Ray Charles – The Genius of Ray Charles

  • One of the few copies to ever hit the site and boy is it KILLER — Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and Double Plus (A++) on the first
  • The sound is incredibly rich, full and Tubey Magical with tons of energy and a nice extended top end
  • Robert Christgau noted that “Charles tried many times, but except for Modern Sounds, he never again assembled such a consistent album in this mode.”
  • “Charles’ voice is heard throughout in peak form, giving soul to even the veteran standards.”

Tom Dowd engineered on Ampex 3 Track through an All Tube chain (this is 1959 after all), Quincy Jones did the arrangements, and Ray sang the hell out of this great batch of songs — all the ingredients in a recipe for soul are here.

Top tracks on the first side: Let The Good Times Roll, It Had To Be You and When Your Lover Has Gone.

On side two: Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Cryin’, Am I Blue and Come Rain Or Come Shine.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Tubey Magic, of course. The richer, smoother, and tubier Ray Charles sounds, the better.

Weighty brass is key as well. Any leanness or thinness in the brass is instantly heard as a Ray Charles without weight and richness to his voice.

And of course the copies that are rich and tubey but also big, clear and open did the best in our shootout.


Side One

Let The Good Times Roll 
It Had To Be You 
Alexander’s Ragtime Band 
Two Years Of Torture 
When Your Lover Has Gone 
Deed I Do

Side Two

Just For A Thrill 
You Won’t Let Me Go 
Tell Me You’ll Wait For Me 
Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Cryin’ 
Am I Blue 
Come Rain Or Come Shine

AMG Review

Some players from Ray Charles’ big band are joined by many ringers from the Count Basie and Duke Ellington bands for the first half of this program, featuring Charles belting out six songs arranged by Quincy Jones. “Let the Good Times Roll” and “Deed I Do” are highlights, and there are solos by tenorman David “Fathead” Newman, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, and (on “Two Years of Torture”) tenor Paul Gonsalves.

The remaining six numbers are ballads, with Charles backed by a string orchestra arranged by Ralph Burns (including “Come Rain or Come Shine” and “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin'”). Charles’ voice is heard throughout in peak form, giving soul to even the veteran standards.

More Reviews

In a 1990 review of its CD reissue, Lloyd Sachs of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that The Genius of Ray Charles is “one of the all-time great albums. But it is not, alas, one of all the all-time great CDs. The sound is extremely harsh, exaggerating the partially hidden flaws of the original … Still, the glory of Charles’ singing and the ace arrangements … have a way of breaking down resistance.”

In 2000, Q magazine included The Genius of Ray Charles in their list of the “Best Soul Albums of All Time” and wrote that it “finds the great man swinging, emoting, cajoling and laughing his way through a selection of standards that he makes his own … it exudes pure class.”

In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked The Genius of Ray Charles number 263 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

In a 2004 review for the magazine, Robert Christgau praised producers Jerry Wexler and Nesuhi Ertegun for persuading “five different arrangers into the subtlest charts of Charles’ career.” Christgau asserted that “Charles tried many times, but except for Modern Sounds, he never again assembled such a consistent album in this mode.”

In The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), critics J. D. Considine and Michaelangelo Matos said that it is “perhaps the most important of [Charles’] albums for Atlantic”, because it “introduces the musical approach he would follow for much of the ’70s.” They argued that, instead of pursuing the contemporary sounds of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, or swing era big bands, Charles played a “curious hybrid of the brassy R&B of his pop-oriented recordings and the showy shmaltz favored by the era’s middle-of-the-road acts.” However, they cautioned listeners that the album was “abysmally recorded, with frequent overmodulation muddying its brasher moments.”


The Genius of Ray Charles is the sixth studio album by American recording artist Ray Charles, released in 1959 by Atlantic Records. The album eschewed the soul sound of his 1950s recordings, which fused jazz, gospel, and blues, for swinging pop with big band arrangements.

It comprises a first half of big band songs and a second half of string-backed ballads. The Genius of Ray Charles sold less than 500,000 copies and charted at number 17 on the Billboard 200. “Let the Good Times Roll” and “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin'” were released as singles in 1959.

The album showcased Charles’ breakout from rhythm and blues and onto a broader musical stage. Atlantic Records gave him full support in production and arrangements. As originally presented, the A side of the album featured the Ray Charles band with David “Fathead” Newman supplemented by players from the Count Basie and Duke Ellington bands, and arrangements by Quincy Jones.

The B side of the original album consists of six ballads with arrangements by Ralph Burns and a large string orchestra. Charles’s performance of “Come Rain or Come Shine”, a song identified with Frank Sinatra, brought public attention to his voice alone without the “distractions” of his soulful piano and his snappy band.