Genius Loves Company is the last studio album of Ray Charles’ career. Recorded between June, 2003 and March, 2004, it was released August 21st, about three months after his death.
There is an old saying to leave them wanting more. Genius Loves Company reached number one on the Billboard album chart and sold in excess of three million copies. It also won eight Grammy Awards including Album Of The Year and Record Of The Year.
The album has now been reissued to celebrate its 10th anniversary. There are two bonus tracks plus a second disc titled “The Making Of Genius Loves Company.” The one hour documentary features unreleased video from the actual recording sessions, interviews with some of the guest artists, and a history of the albums’ origins. However, no matter how much extra material is included, the original album remains the centerpiece as it was one of the stronger releases of Charles’ long career.
Genius Loves Company is an album of duets. Artists such as Willie Nelson, Johnny Mathis, Gladys Knight, James Taylor, Diana Krall, Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, and Norah Jones all team up with Charles with stellar results.
“Here We Go Again” with Norah Jones is one of those tracks that is just about perfect. It is two generations of rhythm and blues artists meeting in the middle. They both play keyboards and harmonize well together. The track won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance.
The other Grammy winning track, for Best Gospel Performance, was “Heaven Help Us All,” with Gladys Knight. It is an elaborate production as a full choir and horns fill out the sound. They trade vocal leads that elevate the song.
Diana Krall has a very different vocal style than Ray Charles. He recorded the old Eddy Arnold song “You Don’t Know Me” for his break through Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music LP back in a 1962. Here, their vocals play off of each other as they deliver a subtle and delicate rendition.
Willie Nelson and Ray Charles have joined forces in the past. Nelson has a world-weary voice that is perfect for “It Was A Very Good Year. There is an orchestral background, complete with strings that allow for a relaxed vocal delivery.
Bonnie Raitt helps take “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” in a different direction with a slide guitar performance. The bluesy track is a good setting for them to trade vocals and harmonize.
The reissue of Genius Loves Company proves that good music is always good music. The additions are a nice touch but if you own the original release that may be enough. However, if you missed this album ten years ago, then it is a must listen.