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This review is from: The Definitive Ray Charles (Audio CD)
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.