11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic authentic overview of this multi-talented musician,
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This review is from: Original Album Series (Audio CD)
Presented in this box set are 5 early albums from one of the twentieth century's greatest musicians. For anyone not familiar with Ray Charles they display a surprisingly varied output that demonstrates Ray's talents in the fields of blues, jazz and soul.
First up is the 1957 album "The Great Ray Charles", which displays Ray in a "jazz" setting, his piano playing just a part of a crack selection of jazz musicians who give this album a mellow feel with much blue tonality. From these sessions, Atlantic Records also put together a second 8 track album called "The Genius after Hours", not released until 1961. This is also included in this box set. Both of these albums are great to unwind to and personally I have never tired of them, always finding something new in them. It should be noted there are no vocals on either of these two albums.
The next disc in this set is "Ray Charles At Newport", recorded in 1958 in stereo. This is a mixture of rousing jazzy instrumentals with some fantastic bluesy vocal performances including Ray's famous track, "I've Got A Woman", here in 6 minutes and 24 seconds of primal emotional intensity that never tires, always moving, twisting and turning into one of the greatest vocal performances I have ever heard.
The next album included is "The Genius of Ray Charles", an album from 1959, which is my personal favourite. The first 6 tracks show Ray in a big band setting from the rousing "Let The Good Times Roll", arranged by Quincy Jones to more mellow fair like "It Had To Be You" to the storming brassy jazz of Irving Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band". Sensational! However, side two (on the old vinyl LP) is possibly even better consisting of 6 luscious ballads with gorgeous string backing arrangements and the most soulful male vocals I have ever heard. Tracks like "Tell Me You'll Wait For Me" and "Don't let The Sun Catch You Crying" can stir the deepest emotions. Not for nothing is Ray Charles considered by many to be the "Father of Soul".
Finally there is the 1961 compilation "The Genius Sings The Blues", 12 cuts of blues and gospel derived magic that sums up his Atlantic recordings to date (1961). Wonderful!
Finally a word about the packaging in this box set. Each album is a facsimile of the original vinyl LP on both the front and back covers. There are no bonus tracks, which personally for me enhances this package as you get to listen to the albums as they were intended. On the back of each album are the original notes which can be read providing your vision is sound! If not, a magnifying glass is needed. Each album is under 40 minutes long which is perfect for one sitting.
For me, Ray Charles is clearly as innovative and groundbreaking in his way as an act like the Beatles were in pop/rock later on. These albums are from Ray's most fertile artistic period, although it must be said that there are many other classic albums by Ray Charles that could have been included. For anyone interested in his work this package makes a fantastic introduction.