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"Alrightfellas, holditrighthere, waitaminute!"

That's "Wheel of Fortune," roughly 2:40 in, where the Genius needs to reign in the horns, somewhere in 1972. But that's only an especially fine specimen of the bold yet effortless idiom fashioned as it is from "lookheah"s, "bayyybeh"s, a "yeahitdo," or two, "y'all listen" with corollary "listentame," "I ain't lyin' either," "look out ch'all," "nowgiveitamae," "I said, Henry, let me tellya a little sumthin'," and the Homeric exhortation of "Holler, my son, holler, I know she can hear you!"

And he knows his son (whoever he may be) can hear her because he knows where every accent shall land. Every stutter, every stretch, every tension relaxing into every deep release. He's the Genius, but he's also the original Rubberband Man. Pull it back, slow, slow, draw, then a quick snap, not a slow slither like Stretch Armstrong's. You can play it all day, longer than you play with Stretch, even.

The crucial approach from John Burk who put this together from unfinished Ray tapes: reverence without fingerprints. He hired a famous person or two for filling out these arrangements, but each cut passes that hair-cell test free from glurge. Yes, you get one posthumous duet, that is Ray and Johnny Cash on "Why Me Lord?" but we're pretty sure they were in the same room at the same time, on top of which Ray pulls a counterintuitive retreat — that's right, he mostly sings backing vocals. Of course, he knows how to speak with his band. Listen and understand.

  • Album: Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters
  • Artist: Ray Charles
  • Label: Concord
  • Songs: (1) Love's Gonna Bite You Back (2) It Hurts to Be in Love (3) Wheel of Fortune (4) I'm Gonna Keep on Singin' (5) They'll Be Some Changes Made (6) Isn't It Wonderful (7) I Don't Want No One But You (8) A Little Bitty Tear (9) She's Gone (10) Why Me, Lord?
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