Ray Charles: Live in Concert

Expanded reissue of snappy 1964 live date

Ray Charles was not only an iconic singer, songwriter and pianist, he was also a superb band leader and entertainer. And nowhere did these talents so fully magnify one another, and nowhere did the Genius so fully indulge the breadth of his musical mastery, than on stage. This 1964 date, recorded at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles was originally released as a 12-track LP in 1965 (and shouldn’t be confused with the 1973 LP Ray Charles Live, which anthologized late-50s performances). This CD reissue augments the original album with seven previously unreleased tracks, 24-bit remastering (by Bob Fisher at Pacific Multimedia), band credits (notably missing from the original release), full-panel black-and-white photos, and extensive liner notes from Bill Dahl.

Wally Heider’s original live recording is crisp and balanced, capturing the powerful attack and fine details of Charles, his band and the soloists. The show opens with the anticipatory instrumental “Swing a Little Taste,” stoked by MC Joe Adams, solos from Charles and David “Fathead” Newman, and crackling accents and flourished rolls by drummer Wilbert Hogan. Charles plays his organ cool while the band swings a deep Latin groove on “One Mint Julep,” and switches to piano to tease the audience with a few stylized bars of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” before singing a blue, moaning introduction to kick off “I Got a Woman.” A two-part single of the latter track became a low-charting hit in 1965.

Charles offers up an emotionally charged version of Eddy Arnold’s “You Don’t Know Me” and an improvised small-combo arrangement of “Makin Whoppee.” He introduces the Raelettes for “Don’t Set Me Free,” bringing Lillian Fort forward to sing imaginative responses to Charles’ lead. Alongside “One Mint Julep,” the reissue’s newly added tracks include a thoughtful take on “Georgia on My Mind” that features Bill Pearson’s flute dancing around the organ, bass and drums, a deeply felt version of “That Lucky Old Sun,” and a sassy take on the humorous “Two Ton Tessie.” The show closes with an audience-rousing “What’d I Say” and an odd sing-along of “Pop Goes the Weasel.” This is a tight, beautifully recorded performance of the genius of soul as he basked in the fame of his early ‘60s artistic and commercial success. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

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