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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 31 December 2004
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.
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There are plenty of Ray Charles compilations to choose from - some focusing on a particular era or a particular aspect of Ray's career. This particular compilation is the first to combine his fifties music (recorded for Atlantic) and his sixties music (recorded for ABC-Paramount) on one collection - it also includes a few tracks from more recent times.

The most famous of his early songs is probably the often-covered Hallelujah I love her so. What'd I say and I've got a woman are among the other great songs from Ray's fifties music that are included here. All those three were written by Ray, although he also recorded songs written vy others even then. Fans of Ray's fifties music will need to buy a compilation devoted to those recordings - on this set, there are just 15 tracks from this era (about right for this compilation).

It is the sixties with which Ray will be forever associated and which is most strongly represented here. Despite Ray's ability to write his own songs, the two songs for which he is best remembered are both covers. Georgia on my mind is a Hoagy Carmichael song from 1931, while I can't stop loving you is a country song written by Don Gibson. In both cases, Ray did them his own way, broadening their appeal considerably.

I can't stop loving you was one of many country songs that Ray adapted to the R+B style. Some of his fans deserted him, but these recordings gained him more fans than he lost. What Ray showed was the main difference between different styles of music was the presentation - not the songs themselves. His re-interpretations of country songs are represented here by tracks 1 to 7 and track 9 of CD 2. Actually, he'd dabbled with the idea in the fifties, as his cover of I'm movin' on (CD 1, track 13) shows.

Among his other great recordings of the sixties are Baby it's cold outside (a duet with Betty Carter), Hit the road Jack (with Margie Hendrix), That lucky old sun, Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby.

After the sixties, Ray's success was limited, but he still had the talent. In 1984, he recorded a country album of duets with various country singers - it really was a country album, unlike his sixties covers. That album is represented here by Seven Spanish angels - a duet with Willie Nelson. Other (non-country) duets from the eighties are also included - Shake your tailfeather (with the Blues brothers) and I'll be good to you (with Chaka Khan).

The collection closes with an outstanding cover of Imagine, recorded for a French TV commercial in the late nineties.
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on 23 August 2001
This is a brilliant compilation and an excellent introduction to the 'Genius'.All the well known classics are here such as Georgia on my mind,What i say,Unchain my heart,Hit the road jack,Mess around,as well as a version of Baby its cold outside.Check this out,this has jumped into my top 10 fav cds!
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on 25 August 2004
I bought this CD for my dad who is a Ray Charles fan. I always considered him old fashioned but this cd opened my eyes. Charles was innovative and his style is varied. There were a few tracks that would only appeal to die hard fans but I now have my own copy - he was a truly great artist
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He is a great artist with a long career recording for many different labels. The fact that he has recorded for so many labels has meant that the compilations available before this one miss out on his work on other labels. Therefore they are not really a best of but a best of on that label. This compliation is 2 Cds and has the best of his recordings whatever the label, and as I udnerstand it this is the first time this has happened. Therefere this really is a best of from his early days to the more recent. Covering rock, pop, country, blues, soul and jazz but all in his own style unmistakenly Ray Charles. He has been called a Genius and he is. I am not going to mention songs because you can see the list. The sound quality is excellent. The content really is a 'definitive' best of his work. If you have some interest in Ray Charles, this is definately the place to start. Superb collection. Value for money. Very highly recommended.
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on 4 January 2002
Great compilation. Like Van Morrison or Charlie Rich he is one of those artists with such a natural feel for the music that it makes definitions pointless. It doesn't matter whether the song he is playing is nominally blues, soul or country, it's all Ray.
There's hardly a duff track on here, but my personal favourites are Georgia on my mind (of course), You don't know me, Seven Spanish Angels, The Night Time is the Right Time and That lucky old sun.
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on 9 May 2014
Definitive is the right word for this double CD overview of the work of this piano-playing singer-songwriter who could always be found sporting a tuxedo. Why? It features the very best songs from this soul legend's large, but uneven back catalogue: the likes of 'I've Got A Woman'; 'What I'd Say'; 'Mess Around'; 'This Little Girl Of Mine'; 'Drown In My Own Tears'; 'Hallelujah I Love Her So', and 'Georgia On My Mind' all feature here. In doing that it shows off the breadth of his output: we get his early R&B; the soul epics: the big ballads; the 'modern sounds in country and western'; the Latin-jazz experiments, and a few of his duets for good measure.

The compilers have also show discernment in recognising that though Charles had enjoyed a long career prior to his death in 2004, his best work was undoubtedly made in the 1950s and 1960s - 40 of the 46 tracks featured here come from that golden period. The few choices which are made from his more recent past - such as the version of John Lennon's 'Imagine' which closes this collection - stand up well in any comparison with the likes of 'One Mint Julep', 'Unchain My Heart', and 'I Can't Stop Loving You'.

However, this well-liked 2001 compilation from Atlantic/Rhino could have been made even better by providing some basic track annotation - such as noting the year of each song's original release - to accompany the fairly lengthy liner note.
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on 8 March 2013
I am not a great fan of Ray's but I cannot fault his cover versions of the country hits included here, the are brilliant and it must have come a bit of a shock to all those country stars to hear Ray's personal versions, they simply blow me away. The album is a cert for his fans and really if you are a true Ray Charles fan how can you not buy it.........5stars all the way!!
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on 25 September 2009
Having first heard Ray Charles in the early 1960's, and collected a few LP's which are now too crackly to play, I was delighted to pick up this great double CD, which covers more or less the length and breadth of his career starting with songs like "Mess Around" and "It Should've Been Me" from 1953, right through to John Lennon's "Imagine" in 2001.

For me, his music hasn't dated at all, although my favourites come from the late 1950's/early 1960's: things like the seminal "What'd I Say" which every rock'n'roll band worth its salt, included in their repertoire at the time; "I Got A Woman" which I'd always associated with Elvis Presley but later realised that the Charles version was really the definitive one; "Lonely Avenue" from the pen of the prolific Doc Pomus; "This Little Girl Of Mine" which again, I first heard via a cover version (The Everly Brothers); and "Drown In My Own Tears" which first reached my ears through the instrumental version by Chet Atkins.

Ray Charles covered so many genres that it's unfair just to label him as an R & B artist. Certainly this was where his roots originated but he had the innate ability (like I think Elvis Presley had) to take a wide range of material and put his own unmistakeable stamp on it. From the first few bars of his songs you knew who it was and you knew it would get the inimitable Charles treatment.

Another aspect of his career that appeals to me, is the various adversities he faced - blindness, poverty, heroin addiction - and overcame. For this reason I think, the feeling that he put into his songs was authentic and meaningful.

For some reason I find the R & B repertoire suits mono sound - it's somehow more punchy and crisp - especially on tracks like "Mess Around" and "Leave My Woman Alone". Once the stereo era arrived, however, he began to widen his horizons, and the smooth arrangements of "Georgia", "Can't Stop Loving You", and "Ruby", for example, come over with great effect.

Another fact which had escaped me, was that he played a pretty mean saxophone and could hold his own on the jazz-flavoured material. It didn't surprise me to discover that he had worked with several fairly big-name jazz musicians at some stage in his career.

What more can I say? Whether you're an ageing music fan like myself, or a younger listener curious to know what Ray Charles was all about, go out and get this collection and listen to musical history in the making.
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on 16 February 2008
My whole career as a sound engineer started from the inspiring music from Ray Charles. Pure talent and passion. What better way to celebrate it than to have this superb CD.
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