Album: Ray Charles

Genius Loves Company, LIBERTY
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The Independent Culture

The duets album usually forms part of a strategy designed to resurrect an artist's career. It's a bit late for that with Ray Charles, which rather destroys the raison d'être of Genius Loves Company - though there are, nonetheless, one or two performances here worthy of wider attention. Not "Here we go Again", on which Norah Jones all but dissolves at the side of Charles's commanding presence; nor "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word", where Elton John's melodramatic delivery jars with Charles's more quietly soulful reading. But Natalie Cole, on "Fever", achieves a more authentic, playful interplay, and Gladys Knight scores by returning Charles to his church roots for "Heaven Help Us All". Elsewhere, a live duet of "Crazy Love" with Van Morrison is as charged as you'd expect - something that couldn't really be said of Charles and Diana Krall's work on "You Don't Know Me". It's perhaps no coincidence that the best cuts are those done with the oldest collaborators. "Sinner's Prayer", w

The duets album usually forms part of a strategy designed to resurrect an artist's career. It's a bit late for that with Ray Charles, which rather destroys the raison d'être of Genius Loves Company - though there are, nonetheless, one or two performances here worthy of wider attention. Not "Here we go Again", on which Norah Jones all but dissolves at the side of Charles's commanding presence; nor "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word", where Elton John's melodramatic delivery jars with Charles's more quietly soulful reading. But Natalie Cole, on "Fever", achieves a more authentic, playful interplay, and Gladys Knight scores by returning Charles to his church roots for "Heaven Help Us All". Elsewhere, a live duet of "Crazy Love" with Van Morrison is as charged as you'd expect - something that couldn't really be said of Charles and Diana Krall's work on "You Don't Know Me". It's perhaps no coincidence that the best cuts are those done with the oldest collaborators. "Sinner's Prayer", with BB King, is a relaxed but fiery blues jam, while the duet with Willie Nelson on "It Was a Very Good Year" succeeds despite overly flamboyant orchestration, by dint of the contrast between Nelson's characteristically underplayed, matter-of-fact vocal and Charles's more expansive, soulful interpretation.

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