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Ray Charles – Genius Loves Company 
By Zane Ewton

Genius Loves Company was the last album that Ray Charles recorded before he passed away earlier this year.  This is a duets album with some of the most varied and successful artists in music today.  At its core it is a laid back album that gives Ray Charles a chance to show his strengths.

While uneven in spots, the album is enjoyable and a nice tribute to the career of Ray Charles as he works with all the generations he influenced on this album.

The first duet is with the youngest contributor to the album, Norah Jones on “Here We Go Again.”  Charles and Jones trade piano lines and verses.  The styles meld together well on the bluesy track.  “Sweet Potato Pie” with James Taylor may be too middle-of-the-road to stand up next to the other songs here.  The horn section doesn’t help with its generic interludes that have been heard countless times before.

Charles seems to sound more soulful sharing a song with a female voice.  “You Don’t Know Me” with Diana Krall follows along the lines of the Norah Jones track.  The light orchestration accompanies Charles piano well.

“Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” with Elton John is a big weeper.  All subtlety flies out the window during the guitar solo and the song is never able to recover and carry the power it was building from that point on.

Charles does a great version of “Fever” but Natalie Cole fails to match him.  "Fever" would have been much better as a solo.  Bonnie Raitt lends her voice and slide guitar to “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind.”  This track stands out from the rest, just a really good song.

“It was a Very Good Year” with Willie Nelson is overshadowed by the orchestration.  Two of the most distinguishable voices in music do not need the orchestra from “Lord of the Rings.”  Equally overblown and ready for the elevator is “Hey Girl” with Michael McDonald.  Pass right by it.

“Sinner’s Prayer” with B.B. King and Billy Preston on piano oozes soul.  At their worst, Charles and King is an amazing combination.  This is followed by an equally amazing gospel choir and Gladys Knight performing “Heaven Help Us All.”

“Over the Rainbow” with Johnny Mathis seems like an odd choice but both singers inject enough personality to make it something different.  The gospel choir comes back for the final track, “Crazy Love” with Van Morrison.  Recorded live, this track feels the best.  IT feels good.

That is essentially what this album is supposed to do, make you feel good.  Ray Charles’ voice is so recognizable and emotive; he doesn’t need some of the overblown arrangements that a few of these songs have.  He is at his most potent with just his voice and a piano.
 



CD Info 

Ray Charles – Genius Loves Company
Label: Concord Records
Rating
 
Tracks:
 Here We Go Again - (featuring Norah Jones)
Sweet Potato Pie - (featuring James Taylor)
You Don't Know Me - (featuring Diana Krall)
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word - (featuring Elton John)
Fever - (featuring Natalie Cole)
Do I Ever Cross Your Mind? - (featuring Bonnie Raitt)
It Was A Very Good Year - (featuring Willie Nelson)
Hey Girl - (featuring Michael McDonald)
Sinner's Prayer - (featuring B.B. King)
Heaven Help Us All - (featuring Gladys Knight)
Over The Rainbow - (featuring Johnny Mathis)
Crazy Love - (featuring Van Morrison)
Listen to samples and Purchase this CD online


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