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Ray Charles Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959)

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The inside of

The inside of "Pure Genius"

The Bottom Line

While there's not much new material unearthed here, and even less revelatory finds, the Ray Charles "Pure Genius" box set is a beautifully packaged, wonderfully annotated guide to the development of the Genius' genius.
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  • Collects everything the Genius recorded while at Atlantic in one convenient place.
  • Material remastered since the best-of Atlantic collection "Birth Of Soul."
  • Accompanying live DVD and lavish packaging.
  • Lush packaging features a record-player-style box and hardbound book.
  • Chronological sequencing is a plus.


  • The vast majority of this material has been released before.


  • Ray Charles
  • Box set
  • Complete Atlantic recordings
  • Remastered
  • Book and bonus DVD
  • R&B
  • Soul
  • Blues
  • Jazz

Guide Review - Ray Charles Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959)

Reissue compilers in the digital age have learned from past mistakes, issuing slightly altered comps every year or two on a certain artist so as to make purchasing each one a necessity for the hardcore fan. That's what makes this box set so welcome and redundant at the same time: while most of the material Ray Charles recorded at Atlantic from 1952-1959 was released on LPs during his stay there (and therefore, available on CD already), this massive, elegantly boxed, seven-CD collection puts it all in one place, chronologically, letting you see the transformation of Brother Ray from being merely one of the Fifties' best R&B singers and performers to the Genius, a genre-busting visionary. If all you know of Ray's Atlantic tenure is "What'd I Say," well, that's only the culmination.

Spread over these seven CDs are Ray's studio sides, both live LPs (including the legendary "At Newport"), jazz songs cut with Ray as a sideman to Milt Jackson and David "Fathead" Newman, an entire CD of studio rehearsals and mostly unreleased cuts, stereo and mono mixes of "What'd I Say," and a bonus DVD with footage from his 1960 Newport concert and an interview of Atlantic head Ahmet Ertegun by "Ray" director Taylor Hackford. Packaged in a box that looks like a vintage record player and featuring a linen-bound accompanying hardcover book with liner notes by noted critic David Ritz, "Pure Genius" takes the longest, most loving look at Ray's development -- which means the birth of soul music itself.

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