King of Cool: The Genius of Ray Charles
Ten years on from the passing of Ray Charles you could be cynical about commercial motives and the idea of a record company stitching together yet another compilation to convert whoever is left/re-sell to the faithful – but c’mon, that’s just part of the business. So you could, ahem, turn a blind eye, and just lose yourself in this pretty immaculately chosen three-CD set of 73 songs. It’s really this simple: you either need this or you don’t. If you have this already – these songs, all readily available across previous comps and original albums – then you do need this. You need some Ray Charles in your life and this is a more than decent one-stop collection. Kicking off with Mess Around and I’ve Got A Woman and Hard Times and Drown In My Own Tears this is essentially the widescreen version of the movie soundtrack from a few years back.
But it’s more than that because in lesser known – but still wonderful – songs like You Be My Baby and in perennial favourites (Hallelujah I Love Her So, Georgia On My Mind) this offers the very best of cherry-picking from across the period 1952-1961. What a decade. He really was unbeatable.
You’ll get your Hit The Road Jack and your Let The Good Times Roll, your Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying and your Unchain My Heart but if you’ve only ever dabbled around the hits-area before – or if you have some of his forays into straight jazz and country and western and those perfect soul/R’n’B amalgams but want something more than just a single-disc hits offering (as backup) then this is the one.
Yes, yes, it’s been put together to scab in some dollars for an anniversary – timed right with the ten-year mark since his passing. But you can’t hold that against such wonderful music. The only reason not to have this is if you already have these songs – it’s some of the very best music you could ever have, from a true genius – that overused word, here it was almost somehow lacking as a descriptor.