The massive importance of both of these recordings can never be overstated.
Charles’ interpretations of these traditionally white songs feel extraordinarily natural; most other reworkings of songs end up sounding too similar to their origin, or alternatively sound too focused on ‘making it their own’ through excessive revamping and adaptation of the arrangement, but his don’t.
There are two keys to the success of these songs: Firstly, Ray breaks these racial barriers so easily (it feels like it comes naturally to him) that he inadvertently accentuates the very weakness of those barriers in the first place. Secondly, he manages to highligh the universality of song, through both the very universality of his voice, and by showing us so beautifully that if you dig deep, you’ll find that the inherent appeal in a song comes down to the raw music of it: the chords and the lyrics, while never dismissing the importance of trends and styles or detracting from the subtle genius of his own arrangements.
There are various reissues of these albums, and if you find a double or single disc issue of them, do not hesitate to pick it up. Essential to any collection of American music.