Music Review: Ray Charles - Genius Loves Company - 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

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Hard to believe it has been ten years since the passing of the legendary Ray Charles. Here we have Concord Music Group’s fitting recognition: a tenth anniversary deluxe reissue of the artist’s final album, Genius Loves Company. The original release featured a dozen duets with as many different artists. A can’t-miss prospect, especially given the commercially fortuitous (yet, of course, poignantly bittersweet) timing of its release (Charles passed at age 73 just two months before Company hit stores), it topped Billboard’s album chart and cleaned up handily at the Grammy’s. Though not an artistic stretch, the album is an irresistibly classy showcase that offered ample evidence of Charles’ ability to emote via song right up to the end.

The remastered reissue adds two bonus tracks: “Mary Ann” with Poncho Sanchez and “Unchain My Heart” featuring Take 6. The former is the winner—it could’ve easily made the final cut. The latter doesn’t really fit the album’s concept as it isn’t a duet, just a showcase for the vocal group (it’s an interesting reworking of the song). The original album remains a charming and fitting conclusion to Charles’ storied career. “Fever,” with Natalie Cole, is light and playful. Trading lines with Willie Nelson, “It Was a Very Good Year” is broodingly serious. Though Company doesn’t feature many younger performers, the opener—a remake of “Here We Go Again”—benefits from a breezy co-vocal by Norah Jones. The material isn’t challenging and Charles’ voice clearly shows its age in places, yet the album manages to be a vital part of his already incredible discography.

Genius display (380x328).jpgConcord’s deluxe package includes the all-new, 56-minute documentary “The Making of Genius Loves Company.” Boasting interviews with many of Charles’ vocal partners and other members of the creative team, this is a warm look back on the recording of the album. We also hear from Charles himself in a few then-contemporary interview clips. There’s a lot of a glad-handing and back-patting on display as everyone congratulates themselves on making a great record. It’s hard to hold that against anyone, however, as it’s clear the album holds a special place in the hearts of all who worked on it. Poignantly, we’re treated to a bit of footage of Charles singing in studio what would prove to be his final vocal track. The album’s Grammy triumph is also touched upon, with a montage of clips from the awards telecast.

A Limited Collector’s Edition box set is forthcoming (November 11) which will include the movie Ray on DVD. A 180-gram vinyl edition will be out in time for the holidays (December 9). For more information, visit the official website of Concord Music Group.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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