Genius Loves Company
label: Concord Records / Hear Music
our score: 2.5 out of 5.0
I think a
lot of boomer-audience reviewers are going to give this album
a free pass, because it's the last studio record by one of the
world's great musical geniuses. I also think that a lot of hipster-daddy
reviewers are going to hate this from the beginning, "oh
who cares about old Ray Charles he was uncool since 1967 ho hum
let's go talk about microhouse."
But I wanted
this to be good. I trusted that it would be good. I really love
Ray Charles, but I'm not IN love with him, if you know what I
mean. So you're damn right that I was hoping that this would be
good. And it doesn't start out bad at all. If you hate Norah Jones,
then a) you're a fool, and b) you won't like the first track,
because she's on it and she does a really good simple job playing
off Ray's inflections on "Here We Go Again," and your
hatred will evaporate like sweat on a hot day and you won't know
what to do because hatred is all you know.
knows is that this is Ray God Damn Charles we're talking about
here. Every time he opens his mouth it's worth hearing, because
he gives a master class in singing no matter what's coming out
of his mouth. Even those Diet Pepsi commercials rocked the house.
When you sing with Ray you have a line to walk between stepping
all over him (in which case he's gonna cut you) and being afraid
of him (in which case you're going to bore everyone to tears).
Norah does this correctly, and a few others do it well too. B.B.
King ain't afraid of Ray Charles, so their "Sinner's Prayer"
cooks. Natalie Cole steps up and helps knock "Fever"
out of the park. Gladys Knight on "Heaven Help Us All"?
Good enough for me, but I always liked Gladys because she's cute.
John only knows how to sing one way, and seems pretty confused
when Ray steals "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word"
out from under him in the first two lines. Elton bumps up the
bombast, and the arrangement helps him by being boring and epic
and orchestral, but all the ribbons and bows in the world won't
help this ugly baby of a song turn pretty. Phil Ramone's hackwork
production also cannot disguise the fact that Diana Krall just
isn't a very good singer; her turn on "You Don't Know Me"
sounds shellshocked and soulless.
Why oh why,
Randy Waldman, did you arrange "Sweet Potato Pie" so
it would sound exactly like my high school jazz band's version
of "Birdland"? Was it to take people's attention away
from the fact that Ray God Damn Charles was duetting with James
Taylor? In fact, why is he here at all? JT hasn't challenged anyone
since JTwas riding the charts! Michael McDonald may be
an R&B icon, but he still sounds mumblemouthed and corny here.
And I love me some Johnny Mathis, but he and Ray doing "Over
the Rainbow" is not something I'll ever have need to hear
But the biggest
waste here is the overblown "faithful" Sinatra arrangement
to underscore Ray and Willie Nelson doing "It Was a Very
Good Year." This was never in the top 75% of world songs
anyway, but here you'd expect that these two septuagenarians would
sound poignant talking about being old, looking back on youth,
etc. Turns out that was just a crazy dream. Neither one sounds
like he feels the song; they sound like they wanna get back to
the honky tonk and pick up some hot-esque 55 year old ladies.
Whoever came up with this boring depressing tuneless song for
these two singers, both of whom are more capable of joy than any
other twosome in the world, is probably stillup nights,
going "Why oh why did I let that song get onto the album?"
Is it right
that the last studio record by one of the world's great musical
geniuses kinda sucks? No, it is not right. It is unfair, it pisses
me off, it's a travesty. But Ray was just such a genius that this
is worth hearing anyway, or buying for your folks as a birthday
present so you can burn a copy, or something. I just wish it was
better, and there won't be another chance. C'est le mort, c'est
le guerre. We move on.
23-Sep-2004 7:23 PM
liked Genius Loves Company...
1. Here We Go Again (ft. Norah Jones)
2. Sweet Potato Pie (ft. James Taylor)
3. You Don't Know Me (ft. Diana Krall)
4. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (ft. Elton John)
5. Fever (ft. Natalie Cole)
6. Do I Ever Cross Your Mind? (ft. Bonnie Raitt)
7. It Was A Very Good Year (ft. Willie Nelson)
8. Hey Girl (ft. Michael McDonald)
9. Sinner's Prayer (ft. B.B. King)
10. Heaven Help Us All (ft. Gladys Knight)
11. Over The Rainbow (ft. Johnny Mathis)
12. Crazy Love (ft. Van Morrison)