Now that he's gone, let's hope those in charge don't keep putting out "new" Ray Charles albums every year à la 2Pac's posthumous legacy. It's creepy. Not quite as creepy as this album's duet with Ruben Studdard on Imagine, but unsettling nonetheless. Genius & Friends holds up better than last year's disappointing Genius Loves Company, thanks in part to producer Phil Ramone's ability to tone down the schmaltz and deliver a solid, consistent sound whether he's working with George Michael or Alicia Keys. The all-star set features folks like Gladys Knight, Willie Nelson and Mary J. Blige, but the most welcome surprise may be Leela James's duet on Compared To What. The 70s-style hard funk jam pushes Charles to a level he last reached in the 60s. Nice to know he could still kick it out like this at the end.