Ultimate Hits Collection

by: Ray Charles

James Brown may be "the hardest working man in show business," Aretha Franklin may be the Queen of Soul, but as Ultimate Hits Collection proves, the most apt nickname in all of music may belong to Ray Charles: the Genius. Forget for a moment that fitting all of Charles' hits on a mere two CDs is not remotely possible. Almost any Ray Charles greatest-hits compilation is going to be excellent, and this one is better than most, if only because it's two-discs long. Ultimate Hits Collection follows the path of Charles' work as it cruises through the genres he so richly influenced: R&B, pop, jazz, blues, and country. The standard favorites are here from Charles' repertoire, but what sets this compilation apart are the lesser-known tracks. "Mess Around" and "Hide 'Nor Hair" are certainly not as popular as "Hit the Road Jack," but they are no less enjoyable. The most welcome inclusion is Charles' version of the country classic "You Don't Know Me," which is often left off of other Charles retrospectives. Of the multitude of duets he has recorded, two appear here. "Seven Spanish Angels" with Willie Nelson and "I'll Be Good to You" with Quincy Jones and Chaka Khan are fine choices, but adding "Baby Grand" with Billy Joel could have pushed the collection from great to superb. The liner notes are lengthy and compelling, featuring some great photos, and the packaging, with each disc in its own jewel box, is functional. The sound quality is also superb, considering some of the recordings were almost 50 years old at the time of this release. ~ Mark Vanderhoff

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