It seems that if anyone passes away these days, they are proclaimed a genius for the weeks following their death. With Ray Charles though, his sad loss was not what prompted the genius tag, but the real and tangible genius that he possessed.
I did not own any Ray Charles CD's before his untimely death, but always loved his music. I bought this, and gave myself the proverbial kick up the backside for not buying some of his work earlier. This is a great collection of all his best work, from his first hits up to some of his last material recorded. It doesn't cover his very early material, but then how can you produce a complete collection when someone has recorded so many great songs?
The early hits are very interesting in that they are so unlike the material that we have come to know him for, but as you listen to song after song on this CD, you can hear a man developing his style from the early trio of piano, bass and drums to the more complex arrangements that we all know so well. The earlier material then gets a country feel to it, but in his lifetime he rarely got any recognition from the snobbish Country and Western fans in the US. His rendition of songs like 'I Can't Stop Loving You' just blow away the original.
As he started getting wide recognition, the songs just grew in stature, and it seemed like there was no style of music that he couldn't utilise. Brilliant versions of other people's songs such as 'Rainy Night in Georgia' just make you marvel at his arranging skills.
I for one will be buying more Ray Charles, but this CD is the perfect place to start.