Just listen to the way he trades off with his background singers during “Don’t Set Me Free” (1963), for instance. Charles was a master of his particular style, and it is little wonder that Frank Sinatra once called him “The only true genius in show business.”
The stylistic variations Ray pursued over the years are another revelation. As anyone who has seen the film Ray (2004) knows, gospel music was a deep influence. It was there in his voice, regardless of the context. His facility for country music is well known, as are his R&B chops. What I found fascinating though were some of the later singles. Ray Charles is Ray Charles, no matter what. But listening to “If You Were Mine” (1970) or “Feel So Bad” (1971) brings to mind classic Stax-Volt of the era, showing that Ray always had his ear to the ground.
As his career progressed, Ray wrote less and less of his own songs. It was one thing to take Percy Mayfield’s “Hit The Road, Jack” and turn it into a monster hit. It was quite another to take on songs like Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart,“ or The Beatles’ “Yesterday,“ and make them your own.
Ray Charles was clearly one of the musical giants of the last 50 years, and his legend is secure. Singular Genius is a celebration of the man’s immense talent, and also offers a unique way of looking at a specific 12-year period in his long career. To put it as simply as possible, this box contains 106 excellent songs - with no filler. It should definitely be at or near the top of any music lover’s holiday list.