In discussing Ray Charles, local trumpeter Frank Mitchell once stated, “I don’t know who first called him ‘The Genius,’ but they sure hit the nail on the head.” That quality of ‘genius’ is fully evident on these previously unreleased sides just as it was on most of his music released during his lifetime. Charles is simply Ray here. He’s equally sad, happy, sassy, humble and always a playful perfectionist. He touches several style bases along the way, including blues, country, pop, jazz, funk and swing. Oddly though, many of the songs have a common theme: squandered love and the squandering of love.
Although there’s no information on the advance copy, my guess is these sides were cherry-picked from various sessions recorded in the 1990s. The attractive opener, “Love’s Gonna Bite You Back,” swings along nicely, pushed by punchy brass section and Charles’ magnetic vocals. He also personalizes the Annie Laurie R&B warhorse “It Hurts to be in Love” by slowing down the tempo and letting the orchestra add some jazzy flourishes. The lush “Wheel of Fortune,” with its prominent strings, will remind listeners of Charles’ early 1960s work at ABC. “I’m Gonna Keep Singin’” also turns back the clock, but to the early 1970s when bass started poppin’ and synthesizers snuck into the funk. “There’ll Be Some Changes” reminds us that no one wants you when you’re old and grey, while on the other hand, “Isn’t It Wonderful” confirms that just because there’s snow on the mountaintop, that doesn’t mean there can’t be fire down in the valley.
Really a fine CD from beginning to end. Recommended to Ray Charles fans and fans of really good music.