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Album: Ray Charles

Ray: Soundtrack, ATLANTIC / RHINO / WSM

The first must-see movie of 2005 is the Ray Charles biopic Ray, an absorbing piece of work featuring a stunning, Oscar-tipped performance from Jamie Foxx in the title role. It undoubtedly helped that Foxx was already an accomplished pianist and singer, although the producers have wisely decided to stick with Charles's original versions, rather than emulate Kevin Spacey's ill-advised decision, in his recent Bobby Darin biopic, to use his own re-creations of the songs. Then again, how on earth would you set about replicating such seminal pieces as "Mess Around", "Hallelujah I Love Her So" and "Hit The Road Jack", keystone building-blocks in the creation of rhythm & blues? Ray Charles was the first to fuse gospel with blues to create soul music, using his Raelettes to bring the call-and-response chemistry of preacher and "amen corner" from church to club in songs such as "(The Night Time Is) The Right Time" and "What'd I Say"; and then, at the height of his fame, he was the first black artist to successfully delve into country music, scoring huge successes with songs like "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Georgia on My Mind". All these and more are included here, some in vibrant live versions. Of course, with such a vast catalogue to choose from there are bound to be omissions, but there's not a track here that you'd want replaced.