Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Ray Charles: Complete Country & Western Recordings 1959-1986 [Rhino, 1998]
The two Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music albums--volume one magnificent, volume two patchier--occupy disc one of this four-CD set. The remainder comprises desirables from the Atlantic Hank Snow cover "I'm Movin' On" to the Columbia George Jones collab "We Didn't See a Thing"; dubious follow-up country LPs; left-field covers and songwriter paybacks that better suit their original albums when they connect at all; and uneven (not to mention, for shame given the title boast, incomplete) product from Charles's Nashville foray on Columbia in the '80s. But inevitably, the box also features magnificent obscurities: bluesified "Ring of Fire," George Jones-worthy "A Girl I Used to Know," hee-hawing "3/4 Time," now available for your own cherry-picking pleasure. [Rolling Stone]