Ray Charles Ray Review

Released 2004.  

BBC Review

In terms of the sounds that sired soul, Ray is - as Ray was - definitely where its at.

Simon Morgan 2004

Singer, composer, arranger, piano player and sonic alchemist, Ray Charles combined jazz, country, gospel and blues to create soul music itself. Accompanying the biopic Ray, this disc contains milestone tracks from 1957-1962, plus live recordings hand-picked by the man simply tagged 'The Genius'.

Charles wrote just six of these seventeen tracks himself. Yet he made each as distinctively his own as his trademark sunglasses and razor-sharp suits. Ray includes classic studio takes of "I've Got A Woman", "Unchain My Heart" and "(Night Time Is) The Right Time". If these songs' call-and-response refrains and brass-laden riffs still impress, think how acolytes like James Brown and the founders of Stax and Motown must have felt at the time.

Here too are "Mess Around" and "Hit The Road Jack". Fronted by Charles' revolutionary chordal piano style, these keyboard-driven tear-ups retain all the dynamism that inspired British-beat bands like The Animals and Manfred Mann. Likewise, Charles' gospel-infused vocals ring as true now as when helping shape Van Morrison, Steve Winwood and a generation of other singers, here and in the US.

Signature versions of "Georgia On My Mind" and "Drown In My Own Tears" show the Georgia-born artist could ballad with the best. From 1962's Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music come "Born To Lose" and "Bye Bye Love"; laced with lush strings and choirs, these songs were first condemned by r'n'b purists as schmaltzy sell outs. But today they highlight Charles' sheer musical eclecticism, and vitally counterpoint his earlier earthier style.

However, it was in front of his own driving band that Charles leaped highest over musical boundaries. Six euphoric live takes, including "What'd I Say", "Hallelujah I Love Her So" and "I Can't Stop Loving You" prove the point.

Of course, no soundtrack could indicate Charles' full range. Missing is any original recording from the last 42 years of his life: a period that, although it had its fair share of tepid covers,included highlights like 1993's My World.

In terms of the sounds that sired soul, Ray is -as Ray was - definitely where it's at.

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