Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Blues, Jazz, R&B
DVD is NTSC format, region code 2
DVD is NTSC format, region code 2
For over 40 years....and in every style imaginable --
L. Quido | Tampa, FL United States | 09/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ray Charles truly gave back to the world of music. In his last album, a series of duets, aptly titled "Genius Loves Company", Charles and his collaborators give us that eclectic mix of styles he was known for.
There are a couple of tracks, recorded early in 2004, when Ray was ill, where his voice and manner are notably subdued. There are three miscalculations of the choice of songs that he made with his collaborator. There are the inevitable difficulties of harmonizing with Ray -- (a man who had a knack for never singing a song the way you expect someone to), and those come through in some of the duets, although most feature echo singing and response, and little harmony.
What a thrill to be asked to work with Ray on one of his previous hits....Gladys Knight is his featured partner in his gospel classic, "Heaven Help Us All". Backed by a choir, Ray and Gladys mix richly. Ray has several blues cuts on the CD -- the best of these is "Sinner's Prayer" with BB King. Ray jams on the piano and BB gives Lucille a workout, with some background Hammond B3 by the legendary Billy Preston. Ray and BB have a natural mix on one of Ray's oldest songs. Some close harmony in the country blues cut "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?" shines through in the featured song with Bonnie Raitt -- produced by Phil Ramone, it is a great mix of vocals and blues guitar. Ray first did the song at the beginning of his career. There's a changeup from country in the old Eddy Arnold standard, "You Don't Know Me" with Ray and Diana Krall. Ray first did it in 1962, and the song is made richer with the jazzy counterpoint of Krall's flawless voice--another contribution from Phil Ramone. And starting the album, Ray collaborates with a relative newcomer, Norah Jones, in his 1967 blues hit - "Here We Go Again". The song is strong throughout, but fades a bit at the end where Ray and Norah struggle trying to mix harmony. Preston's contribution on the Hammond B3 is flawless in this collaboration.
Even better than being asked to work with Ray on one of his own songs is the honor of having Ray want to sing one of yours in a duet. Ray introduced and inducted masterful songwriter Van Morrison into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in the summer of 2003, and their resulting duet, to Morrison's "Crazy Love" (from his amazing album, "Moondance") kick started the whole duet album concept. It is the only live performance on the CD, and it amazes in that Morrison completely changes his approach to the song given the way that Ray begins it. A flawless exercise (again, with Ramone producing) in musicianship!
Another pop icon, Elton John, contributed the last song recorded, and the one where Ray's voice is the most feeble, but yet haunting. True to form, his lead in the song gives Elton John an opportunity to sing his part in a completely different manner than his original recording. The song is silk, with a full string accompaniment and a brooding, sultry feel that is perfect for both.
The third artist who contributed a song and a duet is the wonderful James Taylor. I've never been a fan of his ditty, "Sweet Potato Pie", and although it seems a logical choice for he and Ray -- it is one of only three "passable" songs.
The other two songs that didn't quite cut it? Both are classics, and in both, Ray works with another genius. Unfortunately, both songs are overproduced and the mix of styles and voices doesn't work well. With Johnny Mathis in "Over the Rainbow" -- Ray can't get Johnny to leave the standard melody and presentation of the old song. Ray's bluesy counterpoint doesn't blend well, and the song is regrettably, just ordinary. One can't help but contrast it to the amazing Eva Cassidy version of the same song. Perhaps the weakest duet on the album is a contrast in style and song, with Willie Nelson on the Sinatra standard, "It Was A Very Good Year". In an overblown, orchestra-laden approach, arranger Victor Vanacore leaves you feeling the production had nothing to do with the singers....it was a la Sinatra. Either Ray or Willie could have done a credibly different version of the song as a solo, but together, the mix didn't work.
One of Ray's favorite songs was a 60's pop tune called "Hey Girl"...wisely, he performs with a king of blue-eyed soul, Michael McDonald. Strangely, Ray takes the high part, and McDonald, known for his incredible range in the high register, gets to exercise his lower range, although at one point, he lets his pipes fly. With a full power orchestra, this song works, and the playful, tongue in cheek way in which Ray approaches it, makes it a highlight.
But, saving the best for last, the only real jazz combination on the CD is Ray's duet with Natalie Cole on the classic, "Fever". They are smooth as velvet and in perfect combination on the song. "Fever" is known as a jazz torch song for a woman, but somehow, this duet, more playful and and unique than any version I've heard, is my favorite of all the songs on the CD.
So, 9 great collaborations, and some exceptional liner notes and photos of Ray's last days ...far away offset a few of the lesser notes on this, the last effort of one of the finest performers of the last century.
A Fitting Tribute to a Legend
Craig L. Howe | Darien, CT United States | 09/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Very few of us die doing what we love. Genius Loves Company is evidence that Ray Charles did just that. Aware that cancer was taking its final toll, he assembled luminaries Willie Nelson, B. B. King, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, Norah Jones, James Taylor, Diana Krall, Natalie Cole, Michael McDonald and Gladys Knight.
Although his voice is obviously weakened by his disease, the results are magical. Too often a CD released following the death of a legend generates a sense of mourning among the legend's faithful followers. This collection, however, gives comfort. While we mourn our loss, it grants solace, placing Ray Charles' great career in perspective.
Life's richness is in what is handed down from one life to the next. Ray Charles undoubtedly impacted and changed music during his six decade career. It celebrates his contributions and those who were influenced by his life and art."
A Fine Coda To A Brilliant Career
Robert Culbertson | Tenafly, NJ United States | 01/08/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I've been listening to Ray Charles since I was about 15 years old, when I first heard "What'd I Say." His voice, the electric piano and the song were about the freshest things I had ever heard, and I immediately loved him. That love never ended.
While I reluctantly agree with a few other reviewers that Ray's voice on some of the tracks is not what it once was, he still is absolutely wonderful and Genius Loves Company is a must for long-time Ray Charles fans like me. The selection of stars with whom he sings duets is varied and interesting and the musicianship and arrangements on the CD are outstanding. Everyone will find a different track that they like best and will feel Ray is particularly good with one artist or another. But, while there are certain tracks that appeal most to me, I actually think they all are good and the guest artists all put in excellent performances -- seemingly a heartfelt tribute to Ray --one of the greatest ever.
My personal favorites are "Fever" with Natalie Cole, who I think sounds as good as I've ever heard her, "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" with Elton John, which some other reviewers have not liked but I think is particularly good, "Sinner's Prayer" with B.B. King--perhaps the best track on the CD, "Heaven Help Us All" with Gladys Knight, "Over The Rainbow" with Johnny Mathis (I think Johnny sounds as good as he did 40 years ago) and "Crazy Love" with Van Morrison.
While Ray has sounded better on other CDs, this is still a classic by a man at the end of his life and one which I'm glad I own and which will be played frequently."