Concord records began celebrating Ray Charles' 80th birthday with the release of Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters
, a collection of masters recorded during the '70s, '80s, and '90s, when the singer/pianist was largely silent, having forever changed American music in the '60s. These selections, housed in the vault of Charles' RPM International Studios in Los Angeles, were left as skeletons, filled out in preparation for this release by the likes of Keb' Mo'
, Bobby Ray Sparks
, and Chuck Berghofer
What these songs amply demonstrate is that youth is wasted on the young, and that Charles could have held his own in the kingdom of Stevie Wonder
. The disc's opener, the original "Love's Gonna Bite You Back," is a brilliant combination of Wonder's best Motown material, strained through Memphis, Tennessee into a glass of Alabama moonshine. Charles sings like a man who has seen and done all. Confident, ebullient and absolutely certain, Charles demonstrates that he was a showman with no peer. The tasteful accompaniment brings the temperature into summertime and the engineering provides a clear dry day. Let's hope there is much, much more of this.