Ray Charles’ Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles box set announced

Posthumous collections are standards of the music biz, and Ray Charles’ wealthy catalog has been no stranger to the trend. Since 2009, Concord Music Group and Valerie Ervin, president of the Ray Charles Foundation, have gathered and released a series of compilations entitled Genius, assembling some of Charles’ greatest and rarest work for the digital age. Now, word comes that the third entry in the series is coming November 15th, and it’s the biggest one yet.

Containing the A and B sides of 53 singles (that’s 106 songs) on five CDs, Ray Charles’ Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles is exactly what it says it is. The box set holds every single Charles released while signed to ABC-Paramount Records between 1960 and 1972, a peak era for a musician who had finally found “mainstream” success. As Ervin puts it, “The ABC singles comprise an epoch of essential Ray Charles music and a window into how his genius evolved.”

Let’s lay some history on ya: After America’s white youth was finally turned on to Charles with “What’d I Say”, his then label, Atlantic, was ready to sign the newly crossed-over artist back on for an extended contract. But, when he was offered one of the sweetest deals ever given in that period, Charles found himself moving to the majors with ABC-Paramount. The results were some of the late R&B pianist’s biggest smashes, and they’re all collected together here on Singular Genius.

Out of the 106 digitally remastered tracks included, 21 will be having their first ever digital release, while 30 are debuting on CD. Eleven number one hits, like “I Can’t Stop Loving You”, “Let’s Go Get Stoned”, and “You Are My Sunshine”, will share space on the five discs with Grammy winners like “Georgia on My Mind”, “Crying Time”, and “Hit the Road, Jack”, plus “America the Beautiful”, “Busted”, “Take These Chains From My Heart”, and 97 more.

R&B artist and music historian Billy Vera provided the liner notes, and rare photographs will also be “housed in [a] handsome linen-textured collectors’ box.” While no further details were provided in the press release, Amazon currently has pre-orders going at $49.70, and Best Buy‘s online site at the rounder $59.99. For those fans groaning over having to buy physical CDs, that averages out to about 0.54¢ per song. Take that, digital retailers.

Below, you can watch Charles perform “Hit the Road, Jack” on Saturday Night Live in 1996.


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