Mono Mondays: Ray Charles, The Genius Sings The Blues
This week’s Mono Monday release is perhaps best known for being Ray Charles’ final offering during his tenure with Atlantic Records during the late 1950s and early 1960s, but while one might expect it to feel slightly schizophrenic, given that it features a dozen songs recorded during various sessions over the course of his time on the label, some of which are covers and some of which are originals, The Genius Sings the Blues is actually one of the strongest efforts from that era of Charles’s career.
The whole affair kicks off with Charles’ take on Louis Jordan’s “Early in the Mornin’,” with other covers including Sam Sweet’s “The Midnight Hour,” Eddie “Guitar Slim” Jones’s “Feelin’ Sad,” Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On,” and “(Night Time Is) The Right Time,” a song which, despite having been originally recorded by Roosevelt Sykes way back in 1937, quickly became one of Charles’s signature songs. The original material has its merits as well, including such tracks as “Hard Times (No One Knows Better Than I),” “Ray’s Blues” and companion piece “Mr. Charles’ Blues,” “I Believe to My Soul,” “Nobody Cares,” “Some Day Baby,” and “I Wonder Who.”
The material literally spans the entire length of Charles’s career with Atlantic, with “The Midnight Hour” having been recorded during his first session for the label and “I Believe to My Soul” having been recorded during his final session, but it’s all strong stuff. The latter track is a particular must-hear, with AllAboutJazz.com describing it as “three minutes of voodoo, a chillingly spectral reading including the Raelettes and with Charles on organ rather than piano.”
More than a few people have described Ray Charles as a genius – including Ray Charles, given how many of his albums featured the word in their titles – but once you’ve heard him sing the blues on this album, you’ll be hard pressed to disagree with the assessment.