Genius: The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection

Ray Charles

Concord, 2009

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


There have been a lot of compilations of the late Ray Charles' work. Being that he is such a timeless talent with universal appeal, such a proliferation is not surprising -- finding the perfect one isn't so easy, however.  Thus I was overjoyed when this disc arrived at my desk courtesy of the elves at DV Central, for this is the best single-disc encapsulation of Ray's career I've heard yet.

Opening the disc is a trifecta of his best tracks, beginning with the timeless “Hit The Road Jack.” This song spans generational appeal, recognized by young and old alike. Ray's interplay with the sassy Raelettes is a performance you'll be hard-pressed to match. The head-bobbing “What'd I Say” and the hangdog blues of “Busted” complete the trio. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Ray was always looking for new ways to express himself. When he wanted to do a country album, people called him crazy, but they shut up when his album Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music produced a #1 hit with “I Can't Stop Loving You,” and the album itself ultimately hit #1 as well. His unique interpretations of country music would be one of his most successful moves.  One of Ray's gifts is his ability to reinterpret music of all genres, honoring the original while making the song his own. An R&B take on “You Are My Sunshine” transforms a sappy standard into finger-popping jive, while his version of Hank Williams “Drown In My Own Tears” is more speakeasy than Grand Ole Opry, and it's all Ray.

The album has a few surprises alongside the well-known classics. “Let's Go Get Stoned” has the feel of smoky late night blues. The instrumental “One Mint Julep” has a smooth Stax/Volt groove to it, and Charles’ organ is a wonder to listen to. His gritty take on The Beatles’ “Yesterday” is a unique interpretation of the most recorded song in history. Finally, the album’s closer couldn't have been a more perfect choice. Ray's classic version of “America The Beautiful” is a soulful expression of national pride straight from the gut, and eclipses any other rendition.

Genius in this case is not an overstatement, and this album reflects that on every track. If you want to add a little genius to your collection, you can't go wrong with this disc.

Rating: A

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© 2009 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Concord, and is used for informational purposes only.