Back in my angry young curmudgeon days, I undoubtedly would have pooh-poohed the first incarnation of this set as a money grabbing hitch on the duets train. Now, I’ve leavened, I guess. I mean, it is Ray, and did Ray ever do anything sub-par? Sure, every great artist does. That’s how they become great.
So, that we may keep everything in balance, the duets with Norah Jones, James Taylor, Diana Krall, Elton John, Natalie Cole and Bonnie Raitt rock the joint. Cole and Raitt simmer, Norah shimmers, Elton John is Elton John on his composition (“Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word”) while JT and Krall are smooth and smooth plus. Things get way over the top with Willie on Sinatra’s “It Was a Very Good Year” and with Mathis on “Over The Rainbow.” The two bonus tracks don’t add much and the team-ups with Gladys Knight, BB King, Michael McDonald, and Van Morrison run the gamut from predictable to well, predictable.
The cool bonus, the Making of Genius Loves Company DVD, is never a slog. The continuing narrative told by executive producer John Burk, arranger Victor Vannacore, Al Schmitt, and the late Phil Ramone, is a riveting tell of Ray’s final recording. Throw in recollections by Elton, Bonnie, Johnny Mathis, Norah Jones, and behind the scenes recording footage and this bonus is truly just that.
– Mike Jurkovic