This double-disc set collects four of Ray Charles' early LPs for Atlantic Records, the all instrumental The Great Ray Charles
from 1957, The Genius of Ray Charles
from 1959, Ray Charles at Newport
from 1959 (the performance was actually from July 1958), and Ray Charles in Person
from 1960 (drawn from a performance at Herndon Stadium in Atlanta in May 1959). Charles' first recording sessions from the late '40s and very early '50s show an artist heavily influenced by Nat King Cole
and Charles Brown
and working in a pronounced pop direction. Charles recorded for several small West Coast labels during this time, but most notably for Jack Lauderdale's Swing Time Records. It wasn't until Lauderdale sold Charles' contract to Atlantic Records (for a mere $2,000) in 1952 that Charles began the legendary fusion of R&B and gospel that led to hits like "What'd I Say" and "I Got a Woman" that single-handedly created what became known as soul. These four LPs show Charles hitting his stride and creating his signature synthesis that made him one of the most important and influential figures in pop and soul music history.