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December 1998

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Ray Charles
The Birth of Soul

Editor's Note: The following review first appeared in the Phoenix Blues Society's Blues News in March 1992. While there have been several other Ray Charles compilations since then, this set is still the one by which the others are measured.

Ray Charles - The Birth of SoulForget that sugar-free caffeine drink that Ray Charles is pushing on TV --- THIS is the right one, baby! This three-CD boxed set, containing Brother Ray's complete Atlantic recordings from 1952 to 1959, is, to put it simply, just plain fantastic. There's not a weak cut among the 53 songs. It's easy to see why Charles was called "the genius" at Atlantic Records.

My love for blues singers who keep one foot in the jook joint and the other firmly planted in the choir loft has been well documented by now. No performer, before or since, has straddled that line between the sanctified and the secular better than Ray Charles.

His big hits are here, tunes like "Mess Around," "I Got A Woman," "This Little Girl Of Mind," "Drown In My Own Tears," " Hallelujah I Love Her So," "The Right Time," and "What'd I Say."

But you'll really cherish this box for the equally good, but lesser known numbers like "The Sun's Gonna Shine Again" (his first for Atlantic), the fun tune "It Should Have Been Me," "A Fool For You" (exceptional!), "Hard Times," and "Tell The Truth."

Ray Charles is truly one of the greatest American musicians ever. Everyone needs to have this set in their collection.

--- Bill Mitchell

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