In 1959, Ray Charles released The Genius of Ray Charles, still considered one of his finest albums. Now, 50 years, hundreds of accolades, awards, hits, and a motion picture later, Ray Charles is again putting out a new album, albeit a compilation. And the genius that was back in 1959 seems to resonate just as much now. Part of Charles’ appeal was the fact that when asked what kind of music Charles made, critics couldn’t simply toss out one genre or niche that thousands of cookie-cutting artists fall into so easily. Country? Yes. Blues? Definitely. Rock? Yes. Gospel? That too. Soul? Without question. Just listening to the opening track off this 21-track collection, “Hit the Road Jack”, symbolizes how versatile Charles was. Part jazz, part swing, and completely solid, the tune shines despite being all of 119 seconds. This compilation should be in your emergency gift stash to pull from when you forgot someone – anyone, on or off your list, will love this album
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