Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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***

RAY CHARLES
Friendship
Columbia/Legacy

Back in 1984, the Genius of Everything cut a strong duets album

All respect to the indefatigable Ray Charles for making music till he died, but in his last quarter-century a lot of what reached record did the dirty with mediocrity. So give thanks for the duet trick, which worked great on 2004's farewell Genius Loves Company and pretty darn good on the only memorable album of his Nashville foray. Not all his partners aged as well as Brother Ray--the Oak Ridge Boys, Janie Fricke (don't ask). But Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and George Jones sure did, so maybe this was where they figured out how--the Jones duet especially is a late highlight of both catalogues. And though their two bonus cuts are off concept, Tony Bennett and Billy Joel obviously love genius.

Blender, Aug. 2005