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CBS Has 'Night for Ray Charles'

If you can't help but think "Tom Cruise (search)," every time you hear a Ray Charles (search) tune, you're definitely on the same wavelength as CBS.

Yes, Tom Cruise shows up on tonight's otherwise smart and entertaining special, "Genius: A Night for Ray Charles," to explain his love for the late, great singer.

What with the movie "Ray" starring Jamie Foxx (search) opening a week from Friday, CBS jumped on the hot-again, late musician's bandwagon, assigning hosting duties to Jamie Foxx (whose performance in the movie, "Ray," is so on the money that it almost verges on parody).

Foxx does none of his best Ray stuff tonight on the special, but he does get, er, blind-sided right off, when he's on stage speaking to the glittering star-packed audience and, for no reason whatsoever, out comes Cruise. Foxx then has to pretend (presumably) that he's shocked that Cruise was backstage all the while. It's worse than one of those dopey Oscar skits.

Cruise chides Foxx for going on too long, yet he then himself windbags about his personal love for Ray Charles, which is about as relevant as me breaking into this review to discuss my love of falafel.

Luckily, CBS also assembled a slew of fantastic artists to perform the music of Ray Charles for this tribute (as well as some of Ray's longtime friends, like Quincy Jones), which was taped earlier this year at The Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Among the performers who bang out Charles tunes are Mary J. Blige (looking impossibly beautiful, and eye-poppingly glamorous), Usher, Norah Jones, Elton John, Al Green (doing the Pony!), B.B. King with Billy Preston (with, yes, Bruce Willis on harmonica — save me please), Stevie Wonder, and country star Kenny Chesney.

John, King, Wonder, Usher, Green and Blige (who tears your heart with her rendition of "Come Rain or Come Shine") are all great, but Chesney's Wonder Bread version of "You Don't Know Me," sounds about as soulful as Britney Spears. And Norah Jones? She should start renting herself out as a sleep aid.

The real problem is that listening to others interpret Charles' songs, no matter how great they sound, just kind of makes you miss the real thing — and realize again what a genius the guy really was.