– 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.
– Genius Loves Company
Here We Go Again - (featuring Norah
Sweet Potato Pie - (featuring James Taylor)
You Don't Know Me - (featuring Diana Krall)
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word - (featuring
Fever - (featuring Natalie Cole)
Do I Ever Cross Your Mind? - (featuring
It Was A Very Good Year - (featuring Willie
Hey Girl - (featuring Michael McDonald)
Sinner's Prayer - (featuring B.B. King)
Heaven Help Us All - (featuring Gladys
Over The Rainbow - (featuring Johnny Mathis)
Crazy Love - (featuring Van Morrison)
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