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Easily the finest single disc Ray Charles collection ever assembled.

  • Apr 11, 2009
Throughout his life Ray Charles overcame obstacles that would defeat lesser men.  He was partially blinded in an unfortunate accident in his back yard at age 5 and became totally blinded at the age of 7.  Rather than wallow in his misfortune, a very young Ray Charles began to study classical piano and clarinet at the State School for Deaf and Blind Children in St. Augustine, FL.   Ray quickly figured out that music was what he wanted to do with his life.  He moved to Seattle in 1948 at the age of 18 and formed the Maxine Trio.  Just a year later the group inked a deal with a small Los Angeles based label called Swingtime.   After just a few months the groups' debut release "Confession Blues" rose all the way to #2 on Billboard's R & B chart.  A couple of other hits followed and important people in the music business began to take notice.  One of them was Ahmet Ertegan of Atlantic records who had a knack for discovering important new talent.  Ray Charles would ink a deal with Atlantic records in 1952 and  the rest as they say is history.  Over the next five and a half decades Ray Charles would become an institution and one of the most important recording artists and "live" performers in American musical history.

Concord records 2009 release "Genius:  The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection" celebrates the man's biggest and most memorable recordings from his hey-day at Atlantic between 1952 and 1960 as well as his legendary hits at ABC-Paramount during the 1960's.  It is a stunning collection featuring a variety of musical styles that reminds us all of just how versatile and talented an artist Ray Charles was.  "Genius" features a half dozen of Ray's most popular recordings from his stint at Atlantic.  Enjoy newly remastered recordings of great hits like "What I'd Say""A Fool For You" as well as my personal favorite "Drowning In My Tears" which hit #1 on the R & B charts back in 1956.  You will also find "Sticks and Stones" "I've Got A Woman"  and a fabulous "live" recording of "Hallelujah, I Love Her So" from the Atlantic era.  While Ray Charles was wildly popular among jazz and R & B afficianados during the 1950's he really hit his stride with general audiences after signing a deal with ABC-Paramount in 1960.  There were certainly a lot of raised eyebrows when Ray opted to leave Atlantic but evidently he knew what he was doing.  During his 14 year stay at ABC Ray Charles had around 60 charted singles and recorded dozens of successful albums in a wide variety of musical styles.  Hear once again great hits like 1961's "Hit The Road Jack""I Can't Stop Loving You" and the haunting ballad "You Don't Know Me".  Indeed, one of my all-time Ray Charles faves was his magnificent rendition of Buck Owens' country classic "Crying Time" which was a huge hit on the pop, country, R & B and adult contemporary charts in early 1966.   Add to the mix  tunes like "Busted", "Georgia On My Mind", "Take These Chains From My Heart" and "Unchain My Heart" and it is easy to understand why "Ray Charles/Genius:  The Ultimate Collection" should be considered to be absolutely essential to any serious collection of American popular music. 

"Genius:  The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection" comes with an outstanding 24 page booklet that includes a brief biography of Ray, a number of splendid photos and a brief story about each of the 21 tracks in this collection.  And believe me when I tell you that these tracks have never, ever sounded better!  The remastering job done by the folks at Concord records is exceptional.  These are the original Atlantic and ABC-Paramount  recordings you would remember from the radio.  No re-recordings here thank God! I have been collecting records now for more than 40 years.  I can always tell when a project has been done with tender loving care.  Such is the case with "Genius:    The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection".     Very highly recommended! 
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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on I never could … more
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Commencing an extensive Ray Charles reissue program in 2009, Concord Records presents a 21-song anthology of hits titled Ray Charles — Genius: The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection. The volume compiles Charles' most influential recordings for the Atlantic and ABC-Paramount labels including 1955's "I Got a Woman" plus "Busted," "Georgia on My Mind," "Hit the Road Jack" and "I Can't Stop Loving You," concluding with his signature 1972 rendition of "America the Beautiful." All are digitally remastered from the original tapes.

Ray Charles Genius: The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection chronicles the high points in Charles' catalog. As noted jazz writer Don Heckman writes in his liner notes, "The first feeling that comes to mind after even a short glance at the titles included here is a sense of wonder. The diversity of the material is impressive in its own right — blues, of course, transformed gospel songs, country tunes, an American Songbook standard, a Beatles classic and a climactic American anthem. But more than that, it's what he does with all these variegated numbers. Good singers can do great interpretations. Great singers like Charles possess the material in a way that makes a song their own, while remaining true to the essence of each."

The album contains 21 of Charles' biggest hits, each within its own unique history and meaning. "Hit the Road Jack," penned by Percy Mayfield, a #1 pop hit and a 1961 Grammy winner for Charles, opens the collection. Also included are "What ...

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Label: Concord
Release Date: April 7, 2009

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