CD Review: Ray Charles – Ultimate Ray Charles Collection and – Modern Sounds In Country and Western Music (Concord Records)

ray_charles_smokingA true music legend in every respect, the late Ray Charles released a ton of classic discs in his near 50 year career as an American musical icon. These are but two of them but thankfully the wonderful folks at Concord have decided to give Charles’ extensive catalog the love and respect it deserves and has an aggressive reissue plan in place to bring Charles’ music back to the marketplace with bonus tracks and better sound than ever before. These two albums are just the most recent installments in that plan.

The first album, a new Greatest Hits comp, is simply a must-own if you are interested in Charles’ music and are looking for one great disc to sample his work and get your collection off to a great start. Just about every one of Charles’ biggest hits is included and, being a big fan of Charles’ work, I have bought a lot of comps featuring Charles’ music and this is the most comprehensive yet, The sound of the CD is also excellent and whoever re-mastered Charles’ music for this release went the extra mile for sure.

On the other hand, if you are wanting to build up a collection of noteworthy albums by Charles, you can hardly do better than to start with the albums many consider to be his best: Modern Sounds of Country and Western Music Volumes 1 and 2 which have been gathered and reissued on one CD thanks to the fine folks at Concord. I could go on and on regarding the many characteristics of this all-time classic which make it one of the best albums of all time, but suffice to say one of the most important is the fact Charles recorded this as an album-length statement at a time when singles were the accepted musical statement from artists. Another would be Charles being known as primarily an R&B/rock singer who was African-American and recording an album full of country songs, a genre of music most accepted by and listened to primarily by whites. In other words, there were a lot of ways in which this project was doomed to fail but only by the sheer talent and business savvy of Charles did it succeed and succeed mightily, spawning many singles and just about cementing his position as the pre-eminent American musical icon second only to Elvis in terms of longevity.


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