Ray Sings, Basie Swings, huh? Hmm, well, yes and no. You see, the story goes something like this. In 2005, Concord Records exec John Burk, who produced Ray Charles' superb late-career, Grammy-winning Genius Loves Company, found a reel of tape simply labeled "Ray/Basie." Upon further analysis, it was determined that the 1973 recording featured Ray Charles backed by his own band -- Count Basie and his band had actually recorded earlier that day. Charles' vocal was exceptionally prominent in the mix and at first it was thought that this potentially momentous discovery would prove unable to bear fruit. But then Burk brainstormed and decided to bring the current Count Basie Orchestra -- whose leader died in 1984 -- into the studio to lay tracks behind Charles' vocals. So there's no Basie on Ray Sings, Basie Swings, but that's merely a technicality, because there is some great music. Charles was in fine form vocally on this mix of remakes of his early ABC-Paramount-era hits and then-recent material. The consecutive reworkings of "Busted," "Cryin' Time," and "I Can't Stop Loving You," three of his defining Top Ten hits of the early '60s, are given brassy, bluesy treatments here, and standards ranging from Oscar Hammerstein II's "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" to the Beatles' "The Long and Winding Road" are transformed in Charles' hands. The set-closing "Georgia on My Mind," as close to a signature song as Charles had, is given a tender, minimalist reading, but the track preceding it, "Look What They've Done to My Song, Ma," picked up from the folk-pop singer Melanie, is quite possibly the album's highlight. It's appeared on other Ray Charles compilations before, but the gospelized, testifyin' version featured here has got to be the liveliest take on that song anyone's ever devised. So, yeah, there's no Count Basie to be found here, but his namesake orchestra does him proud. For one of those postmortem studio patch jobs that owes as much to technology as talent, it's a fine addition to the Ray Charles oeuvre, as long as one can get past the semi-false advertising of its title.
AllMusic Review by Jeff Tamarkin