Ray Charles: Rare Genius – The Undiscovered Masters

Spruced-up set of Ray Charles vault finds

Of course, this should really be titled “The Previously Undiscovered Masters” since they’ve obviously been discovered at this point, but that quibble aside, this is an impressive set of ten tracks that were, for one reason or another, left in the can. Waxed in the 70s, 80s and 90s at Charles’ RPM International Studios, some of the tracks emerged from the vault completely finished, and some were fleshed out with matching contemporary arrangements. There’s soul, blues and jazz, as one would expect from a Ray Charles album, but there are a few examples of his affinity for country, as well. A cover of Hank Cochran’s “A Little Bitty Tear” is sung as gospel blues, and the album’s biggest surprise is a finished duet with Johnny Cash covering Kris Kristofferson’s “Why Me, Lord?” The latter, produced by the legendary Billy Sherrill in 1981, has Cash singing lead in his resonant baritone while Charles provides soulful electric piano and backing vocals. Charles sounds terrific on all ten tracks, elevating the players (both then and now) with his soulfulness. Producer John Burk (who helmed Charles’ last album, Genius Loves Company) has done a magical job of melding the vintage productions with the new work, creating an album that’s a  great deal more cohesive than you’d expect from a set that began its life as disparate vault recordings. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

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