A collection of previously unreleased tracks can sometimes feel like a mishmash of songs that have nothing in common other than never being released. But that's not the case with the new Ray Charles album, "Rare Genius." The 10-track set flows from start to finish as it vibrantly captures the late singer's wide range of musical styles, piano handiwork and gritty, soul-drenched vocals. With love as a thematic backdrop, "Rare Genius" takes its cue from one of the first tracks discovered, "It Hurts to Be in Love." Punctuated by spirited horns, the cautionary tale provides the perfect platform for the deep emotion and intensity effortlessly reflected in Charles' voice. He goes deliciously bluesy on the standard "There'll Be Some Changes Made," then revs up to sultry on the '50s pop hit "Wheel of Fortune" and playful as he sings and talks his way through the prophetic "I'm Gonna Keep On Singin'." The closing track is a rediscovered surprise from the Sony vaults: Charles' pairing with fellow icon Johnny Cash on the moving gospel-, Christian- and country-infused "Why Me, Lord?" Here's hoping there's more to come.
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