Ray Charles - The Genius of Ray Charles (1959)
Wit this, his third album, the man who single-handedly created Soul by blending R&B, Blues, Jazz and Gospel tried his hand at something akin to "Big Band Fusion", backed up by Basie and Ellington alumni with lush arrangements by Quincy Jones. It works, of course, as pretty much everything Ray Charles ever attempted always seemed to. Side One is pure bombast, a high energy romp through some old favorites from the Great American Songbook, to most electrifying effect in "Let the Good Times Roll" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band". But it's Side Two that stands out, here. Jones elevates Charles' distinctive, beautiful croon to the top of the mix, so you can hear every tortured sigh of his incredibly expressive delivery. Here is the Ray Charles who would go on to become a national treasure in his lifetime, with good reason.
Had I heard it before? About half the songs.
Did I like it then? I have always loved Ray Charles, and he is forever locked with Willie Nelson, Jim Croce and Joan Baez in my mind, because of a few cross-country trips where the only cassette tapes we had in the car were those four Best Of collections.
Do I like it now? Yes.
Will I be keeping it? Yes.
Standout Tracks? "Let the Good Times Roll", "Alexander's Ragtime Band", all of Side Two