Every once in a while a record company has a good idea and so it was with the latest Ray Charles release. The United States Postal Service honored Ray Charles on September 23, with the release of his image on the Music Icons Forever Stamp Series. One day later Concord Records released Ray Charles Forever, a CD/DVD package.
Since his death, much of his music has been reissued and while most Ray Charles music is worth a listen, the material collected here is available elsewhere. Songs such as “A Song For You,” “Ring Of Fire.” “Till There Was You,” “Imagine” “Isn’t It Wonderful,” and his classic “America The Beautiful” provide a nice taste of his music from different periods of his career. On the other hand many of his signature albums have been re-released and are probably a better starting point for exploring his music but the songs here are a nice introduction.
The only surprise is the debut of the previously unreleased studio track, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” This cover of the George and Ira Gershwin composition is a treat as it finds a relaxed Charles at his near best.
The DVD is far more interesting for the Ray Charles fan. Included are live performances of “Imagine” from the 1998 Goodwill Games, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” from Earth 1992, and “A Song For You,” recorded at the North Sea Jazz Fest, 1997. It is interesting to compare these live performances to the studio tracks contained on the CD. Also included are interviews taken from the BBC’s Live In London and Norman Seeff’s “The Session Project.” There are no startling revelations but they are interesting at least once.
The career of Ray Charles spanned just less than six decades, nearly 100 albums of different types, and over 10,000 concerts. He is remembered as an American icon who was one of the first rhythm & blues/soul performers to find massive mainstream success. Ray Charles Forever is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his talent and music.