Saturday, May 12, 2007
Along with Sam Cooke and (I insist) James Brown, Ray Charles stands as one of the great inventors of soul music, that unearthly combination of sacred gospel and secular (or "profane," though the critical term is overshadowed here by racist anxiety, so I prefer the more neutral "secular") rhythm 'n' blues. Ray Charles was first, barely, and if he had neither the gospel training or vocal chops of Cooke or the work ethic and sheer creative brilliance of Brown, he managed a level of exuberant joy not often touched by either. He also had the most purely natural sense for how to put together and work the material, and by the sound of things he had the most fun, driving a rollicking, often surprisingly rich, dense keyboard, his head audibly bobbing in motion into and away from a stationary microphone. Everybody doesn't like something, but nobody doesn't like what Ray Charles put across in the '50s. All the Atlantic work of the time is documented here. Enjoy.