Genius Loves Company Soars

Ray Charles's last album has taken off like a rocket, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Released in early September, Genius Loves Company, is a duets project that was nearly completed by the time of Charles's death June 10. The disc sold an astounding 202,000 copies in its first week, making it the best-selling duets album since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991, according to Billboard. The disc entered the Billboard 200 for the week ended September 5 in the #2 spot.

It was also the biggest initial shipment by the Concord Jazz label in its 31 years, with 733,000 units shipped, as well as the biggest first week for any title ever released by Concord. According to figures supplied by Concord, 40,000 copies of Genius were sold by Starbucks Coffee shops.

As happened with Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and other departed music stars, enthusiasm and nostalgia for Charles's works prompted a spike in sales of his recordings beginning immediately after his death and continuing for months afterward. Billboard reporter Geoff Mayfield noted that two Charles compilations on the Rhino label, The Very Best of Ray Charles and Anthology, entered the magazine's "Top Pop Catalog" when Charles died and "have become fixtures on that chart," with combined sales totaling 189,500 copies since June 10.

Approximately 550,000 copies of various Ray Charles albums have been sold in the US since he died, according to Mayfield. "That number and the new set's historic bow are testimonies to how much his music became part of the American fabric during his long and influential career," he noted.

So far this year, Charles's recordings have sold more than they did in the two previous years. The one-week record for sales of a duets disc belongs to Frank Sinatra's Duets, which sold 339,000 copies during Christmas week of 1993, eight weeks after its release.

An upcoming posthumous disc by John Lennon is also likely to be very popular. Twenty-four years after the ex-Beatle's death, Capitol Records plans to release Acoustic, with seven previously unreleased tracks. The label also plans to re-release Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll from 1975, with four bonus tracks. Supervised by his widow, Yoko Ono, the discs should hit stores in early November, according to The Hollywood Reporter.