The fact that Genius Loves Company
will be Ray Charles's final new album inspires an unavoidable blue feeling. But it's also a happy reminder that the man spent the last months of his life at work. The overall effect of these dozen duets is not only autumnal, but smooth; Brother Ray is on point and cruising here. Fine moments abound--you can hear his delight even in the rather stiff company of Diana Krall and Natalie Cole. His voice sounds a bit frayed by ill health at times, but it also allows for great performances (the slyness behind the ache in his version of the old soul hit "Hey Girl" with Michael McDonald; a grand "Crazy Love" with Van Morrison). Potently, he and Gladys Knight also remind us of the continued timeliness of Stevie Wonder's "Heaven Help Us All." Its best moments make Company
one more essential purchase for Ray Charles fans. --Rickey Wright
"I've recorded with so many amazing artists in my career but never on a duets album of my own. I thought it was time to have some of the friends that I love & the artists that I admire come into my studio & sing with me live, the way we did it in the old days," explains Ray Charles on the genesis of Genius Loves Company. "All the guests brought their own magic to each song. That's what we wanted & that's exactly what we got." Ray's confidence is understandable. Genius Loves Company stands as a remarkable hallmark in a remarkable career. In his brilliant debut for Concord Records, Ray sings a dozen duets with a dazzling array of guest artists from virtually every genre, who have won a combined 79 GRAMMYr Awards. "We cover it all," Ray adds, "from country to R&B, pop, rock & blues. I've never let them put me in a little box, & this CD expresses that open feeling. A beautiful song is a beautiful song-and to sing with so many beautiful singers is a blessing from God."