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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Ray Charles, Buddy Guy and more...

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, October 25, 2010

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Ray Charles

“Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters”



In a season that’s already seen illuminating archival releases from Bob Dylan, Miles Davis and John Lennon, a mere 10 tracks from the late Ray Charles’ vaults seems modest in comparison. And while there’s no definitive statement made by “Rare Genius” it does make clear that Charles, who died in 2004 shortly before the release of his Grammy Award-winning duets set “Genius Loves Company,” left some choice material behind as well. Culled from sessions during the ’80s and ’90s, “Rare Genius” finds Charles in fine voice and pursuing his usual eclectic stylistic path, whether it’s the funky shimmy of “I’m Gonna Keep on Singin’” or the spiritual reverence of “Why Me, Lord?” a duet with Johnny Cash. Charles put a soul sheen on Hank Cochran’s “A Little Bitty Tear,” slips a buoyant, country flavored groove behind the dark lyrics of “She’s Gone,” plays loose and warm with “Isn’t It Wonderful” — written and original recorded by Lim Taylor, an artist on Charles’ Crossover Records label — and adds jazzy touches, particularly from his piano, to a version of Kay Starr’s 1952 hit “Wheel of Fortune.” “Genius Loves Company” co-producer John Burk took charge of adding necessary instruments to “Rare Genius;” in most cases the enhancements are subtle, but Charles’ bluesy rendering of the 1921 Tin Pan Alley tune “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” was built from a voice-and-synthesizer demo, with Keb’ Mo’ and other luminaries channeling the vision implied by Charles’ vocal into one of the album’s standout tracks. All that makes for a welcome addition to Charles’ formidable canon, and here’s hoping there’s more where “Rare Genius” came from.


Buddy Guy, “Living Proof” (Silvertone/Jive) ***

The Chicago guitar legend declares himself “74 Years Young” at the outset of his new album — and proceeds to sound like players half his age, or younger, over the course of its dozen songs. Guy is still in fierce form as a player and a singer, particularly on burning tracks such as “Key Don’t Fit,” “Thank Me Someday,” “Too Soon” and the album-closing instrumental “Skanky.” He teams with B.B. King on the understated “Stay Around a Little Longer” and with Carlos Santana on the snaky “Where the Blues Begins,” but Guy leaves no doubt who the real star of the show is here, offering real “Proof” of his continuing vitality with every note he plays.

New & Noteworthy

Jeff Beck, “Live and Exclusive from the Grammy Museum” (Atco): The guitar legend’s latest concert album was recorded during April in Los Angeles and is available in a variety of configurations form online retailers.

Andrew Bird, “Useless Creatures” (Fat Possum): The idiosyncratic Bird collaborated with bassist Todd Sickafoose and Wilco’s Glenn Kotche on this ambient experiment.

Michael Buble, “Hollywood: The Deluxe EP” (Reprise): The Canadian crooner surrounds “Hollywood,” a track added to last year’s “Crazy Love” album, with live tracks and outtakes.

Marshall Chapman, “Big Lonesome” (Tallgirl): The singer-songwriter co-produced his 12th album with Michael Utley of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band.

Johnny Clegg, “Human” (Appleseed): The first U.S. album release in 17 years from the South African star and former leader of the bands Juluka and Savuka.

Joe Diffie, “Homecoming: The Bluegrass Album” (Rounder): The title of the country singer’s latest album pretty much tells you what’s in the grooves — or the digital bits, as it were.

Dolorean, “The Unfazed” (Partisan): The first new album in four years from Portland, Ore., singer-songwriter Al James and his regular cohorts.

Down, “Diary of a Mad Band” (ILG): A CD and DVD treasure trove from the hard rock supergroup featuring members of Pantera, Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar and more.

Bryan Ferry, “Olympia” (Astralwerks): The Roxy Music frontman’s first solo album in three years includes his former bandmates as well as guests such as Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, Chic’s Nile Rodgers, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and more.

Fourplay, “Let’s Touch the Sky” (Heads Up International): The all-star jazz fusion group welcomes a new guitarist (Chuck Loeb) and guests Anita Baker and Ruben Studdard on its latest studio album.

“Hannah Montana Forever" (Walt Disney): This 11-track set by Miley Cyrus’ TV alter ego includes guest appearances by her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, as well as Sheryl Crow and Iyaz.

Il Nino, “Dead New Word” (Victory): The Latin-flavored headbangers’ fifth studio album includes a cover of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Bullet With Butterfly Wings.”

Lyrics Born, “As U Were” (Epitaph): The Japanese-American rapper’s new album includes collaborations with Francis and the Lights, Galactic’s Stanton Moore, the Gift of Gab and others.

Jim McCarty, “Sitting on the Top of Time” (Easy Action): The first solo outing in 16 years by the drummer and founder of both the Yardbirds and Renaissance.

Monster Magnet, “Mastermind” (Napalm): The stoner rock favorites from New Jersey take up with a new label on their first new album in three years.

Aaron Neville, “I Know I’ve Been Changed” (Tell It): Rochester Adams grad Joe Henry produced this set, which celebrates Neville’s 50th year of recording with help from fellow New Orleans icon Allen Toussaint.

Shadows Fall, “Madness in Manila” (Everblack Industries): The Massachusetts headbangers chronicle their first visit to the Phillipines on this CD/DVD live set.

Senses Fail, “The Fire” (Vagrant/Drive-Thru): New guitarist Zack Roach makes his recording debut on the New Jersey group’s fourth full-length album.

Soundtrack, “Country Strong” (RCA Nahsville): Gwyneth Paltrow has sung before, but she takes her first full-scale country turn on the companion to her latest film — including a duet with co-star Tim McGraw.

Taylor Swift, “Speak Now” (Big Machine): The third album by country/pop superstar Swift will be released on Monday, Oct. 25. (See story, page C-1).

Various Artists, “The Imus Ranch Record II” (New West): Jamey Johnson, Cheap Trick, The Band’s Levon Helm and others contribute tracks to raise money for radio personality Don Imus’ ranch for ailing children.

Various Artists, “Treme: Music from the HBO Original Series, Season 1” (Geffen): An hour-plus of prime New Orleans styled music from Dr. John, John Boutte, the Rebirth Brass Band, Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint and more.

From The Vaults: Badfinger, “Straight Up” “No Dice” “Ass” “Magic Christian Music” (Apple/EMI); Syd Barrett, “An Introduction to Syd Barrett” (Capitol/EMI); Michael Buble, “Crazy Love Hollywood Edition” (Reprise); Crowded House, “The Very Best of Crowded House” (Capitol); Dixie Chicks, “The Essential Dixie Chicks” (Wide Open/Columbia/Legacy); Guess Who, “The Essential Guess Who” (RCA/Legacy); The Highwaymen, “The Essential Highwaymen” (Columbia/Legacy); Mary Hopkin, “Postcard” (Apple/EMI); Jefferson Airplane, “Live at the Fillmore Auditorium 10/15/66 Late Show — Signe’s Farewell,” “Live at the Fillmore Auditorium 10/16/66 Early & Late Shows — Grace’s Debut,” “Live at the Fillmore Auditorium 11/25/66 & 11/27/66 — We Have Ignition” and “Return to the Matrix 2/1/68” (Collector’s Choice); Kansas, “The Essential Kansas” (Kirshner/Epic/EMI); Billy Preston, “That’s the Way God Planned It” “Encouraging Words” (Apple/EMI); Joe Satriani, “The Essential Joe Satriani” (Epic Legacy); Paul Simon, “The Essential Paul Simon” (Columbia Legacy); David Sylvian, “Sleepwalkers” (Samadhisound); James Taylor, “James Taylor” (Apple/EMI); Various Artists, “Come and Get It: The Best of Apple Records” (Apple/EMI); Various Artists, “California Concert: The Hollywood Palladium” (Masterworks Jazz)

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