Ray Charles
" Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles "

Rating 8

Bob Putignano says that the five-CD box set "Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles" is a great documentary of what was (arguably) Ray Charles' most productive body of work. A hundred and six Brother Ray tracks in one box! Amen to that!" Chip Eagle for Blueswax.

If You Haven't Already Collected These, This Is The Box For You

Brother Ray made his way to the top of the charts at Atlantic Records but when his contract was up for renewal Charles signed on with ABC-Paramount, who offered him one of the most lucrative contracts of its time, and perhaps ever. So from 1960 to 1973 Charles recorded under the ABC moniker, which is the subject of this five-CD box set, titled Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles, which is now being distributed by the Concord Music Group. Of note: these one hundred and six tracks have all been re-mastered and the sound quality is definitely enhanced and noticeably improved. Additionally this well manufactured box set comes with a booklet that contains informative notes about each and every track which are in chronological order, there's also a 45-rpm single sleeve. Cute! Obviously all the big hits are here. "Hit the Road Jack," "Georgia on my Mind," "Unchain My Heart," "Baby, It's Cold Outside," "I Can't Stop Loving You," "You Don't Love Me" are just some of the chart-toppers that are offered on the first disc, and there are plenty more. Yet what makes it for me are the other lesser-known tunes like "Smack Dab In the Middle," "I Chose to Sing the Blues," "I Don't Need No Doctor," "If It Wasn't For Bad Luck," "Feel So Bad," "Every Saturday Night," and plenty of others which make good reason for having this set as part of your collection. That is if you don't already have them compiled on countless other compilation offerings. Thus I would advise Brother Ray fans to check the song titles to see if you might already have a chunk of these tunes in your library.

Upon departing ABC, Charles continued on with a vibrant career, including a 1988 album he made for Columbia with B.B. King, Lou Rawls, and Milt Jackson titled Just Between Us. The entire price of admission can be made for the tune "Save the Bones for Henry Jones," where Ray and Lou Rawls trade off vocals and jive each other out of site, with Milt Jackson's vibes on board.too. It's a precious tune. But back to the main theme of this box set. Singular Genius is a well done documentary of what was (arguably) Ray Charles's most productive body of work. Is this box set essential? Yes, if you want all of these ABC singles (A and B sides) at your fingertips, but perhaps not if you are like others who have many of these songs on other singular albums and/or other box sets/compilations. So you'd have to be the judge of that.

In summary, Concord has done a very admirable job of putting forward and archiving this era of Ray's career; it's a great place to start for those who have limited access to Charles' recordings, as it is arranged, packaged, and documented it in top-shelf-like fashion. Which recalls an old concept: Remember when box sets like this were readily offered for the winter holidays season? Well if Santa didn't quite fulfill your wish list or gift list, what better way to educate (or re-educate) a friend or family member by giving a surprise gift that will continually keep giving for many years to come: Ray Charles Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles. Happy New Year!

Bob Putignano a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at www.SoundsofBlue.com. Bob maybe contacted at: bob8003@yahoo.com

Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com