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.
The Genius Sings the Blues began as a simple compilation. Comprised of a dozen songs Ray Charles made between 1952 and 1960, the collection was released in 1961 by Atlantic Records to counter the singer’s migration to rival ABC Paramount. What Atlantic originally underestimated is that the album contained many of Charles’ greatest works, all unified by their bluesy emotions and stirring arrangements. A classic of the soul and R&B canon, The Genius Sings the Blues is a snapshot of the evolution of timeless American music captured by the pianist’s indelible rhythmic pace, gospel roots, jazz backgrounds, and Southern-styled accents…
Recorded in 1985, The Spirit of Christmas finds Ray Charles performing a variety of holiday favorites with vocal assistance from the Raelettes and an appearance by jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. The ten tracks mix standards and originals, including "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and the ballad "That Spirit of Christmas," which was featured in the movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The Spirit of Christmas is perfect background music for any holiday celebration.
Most of this CD features vibraphonist Teddy Charles heading an advanced tentet in 1956, a unit including the likes of trumpeter Art Farmer, altoist Gigi Gryce, tenor saxophonist J.R. Monterose, pianist Mal Waldron, and guitarist Jimmy Raney. The arrangements of George Russell ("Lydian M-1"), Gil Evans (a year before Miles Ahead), Jimmy Giuffre, Mal Waldron, and Charles are quite advanced but often leave room for some swinging spots.