Ray Charles Forever [CD/DVD Combo][Deluxe Edition]
Liner Note Author: Valerie Ervin.
Commemorating Ray Charles' deserved appearance on a U.S. postal stamp, Concord's 2013 CD/DVD set Ray Charles Forever rounds up various highlights from the entirety of Charles' career. This is true for both the CD and the DVD, with the latter containing live clips that loosely correspond to the music on the CD, but the emphasis here is on the CD which spotlights not Ray's hits, but Ray singing standards of all kinds. Everything from Leon Russell's "A Song for You," Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," and John Lennon's "Imagine" to "America the Beautiful," "They Can't Take That Away from Me," and "Till There Was You" are here, and they're familiar enough to compensate for the curious selections from late in Charles' career, such as the lite-funk of "Isn't It Wonderful." Generally, there is an overabundance of latter-day tracks -- over half of the cuts date from 1993 or later; his '50s and '60s prime is represented by a mere two tracks ("I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town" and "Come Rain or Come Shine," respectively) -- which does mean this not only lacks big hits (no "I Got a Woman," "Hit the Road Jack," "Georgia on My Mind") but it also isn't quite representative of Charles' peerless musical synthesis, where he blurred boundaries between R&B, gospel, jazz, blues, and country. What shines through is Ray's versatility as a vocalist, as he still sounds powerful and compelling even when his surroundings are synthetic, and that forceful, distinctive vocal style is not a bad way to remember Charles at all. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine