Box set: Ray Charles

Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings, RHINO / ATLANTIC
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The Independent Culture

Although his greatest commercial successes came during his Sixties tenure at ABC/Paramount, few would dispute that Ray Charles' most influential work was done during his seven-year association with Atlantic Records, a period covered by this eight-CD anthology. Packaged to resemble an old mono record-player, it tracks how the blind genius brought gospel inflections and structures to R&B modes to create soul, altering forever the course of popular music (and race relations). The first disc has the greatest impact, thanks to monster grooves such as "Mess Around", "It Should've Been Me", "I've Got a Woman" and "Hallelujah I Love Her So"; subsequent discs find Charlesincorporating the jazzier strains of the Soul Brothers album recorded with vibraphonist Milt Jackson, and his saxophonist David Newman's album Fathead, while the final disc has a complete show from the 1960 Newport Festival. The most interesting diversions, however, appear on the Rarities disc of outtakes and demos, which features the pianist running through works-in-progress, breaking off midway through pieces to discuss ideas and options with Ahmet Ertegun, and occasionally letting his muse lead him through improvisations, piano versions of the deep-indigo blues style of T-Bone Walker.