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The singles Ray Charles recorded for Atlantic Records beginning in 1955 are often described as the "birth" of soul. The pianist and vocalist was the first to refine up-tempo gospel, blues, and boogaloo into a highly combustible, era-defining sound—see his superheated "I Got a Woman," as galvanizing an experience as any in popular music. That's where Charles started. Over the next several years, he took the basic notion of soul much further: This collection covers soul in its toddler years ("Hallelujah, I Love Her So"), soul in its heady tumultuous adolescence ("Night Time Is the Right Time"), and soul as the expression of a wise man torn apart by his love for a woman ("Drown in My Own Tears").
Charles's singles have been endlessly repackaged, sometimes in shoddy and incomplete ways—even the three-disc Birth of Soul box has a few holes in it. This twenty-track single disc provides an excellent introductory lesson, focusing on the key charting hits and choice B sides (including "Greenbacks") of Charles's first phase. These outline his development from jump-blues shouter into the architect of undeniably propulsive, quint-essentially American music. To hear the Genius at absolute peak, check out the massive "What'd I Say," the tune that spread his brand of infectious, exultant musical enthusiasm all over the world.
This anthology was released after Rhino carefully remastered Charles's catalog for a comprehensive boxed set; sonically, it's a huge ...