1. (00:03:45) Ray Charles - Crazy love [with Van Morrison]
2. (00:04:35) Ray Charles - Do i ever cross your mind (With Bonnie Raitt)
3. (00:03:31) Ray Charles - Fever (With Natalie Cole)
4. (00:04:33) Ray Charles - Heaven help us all (With Gladys Knight)
5. (00:04:00) Ray Charles - Here we go again (With Norah Jones)
6. (00:05:16) Ray Charles - Hey girl (With Michael McDonald)
7. (00:05:00) Ray Charles - It was a very good year (With Willie Nelson)
8. (00:04:55) Ray Charles - Over the rainbow (With Johnny Mathis)
9. (00:04:25) Ray Charles - Sinner's prayer (With B.B. King)
10. (00:03:59) Ray Charles - Sorry seems to be the hardest word (With Elton John)
11. (00:03:48) Ray Charles - Sweet potato pie (With James Taylor)
12. (00:03:55) Ray Charles - You don't know me (With Diana Krall)
Playing Time.........: 00:51:41
Total Size...........: 312,60 MB
NFO generated on.....: 28.02.2009 20:44:00
:: Generated by Music NFO Builder v1.19 - www.nfobuilder.com ::
Ray Charles truly gave back to the world of music. In his last album, a series of duets, aptly titled "Genius Loves Company", Charles and his collaborators give us that eclectic mix of styles he was known for.
There are a couple of tracks, recorded early in 2004, when Ray was ill, where his voice and manner are notably subdued. There are three miscalculations of the choice of songs that he made with his collaborator. There are the inevitable difficulties of harmonizing with Ray -- (a man who had a knack for never singing a song the way you expect someone to), and those come through in some of the duets, although most feature echo singing and response, and little harmony.
What a thrill to be asked to work with Ray on one of his previous hits....Gladys Knight is his featured partner in his gospel classic, "Heaven Help Us All". Backed by a choir, Ray and Gladys mix richly. Ray has several blues cuts on the CD -- the best of these is "Sinner's Prayer" with BB King. Ray jams on the piano and BB gives Lucille a workout, with some background Hammond B3 by the legendary Billy Preston. Ray and BB have a natural mix on one of Ray's oldest songs. Some close harmony in the country blues cut "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?" shines through in the featured song with Bonnie Raitt -- produced by Phil Ramone, it is a great mix of vocals and blues guitar. Ray first did the song at the beginning of his career. There's a changeup from country in the old Eddy Arnold standard, "You Don't Know Me" with Ray and Diana Krall. Ray first did it in 1962, and the song is made richer with the jazzy counterpoint of Krall's flawless voice--another contribution from Phil Ramone. And starting the album, Ray collaborates with a relative newcomer, Norah Jones, in his 1967 blues hit - "Here We Go Again". The song is strong throughout, but fades a bit at the end where Ray and Norah struggle trying to mix harmony. Preston's contribution on the Hammond B3 is flawless in this collaboration.
Even better than being asked to work with Ray on one of his own songs is the honor of having Ray want to sing one of yours in a duet. Ray introduced and inducted masterful songwriter Van Morrison into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in the summer of 2003, and their resulting duet, to Morrison's "Crazy Love" (from his amazing album, "Moondance") kick started the whole duet album concept. It is the only live performance on the CD, and it amazes in that Morrison completely changes his approach to the song given the way that Ray begins it. A flawless exercise (again, with Ramone producing) in musicianship!
Another pop icon, Elton John, contributed the last song recorded, and the one where Ray's voice is the most feeble, but yet haunting. True to form, his lead in the song gives Elton John an opportunity to sing his part in a completely different manner than his original recording. The song is silk, with a full string accompaniment and a brooding, sultry feel that is perfect for both.
The third artist who contributed a song and a duet is the wonderful James Taylor. I've never been a fan of his ditty, "Sweet Potato Pie", and although it seems a logical choice for he and Ray -- it is one of only three "passable" songs.
The other two songs that didn't quite cut it? Both are classics, and in both, Ray works with another genius. Unfortunately, both songs are overproduced and the mix of styles and voices doesn't work well. With Johnny Mathis in "Over the Rainbow" -- Ray can't get Johnny to leave the standard melody and presentation of the old song. Ray's bluesy counterpoint doesn't blend well, and the song is regrettably, just ordinary. One can't help but contrast it to the amazing Eva Cassidy version of the same song. Perhaps the weakest duet on the album is a contrast in style and song, with Willie Nelson on the Sinatra standard, "It Was A Very Good Year". In an overblown, orchestra-laden approach, arranger Victor Vanacore leaves you feeling the production had nothing to do with the singers....it was a la Sinatra. Either Ray or Willie could have done a credibly different version of the song as a solo, but together, the mix didn't work.
One of Ray's favorite songs was a 60's pop tune called "Hey Girl"...wisely, he performs with a king of blue-eyed soul, Michael McDonald. Strangely, Ray takes the high part, and McDonald, known for his incredible range in the high register, gets to exercise his lower range, although at one point, he lets his pipes fly. With a full power orchestra, this song works, and the playful, tongue in cheek way in which Ray approaches it, makes it a highlight.
But, saving the best for last, the only real jazz combination on the CD is Ray's duet with Natalie Cole on the classic, "Fever". They are smooth as velvet and in perfect combination on the song. "Fever" is known as a jazz torch song for a woman, but somehow, this duet, more playful and and unique than any version I've heard, is my favorite of all the songs on the CD.
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