Ray Charles: David Corio / Retna
David Browne
September 03, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Genius Loves Company

Current Status
In Season
Ray Charles

We gave it a C

Given the high regard in which Ray Charles was held in the music business, a star-heavy album of duets was a natural. Unfortunately, Genius Loves Company — recorded just before his death — pays homage to his penchant for big-band corn rather than his road-house soul. Norah Jones, James Taylor, Diana Krall, and Bonnie Raitt, among others, dutifully line up to sing with their hero, but the songs suffer from sterile supper-club production (particularly on Charles and Willie Nelson’s excessively maudlin team-up, ”It Was a Very Good Year”), and the material, which includes ”Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and ”Fever,” isn’t terribly inspiring either. As Charles and his pals trade verses, everyone sounds good yet distant, as if the performances had been taped in different studios. Company? Plenty. Genius? Not enough.

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