Category: Ray Charles

Ray Charles – True Genius

ARTIST: Ray Charles


TITLE: True Genius

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation


SINGLES: Top 10: Georgia on My Mind (#1 US, #3 R&B, #24 UK), Ruby (#28 US, #10 R&B), One Mint Julep (#8 US, #1 R&B), I’ve Gor News for You (#66 US, #8 R&B), Hit the Road Jack (#1 US, #1 R&B, #6 UK), Unchain My Heart (#9 US, #1 R&B), Hide Nor Hair (#20 US, #7 R&B), I Can’t Stop Loving You (#1 US, #1 R&B, #1 UK), You Don’t Know Me (#2 US, #5 R&B, #9 UK), You Are My Sunshine (#7 US, #1 R&B), Take These Chains From My Heart (#8 US, #7 R&B, #5 UK), No One (#21 US, #9 R&B, #35 UK), Busted (#4 US, #3 R&B, #21 UK), Baby Don’t You Cry (#39 US, #7 R&B), Makin’ Whoopie (#46 US, #10 R&B, #42 UK), Crying Time (#6 US, #5 R&B, #36 UK), Together Again (#19 US, #10 R&B, #48 UK), Let’s Go Get Stoned (#31 US, #1 R&B), Here We Go Again (#15 US, #5 R&B)< Yesterday (#25 US, #9 R&B, #44 UK), I’ll Be Good to You (#18 US, #1 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: In the Heat of the Night, I Don’t Need No Doctor

LINEUP: Ray Charles, the Raeletts, and session players and sometimes guests.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A compendium of Charles’ best tracks after leaving Atlantic Records. There’s some great stuff but it also showcases his decline as a performer and an influencer on the charts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Did you know that after 1963, Ray Charles only had one Top 10 pop hit? That he had just one #1 R&B hit after 1962? The decline of Ray Charles on the charts, which was steep after his groundbreaking Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music sets (1962 and 1963, is quite telling in this set.

In this set, Charles and / or his producers tried to be all things to all people. He dabbled in jazz, focused on C&W for a couple of years, returned to R&B and rock on occasion, and made most of his records in the vocal pop arena where his records were competing with many others. Charles, many times, had corny arrangements, too many strings, and backing vocals that inhibited him. He also had a heroin habit that he couldn’t kick until 1965.

He also owned his masters for this era, so recording fresh material wasn’t a big priority for him when his hits started to get play on oldies stations. Except for occasional sightings on the charts, he was more of a nostalgia act with a few C&W and R&B duets. As this set goes on, you wish that his voice wasn’t wasted on gunky adult contemporary ballads and unnecessary cover versions.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: His third arrest in 1964 was the one that got him to kick the habit. He had to choose rehab or jail, and wasn’t released from parole until 1966.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, and many of his post-Atlantic albums aren’t streaming, so you’re stuck with this.

GRADE B:  His Atlantic Records set is well worth the investment in time and money, even if you’re not a Charles completist. This, not so much. You have to pick and choose to avoid the syrup.

Ray Charles – The Complete Atlantic Recordings 1952-1959

ARTIST: Ray Charles charles

TITLE:  The Complete Atlantic Recordings 1952-1959

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation


SINGLES: His only Top 10 pop was What’d I Say, but he had five R&B #1’s (I Got A Woman, A Fool for You, Mary Ann, Drown in My Own Tears, and What’d I Say) and a boatload of other charting R&B hits in the 50’s.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Night Time Is the Right Time and Hallelujah, I Love Her So both hit #5 R&B

LINEUP: Ray Charles, his band and the Raelettes, with guests like Milt Jackson.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The complete set of Atlantic masters for the Genius, along with some studio outtakes and chatter.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Ray Charles was a genius. Listening to his 1950’s Atlantic recordings certify that. He could play the blues, jazz, swing and R&B without a hitch. He had a natural knack for songwriting, rhythm and arrangement. He was without serious peer as an R&B musician in that decade.

What’s surprising for most people not that familiar with Charles’ work is his jazz playing. He brought the blues to jazz (and jazz to the blues, to be honest). While he wasn’t as technically proficient as a jazz pianist, he had a knack for finding a groove, and using his jazz skills he was able to vamp and improvise on blues songs.

There’s a lot of material here, and it’s probably best digested in discrete chunks. It’s in chronological order by recording date, except for the last part which is studio outtakes. If you like Charles, you probably need to hear this whole thing. This is probably a better bet than the individual albums, as Atlantic cobbled them together from various sessions.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “What’d I Say” was originally a vamp they did at a show when they were short of material. The crowd loved it so much that Charles decided to record it.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION:  No – I mean this has every Atlantic master take!

GRADE: A: It’s long, and the studio chatter takes are disposable. This is Ray Charles and he is a genius!