Ray CharlesIt’s been a while since I sat down specifically to listen to some music. Today I had a break from everything for a couple of hours and was able to enjoy some time in front of my home theater setup. The quality of the system is great, so it demands a good audio source. I pulled some of my best music from iTunes.

(For the audiophiles, tech-heads and geeks among you, I have an Onkyo 6.1 receiver which powers my speakers from Hsu Research in Anaheim, California. Dr. Hsu knows how to make some great speakers! I have his Ventriloquist package of five smaller speakers for the high range and surround, a front-centre speaker for the mid range and an 8″ Hsu subwoofer for bass that kicks harder than the room can handle on only a third of its volume range. This is our living room setup for watching Dish HD satellite and HD DVD in high definition, for normal DVDs and for streaming iTunes. For iTunes I have a wireless 802.11g network (soon to be upgraded to 802.11n) with an Apple Airport Express connected optically to the Onkyo receiver. This allows me to listen to iTunes wirelessly at full bitrate using songs on my Powerbook, including some of the Apple Lossless format at a stinging 768kbps. MP3s simply won’t do when you’re listening to them on Hsu speakers!)

One I haven’t listened to in a while is Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company album. This thing won eight Grammys and was the last album he completed before kicking the bucket. All songs are vocal events featuring a guest: Willie Nelson, Van Morrison, Norah Jones, Natalie Cole, Michael McDonald, James Taylor, Gladys Knight, Elton John, Diana Krall, Bonnie Raitt and B.B. King. They sound fantastic.

Crank the bass on Fever; you can thank me later. The percussion section also sounds great, the drummer can do no wrong, and each smooth note is crisp and perfect from Natalie Cole. On Sweet Potato Pie, the brass section punches from the top of the mix; besides the always wonderful James Taylor they’re the stars of the song. Actually, all of this album is great, and I’d forgotten how much so. Ray Charles was -patently- brilliant, and this collection is a showcase of his raw talent in the middle of a masterpiece.