Prior to a couple of years ago, I never really knew what Ray Charles's backstory was. I always sort of thought of him as the guy in the Pepsi ads and in the Blues Brothers, and the singer of "I Can't Stop Loving You" - pretty good music, but also in some way uninspired or irrelevant. I was wrong. As this package shows, he was a towering genius long before Pepsi came along. He was an inspired piano player, and he could do it all - jazz, stride, R&B, New Orleans. He had a totally unique rhythmic sense, which clearly informed James Brown and other "soul" artists. Over the course of this package, you hear him shape his voice into an incredibly expressive instrument - he's great both at singing the song straight and adding subtle embellishments to the melody that are dead on perfect (and never overused). Unlike other artists, especially at the time, who were confined to niches, he wasn't afraid to take on all different kinds of styles - from jump blues ("It Could Have Been Me" or "Greenbacks") to New Orleans ("Mary Ann") to blues ("Hard Times" or "What Will I Do") to numbers that mix them all up with jazz and gospel, like "What'd I Say?" or "Talkin' About You." He put together a great band that could play hard-core jazz with as much facility as R & B (Check out his band on his saxophonist David Newman's jazz albums). And finally, it seems to me that he used the studio in innovative ways long before many other artists - like on "What Kind of Man Are You" and "I'm Movin' On." And while his songwriting isn't always brilliant, it is at least always very strong, and he has a good ear for cover tunes that suit him well. Any one of these strengths alone would qualify him as great, but he's rightly called "The Genius" for putting all these things into one package. Highly recommended.