Concord Music Group releases the Ray Charles Forever album, which includes re-mixed and re-mastered versions of some of Ray's classic hits and the previously unreleased "They Can't Take That Away From Me."
Ray Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004), better known by his shortened stage name Ray Charles, was an American musician. Charles was a pioneer in the genre of soul music during the 1950s by fusing rhythm & blues, gospel, and blues styles into his early recordings with Atlantic Records. He also helped racially integrate country and pop music during the 1960s with his crossover success on ABC Records, most notably with his Modern Sounds albums. While with ABC, Charles became one of the first African-American musicians to be given artistic control by a mainstream record company.
James Brown may be "the hardest working man in show business," Aretha Franklin may be the Queen of Soul, but as Ultimate Hits Collection proves, the most apt nickname in all of music may belong to Ray Charles: the Genius. Forget for a moment that fitting all of Charles' hits on a mere two CDs is not remotely possible. Almost any Ray Charles greatest-hits compilation is going to be excellent, and this one is better than most, if only because it's two-discs long. Ultimate Hits Collection follows the path of Charles' work as it cruises through the genres he so richly influenced: R&B, pop, jazz, blues, and country. The standard favorites are here from Charles' repertoire, but what sets this compilation apart are the lesser-known tracks. "Mess Around" and "Hide 'Nor Hair" are certainly not as popular as "Hit the Road Jack," but they are no less enjoyable. The most welcome inclusion is Charles' version of the country classic "You Don't Know Me," which is often left off of other Charles retrospectives.
Ray Charles was the musician most responsible for developing soul music. Singers like Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson also did a great deal to pioneer the form, but Charles did even more to devise a new form of black pop by merging '50s R&B with gospel-powered vocals, adding plenty of flavor from contemporary jazz, blues, and (in the '60s) country. Then there was his singing; his style was among the most emotional and easily identifiable of any 20th century performer, up there with the likes of Elvis and Billie Holiday. He was also a superb keyboard player, arranger, and bandleader. The brilliance of his 1950s and '60s work, however, can't obscure the fact that he made few classic tracks after the mid-'60s, though he recorded often and performed until the year before his death.