Location: Victoria, B.C., Canada

Welcome to my music blog. I will from time to time be reviewing and talking about some of my favourite cd's and performers. I would love to hear from others that enjoy the same kind of music as I do. I mostly listen to old 60-70's rock, big band/swing, blues and jazz and contemporary young performers who sing the old standards as well as some seasonsed rockers who are also singing these lovely old tunes by Gershwin, Cole Porter, etc.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Ray Charles - Genuis Loves Company

Where do you start with a CD like this? It is so awesome that Ray Charles had a chance to finish this CD before he passed away. It's quite a legacy he left us with. Although you can sense the weakness in his voice compared to earlier recordings, I think that is part of the charm of this, his last CD... knowing what he must have endured just to finish this CD... and that he was doing what he loved most right to the end... recording beautiful music for us to enjoy.

And the performers he chose to accompany him on this CD. Wow, what a list... most of which are favourites of mine as well. From contemporaries like Norah Jones and Diana Krall, both of which I must have everything they've recorded, to the greats that I grew up listening to like James Taylor, Gladys Knight, Van Morrison and of course one of my all-time favourites, Mr. B.B. King.

The artists on this CD have won a combined total of 79 Grammies and come from many genres of music... from gospel and blues to jazz and pop. It took a year for this CD to be completed in the studio and was released March 2004, shortly before Ray's death in June 2004.

  • Bonnie Raitt: "I’ve been a devoted fan of Rays since I first heard him as a kid. A family friend gave me a box of all his albums when I was about 12 and he’s been a huge influence on my music. 'Do I Ever Cross Your Mind' was one of my favorites from his Country/Western albums and I think singing it as a duet makes it even more powerful. Getting to record with Ray has been a lifelong dream and being part of this project has been one of the proudest and most moving moments in my life."

  • Michael McDonald: "To be singing with Ray Charles, two feet away from him live with an orchestra was pretty unbelievable. 'Hey Girl' is the ingredient that makes the moment even more special to me because I know how much Ray loves that song."

  • Natalie Cole: "I have grown up with Ray Charles’ music and I have always thought of him as the quintessential Soul Man---the flip side of Nat King Cole, if you will. Ray is a musical genius on piano and in voice. The consistency and substance of his work and his career is something for any musical artist to aspire to. His arrangements are always rich, soulful, but elegant, and he knows how to have fun. I am proud to have worked with him on this endeavor."

  • Willie Nelson: "A lot of folks want to pay tribute to Ray Charles, and I’m glad a lot of us are getting the opportunity to do that. Ray and I are very good friends and there’s no one any better, as far as I am concerned, at what we do. Recording with Ray was an extraordinary experience. Who would have thought that guys like use would still be out there recording and doing stuff. That’s what makes it special."

  • B.B. King: "Brother Ray is so good. It was great to have the opportunity to work with long-time friends like him and Billy Preston. We were a sight; three old timers burning through this historic blues track. I cannot express how much it meant to me to sing alongside Ray on one of his hits from his early career."

  • Elton John: "When people mention Ray Charles, I just smile. That grin, that voice, his music is so joyous. For this recording, we did one of my songs, 'Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest World,' which he had sung at a concert last year. That blew me away that Ray Charles was on stage singing one of my songs. It was amazing to sit in the studio and sing with him. It’s so incredibly impressive to be with someone to which music had meant so much. He had an enormous effect on my career. Anything he put out, I bought. He has one of the greatest voices of all time. So, it was a very emotional experience."

  • Johnny Mathis: "I was so nervous to be in the same studio as Ray Charles. He is not just an ordinary singer, musician or icon. He’s the best of the best. 'Over the Rainbow' is such a wonderful song and it suited us both so perfectly. I was salivating over the arrangements. Now, I am most excited to see how people react to this whole recording because it is dynamite. They are going to want to have it as a keepsake. What I will take away from it all was the privilege of recording in the same studio as Ray. It was a highlight of my life."

  • Norah Jones: "I just love everything about Ray Charles. He could sing any song, and it sounds like Ray Charles and it sounds amazing. There's nothing I could say to do him justice. I love him so much. He as big an influence on me you can get. I couldn't believe that I got to sing with him. It was such an honor."

  • Gladys Knight: "When recording or performing with Ray I always knew I was in presence of greatness. A true legend in his time and mine; it is always an honor to work with him. I grew up with watching and learning so much from Ray. I am so blessed to have had a mentor such as him to teach me such great things about life and our industry."

  • Van Morrison: "Performing the duet ‘Crazy Love’ with Ray Charles was a great pleasure. It was an inspiration to work with someone of such musical genius. Ray is someone that I have admired since I started in music. He is a soul brother in every sense of the word."

Some reviewers have been somewhat critical of the choices of songs and the matchings in the duets. As far as I'm concerned if these reviewers had any talent of their own they would be making hit records themselves, which they apparently aren't. *g* If you are a Ray Charles fan like myself, you will love this CD and appreciate it for the gift that it is. It is a very fitting farewell CD from one of the greatest musical legends of our time... sung the only way Ray knew how to sing... with soul!

Tracks of Genius Loves Company
1. Here We Go Again with Norah Jones
2. Sweet Potato Pie with James Taylor
3. You Don't Know Me with Diana Krall
4. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word with Elton John
5. Fever with Natalie Cole
6. Do I Ever Cross Your Mind with Bonnie Raitt
7. It Was A Very Good Year with Willie Nelson
8. Hey Girl with Michael McDonald
9. Sinner's Prayer with B.B. King
10. Heaven Help Us All with Gladys Knight
11. Somewhere Over The Rainbow with Johnny Mathis
12. Crazy Love with Van Morrison

If you haven't had the chance to see the movie, "Ray", go out and rent it. It's an awesome movie. It doesn't show Ray Charles' life through rose-coloured glasses at all. It shows all the nitty gritty stuff of his life which contributed to his genius when he sang. The acting in it is superb. Quincy Jones, who grew up with Ray Charles in Seattle, was quoted as saying that at times he couldn't tell Jamie Foxx's portrayal of Ray from the real Ray. The movie will give you an even greater appreciation of this legendary singer.

Genius Loves Company won eight Grammy Awards, including Best Album of the Year and Best Record of the Year (Here We Go Again with Norah Jones). Additional Awards include: Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Pop Vocal Collaboration (Here We Go Again), Best Gospel Performance (Heaven Help Us All with Gladys Knight), Best Surround Sound Album, Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical, Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompany Vocalist, Over The Rainbow (Victor Vanacore).

Ray Charles died at his home in Beverly Hills on Thursday, June 10, 2004 at the age of 73.

Thank you Ray for all the wonderful music you have given us over the past six decades. You'll never be forgotten by your fans.