Alongside Sam Cooke, Ray Charles is the chief architect of the sound commonly referred to as soul music. Nowhere did Charles lay down the rules of the style as authoritatively and definitively as he did on his tenure at Atlantic Records in the 1950s and early '60s. Not only did Charles expertly marry the traditions of pop, blues, and gospel, but he did so with a fervor and a sense of exuberance that has rarely been matched since.
DEFINTIVE SOUL: THE ATLANTIC YEARS, a two-disc, 30-track set, gives a spectacular overview of the artist's work on Atlantic. Half the tracks --"I've Got a Woman," "Mess Around," "Hallelujah I Love Her So," and "What'd I Say Parts 1 & 2," among them--are stone-cold classics, but there isn't a throwaway here, and some songs (like the stirring "Hard Times") are Charles at his absolute best. Well-compiled, historic, and great listening, this set is a must for any soul fan who feels the need to go straight to the source.