Saturday, 7 May 2016

Pure Genius


Ray Charles - Pure Genius - The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959)
Luxury Box Set 7 CD, 1 DVD & 80 Page Hardback Book
RHINO Records - R2 74731 - 2005

If there was an award for the best designed box set ever, this would surely win it as it really is a thing of beauty. Designed to look like a vintage portable record player with the Ray Charles single 'Mess Around' on the turntable, this set contains 7 CDs, 1 DVD and an 80 page hardback book. The first 6 CDs contain every track Ray released on Atlantic records, both studio and live and even includes the album 'Fathead' by David 'Fathead' Newman that Ray played piano on. Disc 7 contains a rehearsal session with Ahmet Ertegun from 1953, recording session outtakes from 1958 and Ray's arrangement suggestions for 'The Genius of Ray Charles' album also from 1958. Most of the tracks on this disc were previously unissued at the time. The DVD contains previously unissued footage of Ray performing 9 tracks at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival and an interview with Ahmet Ertegun from 2005. The book contains essays about Rays time with Atlantic, the sleeve notes from all his Atlantic albums and a comprehensive discography/sessionography.

Released in 2005 shortly after Ray's death in 2004, this box set is a fitting monument to the man they called 'Genius'. However, I think this set can also be seen as one of the last hurrahs of the luxury CD box set. The industry at the time was in decline, the value of CDs were dropping rapidly and it would soon no longer be viable to spend so much time and money creating works of art such as this. In fact this set was released again in 2012 in a much more basic form with no DVD. At the end of the day it's the music that counts not the packaging, but a little luxury doesn't hurt now and then.

Just in case you needed a reminder of why everyone needs Ray's music in their life, here's 'Tell The Truth' from 1959..........

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