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Category:    Home > Reviews > Blues > Pop > Multi Channel Music > Ray Charles - Genius Loves Company (SACD)

Ray Charles – Genius Loves Company (SACD)

 

PCM 2.0 Stereo: B     DSD 5.1: A-     Extras: C     Music: B+

 

 

It is with some irony that like Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles has his first huge hit album in decades with a set of duets and then also passes away.  A big hit for the great Jazz label Concord, Genius Loves Company (2004) nearly hit the top of the national album charts and proved once again that the buying public is tired of the no-talents the major labels keep peddling.  The question many wonder is if the disc is worth getting.  Especially when it is available in a great hybrid SACD edition like this one, the answer is a definite yes.

 

Charles still had his voice and it was actually more nuanced than ever, all the more reason it is so shocking he is gone, because no sign of ill health can be detected on the following tracks:

 

1)     Here We Go Again with Norah Jones

2)     Sweet Potato Pie with James Taylor

3)     You Don’t Know Me with Diana Krall

4)     Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word with Elton John

5)     Fever with Natalie Cole

6)     Do I Ever Cross Your Mind with Bonnie Raitt

7)     It Was A Very Good Year with Willie Nelson

8)     Hey Girl with Michael McDonald

9)     Sinner’s Prayer with B.B. King (plus Billy Preston)

10)  Heaven Help Us with Gladys Knight

11)  Over The Rainbow with Johnny Mathis

12)  Crazy Love with Van Morrison live

 

 

Needless to say the guests give the best performances they can, all big fans of the legend that all owe him some degree of thanks for building the very industry they have thrived in.  If the diversity of talents was not enough, Charles ability to transcend genres is as unbelievable as always, morphing into the acoustic world of James Taylor, going Gospel with Gladys Knight, meeting in an unusual Blues world with Elton John, getting deeply Blue with fellow pioneer B.B. King, joining Michael McDonald in his recent cycle of revisiting Pop & Soul classics of the 1960s and 1970s, easing into a Frank Sinatra classic with Willie Nelson, and fitting into the Rock/Jazz world of Van Morrison as an appropriate rounding out of the set.  He also scores well with the newer vocalists, but his passing makes all this all the more poignant.  The songs hold up after several listens and are some of the more pleasant alternate sets of these hits that you are likely to hear.  It is special, of the moment and the quality lives up to its commercial success.

 

The hybrid SACD offers a strong PCM 2.0 Stereo CD layer and a more impressive Direct Stream Digital 5.1 mix that brings out these recent recordings very well, the kind of newer artistic and commercial success the format and 5.1 music in general needed.  Though a CD-only version is also produced, this will play on all CD players, just not some DVD-Video players, which is why the CD-only version is also produced.  The producer is Concord Records’ own John Burk, but Phil Ramone produced some of the songs (namely tracks 4, 5, 6, and 12) and there is just something about everything he produces that tends to lend itself to multi-channel playback.  Despite some limitations, this is why the multi-channel SACDs of his brilliant Billy Joel albums The Stranger and 52nd Street are still two of the best (and my favorite) back catalog albums in the format.  Burk and Concord are supporting the audiophile format in a way it needs and deserves.  Ramone just continues his extraordinary record of ace production and this all makes for a fine demonstration of how good 5.1 music can really be, so audiophile fans who may only be interested if this is a sonically superior presentation should get a copy immediately.

 

In an amusing twist, with so many videophiles in the press complaining about SACDs not having any video, this disc offers footage via the Enhanced CD format that is simply CD-ROM on an audio CD.  It translates just fine here, including footage of Charles form a 1985 shoot by photographer Norman Seeff that makes for a nice bonus.  Though a DVD-Audio can fit more footage, this debunks the myth that SACD cannot offer any.  The Taylor Hackford film Ray (2004) with Jamie Foxx’s uncanny performance will inspire more people to seek out Charles’ many extraordinary recordings, and Genius Loves Company is a late, great collection (much like Marvin Gaye’s Midnight Love late in his career) that should be celebrated for years to come.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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