Ray Charles did it right for his swan song. He not only enlisted the duo support of a dozen top-drawer singers, but he recorded the sessions face to face, voice to voice.

Ray Charles did it right for his swan song. He not only enlisted the duo support of a dozen top-drawer singers, but he recorded the sessions face to face, voice to voice. No phone-ins here. The big plus is that the tapes capture Brother Ray's enthusiasm in the studio. He's in primo vocal shape, his inimitable voice of grit, sass, moan and sweet soul holding sway over the proceedings that range in style from gentle pop to deep-down blues. Choice tracks include duets with Norah Jones, James Taylor and Gladys Knight. The best feature Van Morrison (a live performance of "Crazy Love") and Willie Nelson (the two voices of wisdom gracefully singing the Frank Sinatra hit "It Was a Very Good Year"). Low point: Elton John's "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word." The orchestration is overwrought, and John's overly dramatized reading doesn't mesh with Charles' profound dolor.—DO

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