Glossary entry for
Charles, Ray

The following passage is taken from The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's page on Ray Charles (September 23, 1930 - June 10, 2004):

Nicknamed "The Genius" for his mastery of every style he tried, including gospel, blues, country and jazz, Ray Charles synthesized them into one form known as soul music.

"I've Got a Woman" and "What'd I Say" dominated the rhythm and blues charts, "I Can't Stop Loving You" tapped the country vein, and "Georgia on My Mind" and "Hit the Road, Jack" rose to the top of the popular charts.

The following from Jim Chiarelli:

Ray Charles is in my opinion and that of many others just about single-handedly responsible for what we call soul music, the amalgamation of jazz, blues, and gospel. Gospel is key: that's what RC brought to the party that changed everything.

Regarding his recordings, unfortunately much of his classic and most influential Atlantic catalog is out of print, though Rhino has released two absolutely essential box sets of this material. Some individual titles are available on individual CDs. His post-Atlantic material on ABC-Paramount is available only in bits and pieces as there have been legal hang-ups as to who exactly owns these tapes and has the rights to release them. Some have been re-issued by RC himself on small independent labels and are available. RC's more recent recordings on Columbia and Warner Bros. are spotty, slick, and show-bizzy. Not his best work and best avoided in my opinion. But then again, I think John Lee Hooker's recent recordings are spotty and too slick (yes, including Don't Look Back) and not really worth the attention that should be given to his older Chess, Fantasy, Stax, and Riverside recordings. Don't get me wrong: I couldn't be happier that JLH is selling more records than ever before in his career. He and Ray Charles are venerated elder statesman of the music and that is as it should be. I think it's great that their disciples flock around them to record, etc. But the music that's being made, to me, just isn't that vital. Like with RC, these records really pale in comparison to those of his crucial period.

I think we're probably seeing the same thing happening to Van Morrison: his vital period of intense innovation and ground-breaking artistic achievement is over and he is kind of settling into a groove as these men did. Nothing wrong with this -- still lots of good music being made and to be made and the difference is that VM has a rabid following to sustain him indefinitely (it seems) whereas in RC's and JLH's day, if one didn't have hit singles, one starved.

Also, VM's entire stage presentation these days, and I daresay since the days of ITLTSN, is based on the "soul revue" type of performance that was pioneered by Ray Charles and Otis Redding, and James Brown and the artists of the Atlantic and Stax/Volt labels: where VM is not always in the spotlight; where vocal duties are shared among a sort of "troupe" of back-up and support singers and players; etc. VM has drawn rather heavily on performance and presentation traditions pioneered by RC and others.

But I drift...

Essential Ray Charles:

Any of the Atlantic titles including:

  1. Live
  2. The Genius After Hours
  3. If anyone likes to haunt the used vinyl shops, seek out the 1959 or so Atlantic LP Yes Indeed!
  4. Soul Brother/Soul Meeting (with Milt Jackson)
  5. Rhino's Ray Charles Anthology single disc compilation includes Atlantic and ABC-Paramount material. All Ray's big hits.

And the Rhino anthologies/box sets including Atlantic material:

  1. The Birth of Soul -- three or four CDs, absolutely staggering stuff and listening to it, it becomes painfully obvious from whence VM got his ITLTSN-era soul shouting modus operandi.
  2. Blues + Jazz -- two CDs, some overlap here from Birth of Soul so don't buy both without considering how much material you're willing to pay for twice.

Other must-hear RC:

  1. Genius + Soul = Jazz (RC on vocals and hammond organ backed by the Count Basie Orchestra arranged by Quincy Jones -- astounding! Recorded on the early 60s and originally released on the Impulse! label, now on some small independent label out of California.)
  2. Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (On Rhino. His best-known and most popular ABC-Paramount album includes the hits "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Busted" plus some additional material, B-sides, etc.)

More information available at:

Van references in:

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