Unlike the soundtrack for his Jerry Lee Lewis biopic Great Balls of Fire, director Taylor Hackford didn't have Ray Charles re-record his classic songs for the soundtrack of his Charles biopic, Ray! Instead, he selected 17 songs of Ray at his '50s and '60s peak, skillfully balancing selections from both Atlantic and ABC to create a surprisingly successful and thoroughly entertaining overview. While 17 tracks can't contain all of his best work -- there's not too much of his jazz playing and just a little bit of his country-soul recordings, plus singles from "Lonely Avenue" to "Busted" are MIA -- it does hit all of the best-known songs ("I Got a Woman," "(Night Time Is) The Right Time," "Georgia on My Mind," "Hit the Road Jack"), mixing in a couple of relatively obscure tracks (such as barnburning, transcendent early R&B cut "Mess Around") and adding excellent live renditions of such staples as "Hallelujah I Love Her So," "What'd I Say," and "I Can't Stop Loving You." The end result may not be definitive, but it surely is a good introduction that will no doubt whet the appetites of listeners who were turned onto Ray Charles because of Hackford's film.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine