Strong album of songs by the immortal Ray Charles
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 06/17/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Genius of Ray Charles is an excellent album that thankfully made its way to CD form. Ray Charles was one of the greatest entertainers ever; and the songs on this CD prove it. He was a masterful piano player, a saxophonist and he sang very well. There wasn't any specific Ray Charles style of music, either--like a true entertainer, he could turn out very high quality control country music, jazz, big band tunes or blues. He could read and write music in Braille; his lack of sight didn't slow him down one bit. The quality of the sound on this CD is excellent and I love that artwork.
The album starts with "Let the Good Times Roll." Ray bats this straight out of the ballpark and that music fits in perfectly with Ray's vocalizing. Indeed, that music was really, really fine--it features Ray's band teaming up with the bands of Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Quincy Jones made some terrific arrangements, too. "It Had to be You" has a big band arrangement that works wonders for this tune; Ray sings with so much genuine emotion it stuns me with its beauty. I simply have never heard a better rendition of "It Had to be You;" Ray corners the market on this tune. Similarly, "Alexander's Ragtime Band" shines brighter than silver and gold combined when these fine artists handle it like the pros they were and always will be! I really like the music on "Alexander's Ragtime Band."
"When Your Lover Has Gone" gets a most sensitive treatment from Ray Charles, who sings and plays piano on this without a superfluous note! The brass sounds great in the musical arrangement and "When Your Lover Has Gone" lacks nothing--this music is all THAT good. "Deed I Do" is another superb tune that gets the royal treatment from Ray and the gang; and we enjoy the benefits!
The remaining six songs are arranged by Ralph Burns who certainly knows his territory. "Just for a Thrill" uses the strings well and Ray's piano playing is quite good. Ray's voice is clear and strong; and that's all right by me! Ray is squarely in the spotlight and I have no complaints about that. "You Won't Let Me Go" features Ray's singing and piano playing although the strings could have been somewhat more muted--but make no mistake about it, this is still Ray's song and he delivers it with panache.
"Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" charms me with its beauty; this gets a wonderful treatment and the backup vocalists harmonize flawlessly. Ray sings this to perfection--and beyond! His piano playing, of course, leaves nothing to be desired. "Am I Blue" is an old standard which I first heard sung by Ethel Waters; but I think Ethel would be proud of Ray's rendition here! "Am I Blue" is a huge highlight of this album; it's classic blues done right. The CD ends strong with Ray and the musicians performing "Come Rain or Come Shine." I've heard many renditions of this tune and I think this one is terrific. They play just a little bit with the keys and the tempos to put their own stamp on this ballad and it all holds its own very well.
The Genius of Ray Charles certainly is a must-have for his fans; it's truly one of his best albums. I'm glad this made it to CD! This is equally good as a starter CD for people just discovering the magical talent of the immortal Ray Charles.