Ray Charles

The Best of Ray Charles: The Atlantic Years

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Taking one of the most interesting bodies of work in the history of American music and trying to narrow it down to one 20-song compact disc would seem to be the sort of project that's doomed to failure, and there's little arguing that this collection of Ray Charles's classic Atlantic Records sides merely skims the surface of some of the most groundbreaking music in the history of rhythm and blues. But that's not to say that the surface in question isn't quite satisfying, and as an introduction to Charles's most crucial period of creative growth, The Best of Ray Charles: The Atlantic Years offers nearly all the hits, some choice lesser-known cuts, and an admirably accurate representation of his creative arc from this period, starting with rough-and-tumble jump blues such as "It Should've Been Me" and "Greenback" and growing into heartfelt but sophisticated proto-soul masterpieces like "What'd I Say" and "Drown in My Own Tears". One disc simply isn't enough to tell Ray Charles's full musical story from this period, but what is here is all top-shelf stuff, and the selection and sequence of this collection should please both longtime fans looking for a portable sampler and neophytes easing their way into Ray's Atlantic catalog. The mastering and packaging is done with Rhino's typical degree of care, and besides, who wouldn't enjoy a disc with "I Got a Woman," "Hallelujah, I Love Her So," "Lonely Avenue," "Night Time (Is the Right Time)," and "This Little Girl of Mine" on it? (By the way, if you happen to be the type who wouldn't enjoy a disc like that, you might want to ask yourself just why you're reading record reviews in the first place.)

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