baby."

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "A Letter To My Baby" on YouTube.

It was based on Gwen McCrae's 1975 hit, "Rocking Chair." Donnie Ray reworked the song musically and lyrically. Here are his words:

"Woman,
Take me in your arms
And rock me baby.
Are we gonna make love?
Said I'm on my way."

Donnie Ray's "A Letter To My Baby" had the same grounded but romantic soul defined by George McCrae's "Rock Your Baby" and Gwen McCrae's "Rocking Chair," but there was also an underlying and extraordinarily appealing urgency and expressiveness in Donnie Ray's vocal that recalled Tyrone Davis's rooted yet majestic vocal on his classic, "Where Are You, Lady?" Both Tyrone's and Donnie Ray's songs occupy that mellow, mid-register, mid-tempo region that seems to be at the heart of the best Southern Soul music.

Between these two musical milestones, "A Letter To My Baby" and "Who's Rockin' You?," Donnie Ray has built a solid career and catalog of better-than-average soul music. Never the most flamboyant or most spectacular performer on the chitlin' circuit scene, Donnie Ray has nevertheless defied the odds through sheer longevity and consistency.

The artist seldom falters. He pays attention to his material and he presents his music in varied guises, hammering away at his brand with perenially fresh energy and perspective. Among the many first-rate singles that please fans are periodic forays into the blues (with a smooth edge) such as "Love Monkey" and "Too Many Mechanics."

Other noteworthy Donnie Ray classics that have stood the test of time are finely-structured songs such as "If I Could Do It All Over" and "This Time The Dog Got Caught By The Cat." My own favorite (after the standards "Who's Rockin' You?" and "A Letter To My Baby") is a song with a rare female background vocal (which sounds like a duet, at least on the chorus), "I'm Gonna Keep My Love At Home."

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "I'm Gonna Keep My Love At Home" on YouTube while you read.

The female vocal (uncredited) is raw and lacking in technique, but the lack of sophistication works in the song's favor, giving it the authenticity of 60's soul classics that employed unpolished, young singers for that hard-to-replicate "street" sound.

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To read more about Donnie Ray's early career, go to Daddy B. Nice's Original Artist Guide to Donnie Ray.

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To read Daddy B. Nice's Review of Donnie Ray's I'm Goin' Back CD (Ecko, 2012), scroll down to Tidbits section, #4.

--Daddy B. Nice


About Donnie Ray (21st Century)

Donnie Ray Aldredge (aka Donnie Ray) was born in 1959 in Texarkana, Texas.  The Aldredges were a musical family, and by the time he was a teenager Donnie Ray was performing in his father's band.  He excelled as a singer, a multi-instrumentalist and a composer, and he gradually began performing with headliners like Marvin Sease and Millie Jackson when they came through on tour.  

Donnie Ray recorded his debut CD, Let's Go Dancing, for Shreveport, Lousiana-based Suzie Q Records in 2000.  The CD contained his most popular Southern Soul hit single, "A Letter To My Baby."  Are You Ready For Me, his second album, was released in 2003, again on Suzie Q.

In 2005 Donnie Ray moved to Ecko Records in Memphis and recorded his 3rd LP, I'll Be Good To You, which contained the popular single, "It's Just A Party Thing."

Don't Stop My Party (Ecko Records), released the following year, included the well-received radio single, "Sweeter To Me."

The set also featured the single, "Come On, Let's Dance," which would be reissued on the It's BYOB CD years later. The instrumentation and arrangement of "Come On, Let's Dance" was the precursor to Donnie Ray's "Who's Rockin' You?"

The title cut of Donnie Ray's next album, Smooth Operator (published by Ecko in 2007), received widespread airplay throughout the Deep South. The musically-substantive ballad If I Could Do It All Over" debuted at Number One on Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten Singles for April 2007. Donnie Ray also reprised his signature tune, "Letter To My Baby (Part Two)" from his debut disc Let's Go Dancing.

You've Got Me (Ecko, 2008) was less successful and passed without much notice. But Donnie Ray followed it up with a banner year in 2009, beginning in January with his fifth Ecko release, Caught By The Cat.

Charting on Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles (March 09), "This Time The Dog Got Caught By The Cat" was a well-done, fervently-sung rendition of Ms. Jody's contemporary classic, "Your Dog Is Killing My Cat."

"You Keep Snatchin' It Back" gained some favor with deejays and fans, and songs like "Just My Woman And Me" and "I'm Gonna Try Again" provided ample proof that Donnie Ray's collaboration with Ecko songwriters Raymond Moore and John Ward still retained its appeal.

"Just Give Me My Blues" (with April Hill) provided Donnie Ray's once-or-twice-an-album, obligatory blues jam, while "Don't Let Your Pride Overpower Your Love," one of five Donnie Ray-written tracks on the album, also merited notice.

In November of the same year, 2009, Donnie Ray released the even more popular and influential "It's BYOB" on the Ecko label. The title song garnered honors from Daddy B. Nice's Best Of 2009 awards, scoring the #18-Ranked Southern Soul Single of the Year. "It's BYOB" also pulled down Daddy B. Nice's #1 "Breaking" Southern Soul Single for November 2009.

Other distinguished songs from the LP were "Two Places At The Same Time," a mid-tempo cut elevated by Donnie Ray's engaged vocal, and "Love Power," a slow jam in which D.R. stretched out in his most sonorous style.

"I Never Had Nobody To Love Me Like You Do" reinforced an image Donnie Ray had patiently been building through all of his albums, that of a well-mannered young man a young woman would want to take home to her parents. (This image would come to fruition with "I'm Gonna Keep My Love At Home" from 2011's "WHO'S ROCKIN' YOU? CD.)

The CD Who's Rockin' You? arrived in 2011 on the Ecko label, notching the most spectacular hit single of Donnie Ray's career, "Who's Rockin' You?" The title song showcased a subtle, seventies, disco ambience bolstered by a vintage Gamble-Huff, Philly-style arrangement.

Other songs of note included "A Good Woman," a typically smooth, solid Aldredge track,  "I'm Gonna Keep My Love At Home," a melodic, mid-tempo gem featuring a rare duet with an unnamed female singer on the chorus, and "Too Many Mechanics," an embellished but traditional blues treatment with strong lead guitar and spiffy horn charts.

See Daddy B. Nice's "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles for February 2011 ("Who's Rockin' You?"). "Who's Rockin' You was also Daddy B. Nice's #14-ranked Southern Soul Single of 2011.

I'm Goin' Back, Donnie Ray's eighth consecutive release on Ecko Records, arrived in 2012. While no one song made as big a splash as "Who's Rockin' You?", which continued to gobble up radio play throughout the chitlin' circuit, the album contained many singles that gained air play: "I'm Looking For A Woman," "Southern Soul Blues Slide," "A Secret Is So Hard To Keep," "She Was At The Hideaway" and "If We Can't Get It Right."

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

Scroll down to "Tidbits" for more recent updates.


Song's Transcendent Moment

"It's three o'clock
In the morning,
And I'm just getting in.
There's a man
Coming out my door,
And I want to know
Who he is.

Who's rockin' you
When you ain't rockin' me?
Who's rockin' you
When you ain't rockin' me?"


Tidbits

1.

December 22, 2012: Donnie Ray on YouTube:



Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Who's Rockin' You?" on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "A Letter To My Baby" on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "I'm Gonna Keep My Love At Home" on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Too Many Mechanics" on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "You Keep Snatchin' It Back" on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "This Time the Dog Got Caught by the Cat" on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Love Monkey" on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "A Good Woman" on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Sexy Lover" on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "B.Y.O.B." on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Who's Rockin' You?" Live Onstage on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Who's Rockin' You?" Live On Another Stage on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Seven Long Years" on YouTube.

Listen to an Interview with Donnie Ray courtesy of Beach Music's Darin & Anita.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "I'll Be Good To You" on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Lovers' Paradise" on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "Too Close For Comfort" on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "She's Already Taken" on YouTube.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "A Letter To My Baby" Live Onstage on YouTube.

2.

December 29, 2012:


Unlike many of the top performers in the Southern Soul genre whose trajectory has slipped of late, Donnie Ray's career is on an upward curve. His most recent albums have featured his best work. The renewed energy and inspiration first signaled itself in "It's BYOB" and its novel arrangement, which carried over big-time ultimately in "Who's Rockin' You?" DBN

3.

December 29, 2012: DONNIE RAY CD REVIEWS


Daddy B. Nice has written contemporaneous CD reviews of Donnie Ray's work over the years. To read them, go to the "Tidbits" section of Daddy B. Nice's original Donnie Ray Artist Guide.  

4.

From Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews:


May 19, 2012:

DONNIE RAY: I'M GOIN' BACK (Ecko) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.


There's nothing as brilliant as "Who's Rockin' You," Donnie Ray's conquering single from 2011, on the artist's new CD, I'm Goin' Back.

See Daddy B. Nice's CD Review of "Who's Rockin' You" in the Donnie Ray Artist Guide, Tidbit #9.

The uptempo "I'm Looking For A Woman," the opening track, sets the standard for the CD: the songwriting is derivative but passable, the musicianship--both singing and background--competent and at times excellent.

"Southern Soul Blues Slide," a fast, guitar-driven blues jam done twice on the CD, raises the formula another notch, giving a so-so track the benefit of veteran musical expertise (rhythm tracks, sequencing, guitar and Hammond B3 organ by John Ward, vocals, guitar and bass guitar by Donnie Ray).

The majority of the songs are written by Donnie Ray Aldredge (Donnie Ray), and "She's A Real Hot Lady" and "I'm Goin' Back," the title track, will sound familiar--too familiar at times--to fans of Donnie Ray's work.

The freshest song on the set is a vintage-sounding Donnie Ray ballad. See Daddy B. Nice's #3 "Breaking" Southern Soul Single for May 2012: "A Secret Is So Hard To Keep." "A Secret" showcases Donnie Ray's ability to render love songs in a tender but lasting manner. The song's arrangement shines, aided by an evocative Hammond organ and a guitar fill containing hints of "A Rainy Night In Georgia," the classic whose tempo the song also echoes.

"Bring Back My Blues" is another blues jam on the order of "Southern Soul Blues Slide," indistinguishable from dozens of Donnie Ray tracks from the past.

"I Remember Those Good Old Days," is a mid-tempo, melodic paean to the past, too familiar to be of much interest, and "Let's Swing Out" is an exercise in jamming, although Donnie Ray brings his unflappable enthusiasm to the vocal.

"Are You Ready For Me" carries a little more melodic heft, but only because it mimics The Staples Singer's "Let's Do It Again" in melody and tempo.

"She Was At The Hideaway" was released a few months ago, the first single from the album, but Southern Soul radio stations have for the most part snubbed it in favor of "Who's Rockin' You," which continues to garner air play more than a year after its release.

"If We Can't Get It Right" has some characteristics of a possibly popular single--a forceful vocal and a memorable melody--as does the ballad "Haven't I Been Good To You."

The CD closes with another stab at "Southern Soul Blues Slide."

Overall, the fast cuts on the Donnie Ray's new disc feature the best background musicianship. If you're into hearing John Ward and Donnie Ray jam on Quinn Golden-era Southern Soul-slash-blues jams, you'll be interested. However, the romantic, slow to mid-tempo cuts ("A Secret Is So Hard To Keep," "Haven't I Been Good To You," "She Was At The Hideaway" and "If We Can't Get It Right") will probably appeal most to Donnie Ray's core audience. For MP3-buyers "A Secret Is So Hard To Keep" is a keeper.

Unlike the Who's Rockin' You? CD, with its rock-and-rolling title track, Donnie Ray's I'm Goin' Back re-furrows old ground rather than plows new, and consequently doesn't contain much to draw new fans. For the best possible first impression, Donnie Ray neophytes are directed to go straight to Who's Rockin' You.

--Daddy B. Nice

Bargain-Priced I'm Goin' Back CD.

Comparison-Priced I'm Goin' Back CD.

Read Daddy B. Nice's Donnie Ray Artist Guide.

5.

August 5, 2014: FROM THE ARCHIVES

DADDY B. NICE'S CD REVIEW OF...

Twin Pick: Donnie Ray, Drowning In My Own Tears, & Best Of Donnie Ray, 10-12-13



October 12, 2013: TWIN PICK
DONNIE RAY: Drowning In My Own Tears (Ecko) And... BEST OF DONNIE RAY (Ecko) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.

So accustomed is your Daddy B. Nice to listening to Donnie Ray Aldredge, I actually picked through each song on the new Drowning In My Own Tears CD muttering, "I like that phrase," "I don't like that phrase," "That's interesting," "I've heard that before, Yes...No...Yes," and so on, more like a working producer than a fan out for a little enjoyment.

And many Southern Soul fanatics will experience the same simultaneous sense of wonder and surprise on the one hand and familiarity and borderline contempt on the other as they mutter and shake their heads through the first two tracks--"Real Good Lover" and "Let's Get This Party Started"--because they have that generic, I'm-aiming-to-be-the-opening-cut-That's-my-mediocre-goal feel to them. (On subsequent listens, they do get better, but you know what I mean.)

Then, on track 3, "Groove Party," Donnie Ray clobbers everybody with a fantastic, get-off-your-chair-and-dance anthem in the Gamble-Huff mode. I'm in awe of Donnie Ray singing in that early-seventies, Philly-disco atmosphere, as he did on his recent smash single, "Who's Rockin' You?" The Philly soul sound brings out a unique, sonorous quality in Donnie Ray's voice that sets him truly apart from other singers.

On the other hand (and negating that theory, to a certain extent), freshness and energy permeate the old-school ("A Letter To My Baby"-like) Donnie Ray cuts too, namely the personable "Play Something Pretty On My Radio" and "Drowning In My Own Tears", the title song, which includes a disarming, Question Mark & The Mysterians-like keyboard.

"Same Woman" is a duet with Jaye Hammer, and despite Donnie Ray's dozen or so albums over the years there is a novelty and even anonymity to the pairing. Hammer, a large-scale new talent, is still little known, even within the confines of southern r&b. So, for instance, as opposed to the recent pairing of Sir Charles Jones and O. B. Buchana on "I Can't Get Her Off Of My Mind," it's not as easy to distinguish readily when it's Hammer and when it's Donnie Ray.

"What About Me" is a ballad in the classic southern soul mode.

"If You're Woman Enough (To Leave Me)" is an obvious reference to Karen Wolfe's "(If You're) Man Enough (To Leave, I'm Woman Enough To Let You Go)," but unlike Simone De, who lifted the background track from Karen's hit single when he made his own radio jam "Feels So Good," Donnie Ray borrows the concept and puts it into an entirely new musical framework.

It works, too. Like "Groove Party," "If You're Woman Enough To Leave Me" mines that vintage orchestral-soul sound that displays Aldredge's tenor to such stunning effect.

"Shakin' It Up" is a surprise and a winner. It nagged at me uncommonly before I put my finger on the classic that makes this song's engines purr: Johnnie Taylor's "Wall To Wall." (And once you make the connection, you notice the explicit references embedded in the song itself.) The echo, the added dimension, of "Wall To Wall" makes Donnie Ray's "Shakin' It Up" a strong candidate for a radio single.

The album closes with an especially affecting ballad called "You Keep Taking Your Love Away."

BEST OF DONNIE RAY, Aldredge's new "best-of" collection, slipped by unnoticed earlier this year, and given the up-and-down aspects of "regular" albums, it's a great value.

Actually, with the exception of the first two signature tunes--"Who's Rockin' You?" and "A Letter To My Baby"--the front end of this compilation is a little weak, filled with tunes which received scant notice at the time of their release.

Nevertheless, the album is important because it brings together for the first time the bulk if not the complete repertoire of Donnie Ray's hits:

"A Letter To My Baby," based on The McCrae's "Rocking Chair," the song that won Donnie Ray his fan base;

"Who's Rockin' You?", in which Donnie Ray hit his perfect Southern Soul groove;

"I'm Gonna Keep My Love At Home," Donnie Ray's most winsome and affecting if understated song (not least because of the female chorus);

"This Time the Dog Got Caught by the Cat," a better-than-average "response" song to Ms. Jody's "Your Dog Is Killing My Cat" when it came out, and it has aged well;

"It's Just A Party Thing," one of those perfect, good-time, heart-of-Southern-Soul songs in the mode of David Brinston's "Party 'Til The Lights Go Out (Nothing But A Party)";

"Sensual To Me," one of Donnie Ray's pre-eminent ballads, under-represented somewhat in this collection;

...and "BYOB," which still sounds good, its simplicity in its favor.

The short and spiffy precursor to "Who's Rockin' You," "BYOB" was the song that put fans and critics on notice that Donnie Ray was aiming for the center field fence.

For anyone who's ever enjoyed Donnie Ray, this pair of albums--one current, one retrospective--represents a godsend of worthy material, the best "face" Donnie Ray has put yet on his rising career.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Donnie Ray's New DROWNING IN MY OWN TEARS CD.

Drowning In My Own Tears at iTunes.

Sample/Buy New BEST OF DONNIE RAY CD.

Best Of Donnie Ray at iTunes.

Read Daddy B. Nice's new 21st Century Southern Soul Artist Guide to Donnie Ray.

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6.


October 13, 2013: NEW ALBUM ALERT!

Read Daddy B. Nice's new 5-star "southern soul heaven" CD Review of Donnie Ray's DROWNING IN MY OWN TEARS CD.

8/5/14: This review is now contained in this Artist Guide. Scroll to "Tidbits #5.

Sample/Buy Donnie Ray's New DROWNING IN MY OWN TEARS CD.

Drowning In My Own Tears at iTunes.

And, released earlier this year:

Sample/Buy New BEST OF DONNIE RAY CD.

Best Of Donnie Ray at iTunes.

The album is also reviewed in Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews.

See "Groove Party," Daddy B. Nice's #3 "Breaking" Southern Soul Single for October 2013.

7.



March 8, 2015:

Daddy B. Nice reviews Donnie Ray's new SHE'S MY HONEY BEE CD. See Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews.

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March 1, 2015: NEW ALBUM ALERT!

Perennial top-twenty contemporary southern soul star Donnie Ray is back with a new, energetic CD:

Sample/Buy Donnie Ray's new SHE'S MY HONEY BEE CD.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

8.



Re-Posted from Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews:

March 7, 2015: DONNIE RAY: She's My Honey Bee (Ecko) Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

There's no blockbuster song on the order of "Who's Rockin' You?" Nor is there anything comparable to Donnie Ray's vintage classic, "A Letter To My Baby." But there is much to savor on Donnie Ray's new CD, SHE'S MY HONEY BEE.

Aldredge (Donnie Ray is his first and middle name) is at the least a competent songwriter, and once in awhile a fantastic one, as his credits for "Letter To My Baby" and "Who's Rockin' You" attest. On this new set he brings four superior songs (Tracks 3-6) to the table ("Hold It And Roll It," "She's My Honey Bee," "I"m Still Waiting On You" and "Stone Cold Party"), surrounding them with nine decent though not outstanding tracks by himself and various Ecko house composers: Henderson Thigpen, Raymond Moore, Gerod Rayburn and John Ward. The four outstanding cuts are all written by Donnie Ray Aldredge.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing"Hold It And Roll It" on YouTube.

All these songs have a distinct, fresh feel to them. "I'm Still Waiting On You" has an exceptional melody, atmosphere and message, while "Stone Cold Party" is an uptempo dance jam in the serviceable mold of T.K. Soul's "Party Like Back In the Day." With John Ward doodling naughtily on a Hammond B3 organ, "Hold It And Roll It" features Donnie Ray doing a plausible and laudable, Steve Perry "Booty Roll"-ish line dance. (In his own smooth Donnie Ray style, naturally.) See Daddy B. Nice's #6-ranked Southern Soul Single for March 2015. And in the quasi-title tune, "She's My Honey Bee," Donnie Ray gives a nod to under-rated fellow performer and singer/songwriter Rue Davis and one of his signature songs, "Honey Poo."

Rue Davis

Of the more second-tier or average tunes, at least another four or five are noteworthy. "Can We Start Our Love All Over" and "I Knew It Was You" will please fans of "Smooth Operator" and "A Letter To My Baby" respectively, sharing some of the bloodlines of their predecessors, and the "O.B." references in "I Can't Take Your Wife Back" will tickle O.B. Buchana fans.

Donnie Ray acknowledges the current trend in harder-edged southern soul in "Shake It Baby, which makes it interesting. And Donnie Ray won the Carolina Beach Music Awards recently for "Who's Rocking You?," making the mellow "Carolina Swing" a natural. All--or nearly all--of these and more ("Mr. Deejay Don't Slow The Party Down") are also written by Aldredge.

Nevertheless, if I were grading the album's components on the old-school scale of A to F, I'd give the songwriting--solid as it is--only a "C-plus" while giving Donnie Ray's masterful vocals and the John Ward arrangements and production an "A."

I'm constantly amazed at how full and natural Ward has made the Ecko studio sound with far less resources than Malaco (with all "live" musicians) in its heyday, and Donnie Ray sings so well and effortlessly we take him for granted. The set also gets an "A" for its generous thirteen tracks.

--Daddy B. Nice

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "I'm Still Waiting On You" on YouTube.

Sample/Buy Donnie Ray's new SHE'S MY HONEY BEE CD.

See Daddy B. Nice's 21st Century Artist Guide to Donnie Ray.

See Daddy B. Nice's Original Artist Guide to Donnie Ray.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide


If You Liked. . . You'll Love

If you liked Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' "Wake Up Everybody," you'll love Donnie Ray's "Who's Rockin' You?"




Honorary "B" Side

"A Letter To My Baby"



5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Who's Rockin' You? by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
Who's Rockin' You?


CD: Who's Rockin' You?
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
Who's Rockin' You?


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy A Letter To My Baby by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
A Letter To My Baby


CD: Let's Go Dancing
Label: Suzie Q

Sample or Buy
Let's Go Dancing


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Groove Party by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
Groove Party


CD: Drowning In My Own Tears
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
Drowning In My Own Tears


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy I'm Gonna Keep My Love At Home     by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
I'm Gonna Keep My Love At Home


CD: Who's Rockin' You?
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
Who's Rockin' You?


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy If I Could Do It All Over by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
If I Could Do It All Over


CD: Smooth Operator
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
Smooth Operator


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy It's BYOB by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
It's BYOB


CD: It's BYOB
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
It's BYOB


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy It's Just A Party Thing by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
It's Just A Party Thing


CD: I'll Be Good To You
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
I'll Be Good To You


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy A Secret Is So Hard To Keep by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
A Secret Is So Hard To Keep


CD: I'm Goin' Back
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
I'm Goin' Back


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Just My Woman And Me by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
Just My Woman And Me


CD: Caught By The Cat
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
Caught By The Cat


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Let's Go Dancing by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
Let's Go Dancing


CD: Let's Go Dancing
Label: Suzie Q

Sample or Buy
Let's Go Dancing


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Letter To My Baby (Part 2)    by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
Letter To My Baby (Part 2)


CD: Smooth Operator
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
Smooth Operator


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Sensual To Me by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
Sensual To Me


CD: Best Of Donnie Ray
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
Best Of Donnie Ray


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy This Time The Dog Got Caught By The Cat by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
This Time The Dog Got Caught By The Cat


CD: Caught By The Cat
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
Caught By The Cat


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Come On Let's Dance     by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
Come On Let's Dance


CD: It's BYOB
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
It's BYOB


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Haven't I Been Good To You by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
Haven't I Been Good To You


CD: I'm Goin' Back
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
I'm Goin' Back


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy I Remember Those Good Old Days by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
I Remember Those Good Old Days


CD: I'm Goin' Back
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
I'm Goin' Back


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy I'm Goin' Back by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
I'm Goin' Back


CD: I'm Goin' Back
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
I'm Goin' Back


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy I'm Gonna Try Again by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
I'm Gonna Try Again


CD: Caught By The Cat
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
Caught By The Cat


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy I'm Your Sucker by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
I'm Your Sucker


CD: Caught By The Cat
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
Caught By The Cat


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy It's Love Power by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
It's Love Power


CD: It's BYOB
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
Who's Rockin' You?


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy She Was At The Hideaway by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
She Was At The Hideaway


CD: I'm Goin' Back
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
I'm Goin' Back


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Sweeter To Me by  Donnie Ray (21st Century)
Sweeter To Me


CD: Don't Stop My Party
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
Don't Stop My Party


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