Genius Loves Company

Like Johnny Cash, Ray Charles was a tough old man who kept making music right up to the end, probably because everybody was too scared to tell him to knock it off. When he died in June, he was readying Genius Loves Company, his version of Frank Sinatra's Duets, featuring pop stars such as James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Elton John and Norah Jones. The tone is reverential and warm, as the Genius sings "It Was a Very Good Year" with Willie Nelson, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" with Johnny Mathis and "Fever" with Natalie Cole. B.B. King, the one guest who can approach Charles as a peer, pushes him to play a little blues piano. But the best moment is the live "Crazy Love": Van Morrison and Charles sing together in real time, two grizzled cats trying to top each other, competitive yet completely in tune.