View Full Version : Genius! The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection

Michael Jefferson
5.9.09, 8:42 PM
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Ray Charles
Genius! The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/B001QAZAPS/w3pgcoffeeroomss)
4.5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

Genius is a designation that shouldn't be thrown around lightly. The Beatles? No doubt. The Rolling Stones? Debatable. Johnny Rotten and Elvis Costello would like you to think they're geniuses, but the fact that they keep talking about themselves in that vein casts serious doubt. The word has cropped up when talking about Traffic, The Moody Blues, Tony Joe White, Gordon Lightfoot and The Band. (I know because I've used it to describe their music!)

There's another legendary artist - Ray Charles - who was so respected by his peers that one of his albums was actually titled, "The Genius of..." The late Brother Ray didn't write many songs, in fact his best known material was hand picked, but he was a masterful singer in the same manner that Eric Clapton is considered a god on guitar or Steve Winwood is referred to as the King of the Keyboards.

The 21-cut remastered "Ultimate" CD is the most comprehensive collection of Charles' music ever assembled. The overall sound is thinner (many previous compilations were very bass heavy), but it's cleaner. The nuances in Ray's voice come across better than before whether he's being suggestive, soulful or sorrowful. The back up singers, particularly the full court choral caucuses in "Georgia on My Mind" and "You Don't Love Me" are more distinctive and less mushy than in the past.

What may surprise listeners is the plethora of country songs. One of Ray's biggest albums was 1962's "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music." There aren't many black artists who've successfully mixed together such extreme genres as country, blues and R & B. One guy who comes to mind is Hootie (whose wimpy bombast I hate anyway). Charlie Pride leans way south of country, and Muddy, B.B. and Taj Mahal stirred their blues with soul. Ray was versatile, so much so that he could take patriotic pap like "America the Beautiful" and make anarchists stand up and salute; so making country sound good was as easy for him as sucking the meat out of a crawdad.

The Stuff of Genius...

"Hit the Road Jack" is one Ray's penultimate and most beloved romps. Written by ill-fated blues singer Percy Mayfield, the two-minute stomper hit #1 in 1961 and earned Ray a Grammy for Best R&B recording. The Route 66 horn section wastes no time in amping up a free wheeling beat, as Charles' back up singers, The Raelettes, particularly sassy soloist Margie Hendricks, forcefully suggest that Ray take a one way hike. The call and response between Ray and the girls is a heavyweight bout, with the Raelettes landing low blows and Ray screaming in rebuttal like a cat caught in a fan belt.

More... (http://www.Coffeerooms.com/onmusic/2009/05/genius-the-ultimate-ray-charles-collection.html)