There can be no doubt about the excitement producer John Burk felt when going through Ray Charles' studio vault and discovering hundreds of unreleased songs. Burk, who produced Charles' final studio album, Genius Loves Company, narrowed the massive selection down to nine songs from there, along with one additional track he licensed from Sony. He assembled the album from material recorded between the '70s and the '90s, trying to assemble the flow of an actual album using genuinely unreleased tunes. Many of them were in various stages of completion; some were merely sketch demos. Burk did what has become de rigueur in the 21st century: he added studio players to complete "unfinished" tracks. Depending on your historical point of view, this can be problematic: would it have been better to simply present the songs as they were? Perhaps. That said, what is here is tastefully done and feels at least somewhat organic. He respectfully treated the source material as economically as possible. This was made easier because Charles' singing -- even on the demos -- is top grade. "Love's Gonna Bite You Back" from 1980 weaves soul, gospel, and jazz in a moving arrangement with a full original studio band including horns and strings. "It Hurts to Be in Love," from the same period, is a nocturnal soul-blues with strings; with Charles on Rhodes, and the band tight, bright, bold, and untouched. "The Wheel of Fortune" from a 1972 session features studio horns, strings, and Charles' voice and smoking piano; Burk added Chuck Berghofer's upright bass and Greg Field's drums to finish the cut beautifully. "I'm Gonna Keep on Singin'" is a finished track; nothing was added. It features killer vibes work and the Raylettes and it's pure Charles' R&B. "Isn't It Wonderful" is the sexiest cut on the set, with Larry Goldings and others filling it out naturally. Problems arise with the skeletal blues demo, "There'll Be Some Changes Made," where added musicians including Keb' Mo''s guitar and Bobby Sparks' organ create a distance between the emotion in the vocal and the slicker accompaniment. The same feeling pervades "I Don't Want No One Else But You," where a larger studio band recorded over Charles' own; it's too polished to feel natural. The set closes dramatically with a soulful reading of Kris Kristofferson's "Why Me Lord" as Charles plays a funky electric piano and sings gospelized backup to Johnny Cash's lead vocals. This wasn't in Charles' vault, but it belongs here. While there are some aesthetic and historical issues with this type of recording (perhaps there should have been a bonus disc of the original tracks), Burk did an admirable job of presenting Charles as the genius he was; giving fans a solid set of new performances.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek