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THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION
Released - April 7, 2009 on Concerd Records. Produced by Ray Charles, Jerry Wexler, Ahmet Ertegün, Sid Feller, Joe Adams
Ray Charles - Lead Vocals, Piano, Organ
- Backing Vocals
The Ray Charles Orchestra - Instrumentation; Don Wilkerson - Saxophone; David Newman - Saxophone; Bennie Crawford - Saxophone; Hank Crawford - Saxophone; Billy Mitchell - Saxophone; Leroy Cooper - Saxophone; Renald Richard - Trumpet; John Hunt – Trumpet; Marcus Belgrave – Trumpet; Thad Jones - Cornet; Frank Wess - Saxophone; Freddie Green - Guitar; Edgar Willis - Bass; Milt Turner - Drums; plus others not noted.
When I think back of the very first songs I loved as a child, well there were several, yes, but Ray Charles sang more of those songs than any of the other artists who I heard and liked. Twenty of the twenty-one songs on this greatest hits album were released by Ray in the 1950s and '60s, including all the ones I recall loving as a kid, and I think this album does a great job in covering these years that saw Ray at his very best.
Ray Charles seemed to cover every genre of music there was, and in this collection we get to enjoy R&B, Soul, Jazz, Rock, Gospel, Country and Blues music. He was one of those who's singing voice made you feel the song he sang, deep down, plus he was excellent on the keys, too.
It's almost impossible for me to pick one song out of this bunch and say it's my favorite, as any of the ones I rated a ten would be that favorite song - while it's playing, anyway. "I've Got a Woman" is the earliest release of the songs on this album, recorded in October of 1954 and released two months later, yet it sounds years ahead of it's time. Still a couple of them here sound like they could had been released 20 years earlier. "I Can't Stop Loving You" is one of those. Ray could not have sang this ditty better, even if I don't care for the way producer Sid Feller arranged for the way the backing vocals sound. "Georgia on My Mind" is another older sounding song, and although Ray's cover was released in 1960, the tune was old, written in 1930, and it had been covered by many others before he gave it a try. But not only did Ray's version make this number a hit, his cover became the official state song of Georgia. Yet the funny thing about this one, is that when the song's lyrics was written by Stuart Gorrell, they had nothing to do with the state of Georgia. The song was written for Georgia Carmichael, the sister of Hoagy Carmichael - who wrote the music to the song.
Some of the hard hitting masters on this LP would be "Hit The Road Jack", with a nice vocal sample by Ray's then girlfriend and lead singer of the Raelettes, Margie Hendricks; and "Let's Go Get Stoned ", a song from Ashford and Simpson that Ray covered directly after he kicked heroin.
If you prefer more mellow songs, you can't beat the Country song "Crying Time", or the way he covers The Beatles' "Yesterday". Plus has anybody sang "America the Beautiful" any better than the way Ray sang it?
So yes, if you want to hear some of Ray Charles' best songs from when he was in his prime, this would be the album to get your hands on.
- Keno 2012
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