October 2008

Ray Charles - Ray Sings, Basie Swings
Pure Audiophile PA-012 (2)
Format: LP
Released: 2007

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

One of the best albums to hit the music shelves in 2007 was the one combining the vocals of the late Ray Charles from a mid-'70s concert with charts performed by the current Count Basie Orchestra to create an album that should have been but never was. I’ve found the CD and SACD (in stereo and multichannel respectively) to sound excellent in their different formats, but it wasn’t until I received the new Pure Audiophile double-LP set of this recording that I really heard how good this modern manipulation truly is. It’ll take fine ears indeed to unmask this LP as being sourced from a digital recording, so well done was the initial engineering and mastering.

However, what makes this LP set truly special is the sound. And therein lies the real story here. Stan Ricker, who handles the mastering for Pure Audiophile, did one of his better jobs with this 24-bit/96kHz digital master, transferring it to analog via his patented half-speed mastering process. The vocals are superb, Charles singing his standard repertoire. The Basie band sounds tonally spot-on and really swings when given the chance. Only very careful listening will reveal the slight discontinuity between the sound of the vocals and that of the band.

Pure Audiophile’s habit of using two 180-gram virgin-vinyl LPs to allow every nuance of the music to be engraved in the grooves pays huge dividends here. You’ll feel like a part of the recording crew as you sit and listen to this album unfold before you. About the only regret I have regarding this album is that there will never be a sequel -- and that this pairing will never actually happen with both Charles and Basie at the helm.