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Ray Charles – Genius Loves Company

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With the recent release of Ray in theaters, people are being properly reminded of what a talented artist he is, and they are going out and buying “Best of” compilations and the movie’s soundtrack. While those albums reflect on Ray’s past work, I would recommend the latest addition to his canon, Genius Loves Company.

These final recording brought Ray together with artists from genres that he traversed throughout his career: R&B, jazz, blues, gospel, pop and country. Norah Jones opens the star-studded affair with the country-tinged duet “Here We Go Again” about a couple stuck in a bad relationship. Billy Preston has a wonderful Hammond B3 solo, and he appears on two other songs. Other artists who sing with Ray are Natalie Cole, Diana Krall, Bonnie Raitt, Gladys Knight, and Johnny Mathis. Some of the tracks might sound too middle of the road in their arrangements for some listeners, but you can’t expect a 73-year-old man to be cutting edge.

Ray covers a range of emotions throughout the album. Two tracks where that is most evident are when he is joined by the song’s original artist. He is on cloud nine when he sings about being in love during “Sweet Potato Pie” with James Taylor. On Elton John’s “Sorry Seem To Be The Hardest Word,” his voice sounds fragile and you can hear a lifetime of broken hearts.

Two fellow elder statesman of music, who are also close friends of Ray, pick very appropriate songs, and it’s no surprise they are the two of the best on the album. Willie Nelson appears on “It Was A Very Good Year,” a song of an old man reflecting on the good times of his life. It opens with a big string arrangement like Sinatra’s version, but when Willie sings during the opening verse his trademark guitar alone accompanies him. It’s moving to hear Ray sing the lines “But now the days grow short/I’m in the autumn of the year.” B.B. King appears on “Sinner’s Prayer” which is evident from the very first guitar note. On this song, they ask for the Lord’s forgiveness and promise to do better, which they have probably promised the Lord many times before. Working with B.B. inspired something in Ray because this track contains his best piano playing on the album.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • http://www.albertsgifts.com music gifts

    What you need to get is the 57 dong compilation of Ray called the birth of soul 1952-1959, its amazing and really does cover the genius that he is and was…

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    It is funny to see a Starbucks compilation being so successful. (It is also a top download at the iTunes store.) My friends used to tease me about buying the darn things, but now the Hear Music compact discs have caught on. Good. Over the years I’ve been introduced or reminded of some good music because of Starbucks’ CDs.

  • http://www.templestark.com/blog Temple A. Stark

    a 57 dong compilation? Yikes.

    I put this up on Advance.net, and no we’re not always this far behind. This is the the last of the catch up brigade.

    Your review can be found at this link.

  • Eric Olsen

    I wonder how Heinz weighs in on the 57 dong matter

    very nice job as per usual El Bicho, I dug it too

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