Handsomely appointed, Concord's Singular GeniusThe Complete ABC Singles
offers an example of intelligent and succinct programming and assembly in the waning days of the compact disc. This individual items collection were produced during the heyday of the 45 RPM single, which is to say during the time of alphanumeric telephone exchanges. It represents all of Charles' ABC single releases between 1960 ("My Baby, I Love Her Yes I Do") and 1973 ("Ring of Fire"). What exists in between is nothing less than the most important soul and rhythm and blues recordings of the period.
Between 1953 and '59, Charles recorded for Ahmet Ertegun
and Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records, where he fused blues and gospel, creating what would become soul music, introducing this new hybrid with songs like "Mess Around," "I Got A Woman" and "Hallelujah, I Love Her So." It was no small controversy at the time, Charles' melding of the sacred and profane into the most exciting popular music being made at the time.
When Charles' contract ended in late 1959, he signed with ABC-Paramount Records, where he was offered a more lucrative contract than typical at the time, including more generous royalties and, more importantly and unique, eventual ownership of his masters. Charles was also given carte blanche
creative control over his recording. Initially, he stayed the course of what he started at Atlantic with singles like "Sticks and Stones" (covered by Joe Cocker
on Mad Dogs and Englishmen
(A&M, 1970)), "Hardhearted Hannah," "Hit The Road, Jack" and "Unchain My Heart." However, Charles did indicate an alternate direction with the release of "Georgia On My Mind," where the singer revamped the old Hoagy Carmichael
classic and, once again, changed the course of popular music.
In April 1962, Charles released Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music
, often cited by writers as Charles' finest, and most important recordings. It spawned a string of hits that included Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You," Eddie Arnold's "You Don't Know Me" and the traditional "Careless Love." Here, Charles fuses his recently minted soul sound with Country and Western music, producing a product that was to bring him his greatest crossover success and widest popular exposure.
It was this final fusion that carried Charles to both the end of his ABC association and waning popularity in the face of rock music and the 1970s. This is not to imply that Charles was done creatively. With his place in popular music history ensured, Charles ultimately became what Louis Armstrong
was late in his life: an artistic ambassador for America and the world. The soundtrack for this ambassadorship is what populates Singular GeniusThe Complete ABC Singles
a collection that, by assembling music of such enduring importance, is head and shoulders above any of its competitors.
Personnel: Ray Charles: piano, organ, saxophones, vocals; other musicians not