Archive for the ‘DVD Review’ Category

Adam Ant: The Blueblack Hussar

Saturday, October 24th, 2015

DVD_TheBlueblackBussarThe renewal of a rock ‘n’ roll survivor

1980s music fans will remember Adam Ant’s string of hits and a series of dandyish videos that dominated the early years of MTV. His New Romantic imagery was the studied creation of an artist, born from a love of history and a formal art school education, and a perfect fit for the New Wave era. His music combined the free spirit of punk rock with the poses of glam and the tribal wallop of twin drummers, and proved itself a surprisingly sturdy platform. Ant’s music career slowed down in the mid-80s, but his charisma and innate theatricality led to television, film and theater gigs that lasted out the ‘90s. But in 2002, troubling behavior that first cropped up in college returned with a vengeance, and in 2003, Ant was involuntarily “sectioned” for in-patient psychiatric care.

Ant discussed his bi-polar diagnosis in the documentary The Madness of Prince Charming, and again in his 2006 autobiography Stand & Deliver, but it wasn’t until four years later that he was sufficiently recovered to piece together a full artistic return. Legendary director Jack Bond documents that return in this 2013 cinema verite film, chronicling Ant assembling and rehearsing a new band, touring for the first time in fifteen years, and recording the album Adam Ant is The BlueBlack Hussar Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter. Along the way, the film reveals its subject as creative, intelligent, funny, hard-working and introspective. Viewers weaned on the MTV videos will come away with a much deeper appreciation of the thought and craft that went into Ant’s early work, and a feel for his continuing passion as an artist.

Along the road to re-emergence, Ant meets up with actress Charlotte Rampling, whose appearance in The Night Porter was a seminal early influence. He charms Rampling as they work together in the studio, just as he does artist Allen Jones, who has a connection to Ant (or more accurately, the pre-Ant, Stuart Goddard) of which he wasn’t even aware. Bond’s camera followed Ant for more than a year, capturing the frenetic energy of his return. The film doesn’t impose any context on the raw footage – no story setup for Ant’s return, no title slides identifying the guests; but there is an arc as Ant rehearses the band, publicizes his return, gigs his way up through smaller clubs, and emerges at the film’s end into the sunshine of Hyde Park and the welcome of an enormous festival audience.

Some fans have complained that the album capping this comeback was raw and underproduced, but the documentary makes evident that Ant is meticulous about everything he produces. If the album is raw, it’s because it was meant to be. Some of Ant’s new lyrics are coarse, and his music reaches back to the punk rock of his earliest work, but there isn’t even a hint of nostalgia to be heard. In his mid-50s Ant remains as magnetic and captivating as he was in his 20s, perhaps more so with the removal of MTV’s intermediation. The artistic drive that kept him upright as the original Ants were spirited away to form Bow Wow Wow continues to sustain him today; and in turn his energy sustains his fans, who turned out in droves for both his UK and US tours.

MVD’s 2015 DVD release augments the original documentary with bonus live performances of “Whip in My Valise,” “Young Parisians” (a duet with Boy George) and “Deutsche Girls”, along with a Q&A with the film’s director, Jack Bond. Longtime fans (who probably saw this film upon its theatrical release) will enjoy having this in their collection, but it’s the casual MTV fans who will really learn something new. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Adam Ant’s Home Page

Calypso Heat Wave

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

DVD_CalypsoHeatwave1Maya Angelou and calypso music take over the world

This film comes from Sam Katzman, one of Hollywood’s most prolific B-movie producers. In addition to serials, westerns and sci-fi, Katzman produced a number of music-filled films in the ‘50s and ‘60s, including Don’t Knock the Rock, Twist Around the Clock, Elvis Presley’s Kissin’ Cousins and Harum Scarum, Herman’s Hermits’ When the Boys Meet the Girls, and the classic teensploitation entry Riot on Sunset Strip.

Like those better known films, this 1957 entry is light on plot and heavy on musical cameos. The story involves a jukebox operator, played as a Harry Brock-styled mug by actor Michael Granger, muscling his way into a record label. Once inside, he pushes the label to cut more deeply into the artists’ action, echoing some surprisingly accurate truths of the racket’s seediest side. Along the way, the label’s star attraction skips town and discovers calypso in the Caribbean, which everyone quickly realizes is destined to be bigger than rock ‘n’ roll.

Performance highlights include lip-synched appearances by the Hi-Los, Treniers and Tarriers. A very young Joel Grey dances in an early scene, and legendary DJ Dick Whittinghill spins records in what might or might not be the actual KMPC radio studio. Perhaps the most surprising number is Maya Angelou’s back-lot Trinidadian song and dance production. Angelou had toured a club act in the mid-50s, recorded the album Miss Calypso, and performed in an off-Broadway revue from which the film borrowed its title.

DVD_CalypsoHeatwave2Also seen in the Trinidad sequence is a 23-year-old Alan Arkin, making his first-ever film appearance, playing guitar and singing lead alongside the Tarriers’ Erik Darling and Bob Carey. Their 1956 rendition of “The Banana Boat Song,” which they recreate here, helped spark the calypso craze, which also spawned the films Calypso Joe and Bop Girl Goes Calypso. You can find Calypso Heat Wave at The Video Beat (along with Bop Girl Goes Calypso), but it’s also playing regularly on getTV. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

For Singles Only

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

DVD_ForSinglesOnlyFor Singles Only is an unremarkable 1968 comedy (imagine the AIP beach party kids grown up and living in a singles-only apartment building) that’s worth seeking out for its unusual list of musical guests:

  • The Walter Wanderley Trio with Talya Ferro (poolside!)
  • The Cal Tjader Band (poolside at the body painting contest!)
  • Lewis & Clark Expedition (in fringed leathers and playing Vox guitars!)
  • The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (at the Sans Souci club dance!)
  • The Sunshine Company (in the credits but not in the film?)

The cast includes John Saxon, Mary Ann Mobley (two-time Elvis Presley co-star and Miss America 1959!) and the always delightful Chris Noel (playing the incredibly bitchy Lily), and the film was directed by Arthur Dreifuss, who’d helmed Riot on Sunset Strip and The Love-Ins the year before. The score was written and conducted by Fred Karger, who was apparently an object of affection to no less than Marilyn Monroe! This film turned up on GetTV last week, so keep an eye on their schedule for a repeat. You can also buy it on DVD.

Birth of the Living Dead

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

DVD_BirthOfTheLivingDeadThe tumultuous late-60s birth of the living dead

George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is one of the most influential, independently-produced films of all time. Not only did it create a new horror genre that’s lurched resolutely forward for more than fifty years, its transformation of low-budget constraints into story-telling assets is a template that’s been reused throughout the world of filmmaking. Romero’s semi-professional and amateur cast and crew, improvised effects and black & white film stock all contributed to an unrehearsed, reportorial feel that gave the film’s overt horror an even deeper psychological edge. And if that was all there was to the film, it would still stand tall in the horror canon; but there was much more to be found beneath the shockingly gory surface.

Night of the Living Dead was both a product and reflection of its times: the social upheavals amid which it was made, the city that rallied behind its hometown production, and the world into which the film was released. First Run Features’ 78-minute documentary explores the film’s production and the commercial and social milieus in which it was created. Threaded throughout are clips from a 2006 interview with Romero and commentary from a number of filmmakers and critics. An additional 33-minutes of interview footage is included as a bonus feature, augmented by an extraordinary 10-minute audience Q&A from a 1970 showing of the film at the New York Museum of Modern Art. The bonuses are rounded out with a short report on a world-record-breaking zombie walk at the same Monroeville mall at which Romero made Dawn of the Dead. The latter includes a short conversation with Zombie #1, Bill Hinzman.

The documentary starts with Romero’s early career producing shorts for television’s Mr. Rogers (sadly, “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsilectomy,” is not excerpted), and ads for beer and soap. His production company, The Latent Image, built their way up to the 35mm equipment that was used to make NOTLD, his first full-length film. Romero initially tried to peddle a script for a Bergmanesque art film, but failing to find investors he turned to the more commercial genre of horror. Inspired equally by Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (which had been turned into the 1964 film The Last Man on Earth) and the angry discontent brewing at home and in Vietnam, the 27-year-old Romero and his partner John Russo crafted a bleak picture of a country literally devouring itself in gustatory revolution.

Amid the inspirations of the times, one might think Duane Jones’ casting as the film’s lead (and the story’s most capable and steady character) was some sort of counterculture reaction to or comment on the racial tensions of the times. But it turns out that Jones was selected solely for his classically-trained acting skill, and featured as a character whose race was never an element of the plot. Though his placement was quite revolutionary, the script was written before his casting, and the lack off issue with his skin color turned out to be a lens through which the film was viewed, rather than a purposeful statement by the filmmakers. As in several other respects, the film gained context from its era without necessarily drawing from it directly.

Filming in and around Pittsburgh, Romero assembled a cadre of semi-professional and amateur actors and technicians. A new production company, Image 10, was formed to finance the film, and several of the investors (and Latent Image’s advertising clients) appeared in the film or served in technical roles. Romero drew upon the Pittsburgh community for help, pulling in local acting talent, police (and their dogs) and even a news station’s helicopter. Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille, the host of Chiller Theater appeared as a newsman in the film, and one of the film’s investors, who had a day job as a meatpacker, provided the animal parts used in the gore sequences. The documentary reveals that many of the actors played multiple roles and served in technical capacities; Marilyn Eastman, for example, played the mother Helen Cooper, a bug-eating ghoul, and served as the film’s make-up artist.

An hour into the documentary, the analysis turns to the film’s release and public reception. Wrapping in late 1967, it wasn’t until Spring 1968 that Romero went shopping for distributors. Carrying “an angry 60s film with a black lead,” shot by an unknown, Pittsburgh-based production company, in black and white, on a budget of only $100,000, in a film genre whose box office had been slipping, Romero had no luck with Columbia, AIP or other major distributors. The film was eventually picked up by the Walter Reade Organization (who re-titled the film from “Night of the Flesh Eaters” and inadvertently lost its copyright) and released to theaters, drive-ins and grindhouses. Critics, including Vincent Canby and Roger Ebert, failed to understand the film and trashed it in their reviews. Still, the film did well enough to be selected “Exploitation Picture of the Month” by the National Association of Theater Owners.

The film got a more public boost when a 1969 re-release resulted in an interview with George Romero in Andy Warhol’s Inter/view, and praise in France’s Positif. The film was shown at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in June 1970, and a 10 minute audio Q&A with the audience finds Romero giddy with the acceptance his film had finally found. Romero is a lively and interesting interview subject, and though the additional commentary from assorted filmmakers, screenwriters and critics is interesting, it would have been even more interesting to hear from other surviving members of the film’s cast and crew. The film’s Pittsburgh birth and improbably huge (and long-lasting) impact are great stories, but grounding NOTLD’s ethos in the anger, radical politics and violence of the late ’60s is this documentary’s most surprising revelation. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

Birth of the Living Dead’s Home Page

Going Underground

Monday, October 7th, 2013

DVD_GoingUndergroundIlluminting Paul McCartney’s avant-garde credentials

John Lennon may have ended up with the larger avant-garde cred, but this fascinating 153-minute documentary suggests it was Paul McCartney who first dug into the underground. Combining period footage (including clips of the Beatles, Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, Pink Floyd and Soft Machine) and contemporary interviews with a number of ’60s scene-makers, the film demonstrates McCartney’s early interest and sponsorship of counterculture art and social activities, and the role he served in bridging the avant-garde into the mainstream. Beatles fans will recognize key moments in the group’s career, but may not know the roots of the invention and synthesis that brought “Tomorrow Never Knows” and other icons to fruition. Even lesser known is the role McCartney played in supporting key counterculture activities, such as Indica Books and Gallery, the Long Hair Times (and its successor the International Times), and the legendary Million Volt Light and Sound Rave.

The story begins with the late-50s emergence of youth culture in the UK, including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the expressive freedom and bohemian romance of the Beats, the cutting edge jazz of the 1960s, and the growing influence of art school on music. The program gets to the Beatles at the thirty-minute mark, when John Lennon and George Harrison dip their toe in the underground at a birthday party for Allen Ginsburg. Lennon was then living in the suburbs with his first wife and child, and didn’t find an immediate resonance with the underground. McCartney, on the other hand, was a bachelor, living in London and being introduced to the works of John Cage by the family of Jane Asher, to Karlheinz Stockhausen and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop by George Martin, and to avant-garde books and art through his association with Indica.

McCartney’s intellectual pursuits, and his experiments in a home studio (something that would continue into his post-Beatles solo career) were absorbed by the Beatles, but reiterated to the market in pop song format. The reframing of avant-garde ideas, coupled with the Beatles unprecedented renown, made it seem as if these concepts were drawn from thin air. But as this film documents, there are many antecedents from which McCartney and the Beatles drew, brilliantly recontextualized and then released into the commercial mainstream. This might seem opportunistic, had the Beatles not completed the loop by feeding back into the underground. By the end of 1966 the Beatles had abandoned touring, Lennon had met Yoko Ono (at a private showing of her work at Indica), and McCartney provided the impetus for both TNK and the “Carnival of Light” sound collage.

The Beatles continued to slip avant-garde elements into their music, but 1967 turned out to be a year of changes. McCartney’s media appearances gave a more explicit view of his involvement with the underground, but by year’s end, with the death of Brian Epstein, he’d given himself over to running the group’s business. Lennon, on the other hand, had become much more deeply enmeshed with the avant-garde, and expanded its role on Beatles records with Revolution 9. Post-Beatles, Lennon strengthened his ties to political elements of the underground, but the avant-garde influences faded from his solo music. McCartney doubled-down on the mainstream with Wings, but continued to experiment in his solo outings.

McCartney’s role as a bridge between the underground and the commercial mainstream provides the central thesis, but the film’s subtitle is a bit misleading, as McCartney himself does not occupy the majority of the program’s screen time (there are, for example, major segments on Pink Floyd and Soft Machine).  The bulk of the continuity is provided by a mix of the era’s scene makers and contemporary musicologists, providing background information that is essential to understanding the avant-garde milieu in which the Beatles developed. No doubt many Beatles fans have already absorbed some or all of this material, but to those who only know the group through their records and publicity, the context for their musical experimentation will be eye opening. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Various Artists: Woody Guthrie at 100! Live at the Kennedy Center

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Various_WoodyAt100LiveAll-star 2012 tribute concert on CD and DVD

This celebration of Woody Guthrie’s one hundredth birthday is more like a family gathering than an all-star tribute. That’s because every one of these performers is an artistic descendent of Gurthrie’s music. It’s impossible to overstate Woody Guthrie’s impact on popular music, as his themes, songs, style and attitudes have transcended several generations of performers and fans; Guthrie remains a North Star by which folk-derived music is navigated. The song list includes many of Guthrie’s best-known and best-loved songs, along with archival lyrics posthumously set to music by Joel Rafael, Lucinda Williams, Jackson Browne and Tom Morello.

Staging this homage as a concert, rather than a collection of studio recordings pulled together over weeks and months, honors one of the basic tenets of Guthrie’s work: music as a shared, visceral experience. Guthrie’s songs were written for live performance, and every one of the night’s performers was fueled by both the material, the stages they’ve traversed throughout their careers, and each other. The breadth of Guthrie’s mastery is evident in material that ranges from endearing children’s songs to strident social commentary and searching introspection. The universality of his work is equally evident in the range of musical styles in which his songs are comfortably expressed, and the continuing currency of his topics.

The CD artfully edits the performances into a briskly-paced 77-minute program shorn of between-song banter; the DVD augments the program with a reading from Jeff Daniels and a short speech from Guthrie’s daughter, Nora. Both of the spoken pieces, and six of the musical selections are additions to the one-hour PBS broadcast cut. The DVD also adds several extras, including an audio track of Woody Guthrie discussing his early recordings and rare clips of him performing. This tribute concert capped a year-long celebration of Guthrie’s centennial that was filled with books, box sets and symposia, and provides a renewed opportunity to remember his empathetic genius. [©2013 Hyperbolium]

Various Artists: We Walk the Line – A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash

Friday, August 31st, 2012

All-star tribute to Johnny Cash on the 80th anniversary of his birth

This CD+DVD set documents an all-star tribute to Johnny Cash that was held in April 2012 inAustin,Texas. The lineup includes Cash’s outlaw peers, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson, and a lengthy list of No Depression favorites that includes Buddy Miller, Rhett Miller and the Carolina Chocolate Drops; the latter burn up their cover of “Jackson,” with Rhiannon Giddens sawing her fiddle and channeling the sass of June Carter Cash at the same time. The nineteen tracks also include pairings of Kristofferson with Jamey Johnson, Nelson with Sheryl Crow, and Shooter Jennings with Amy Nelson. Nelson, Kristofferson,Jenningsand Johnson band together to sing the Highwayman’s “Highwayman,” and the full ensemble gathers to close the show with “I Walk the Line.”

The song list stretches from Cash’s first single “Cry Cry Cry” (and its flip “Hey Porter”) to his last, “Hurt,” the latter sung pained, weary and a bit wandering by Lucinda Williams. The house backing band (led by Don Was and featuring Kenny Aronoff, Ian McLagen, Greg Leisz and perennial all-star Buddy Miller), draws continuity across the performances, and the live setting wrings terrific emotion and energy from the singers. Brandi Carlile may not have done jail time, but her growls and blue yodels hit the notes of anger, desperation and resignation Cash wrote into “Folsom Prison Blues.” Shelby Lynne sings “Why Me Lord” with arresting gospel fervor, and Iron & Wine’s “The Long Black Veil” is both sad and stalwart.

The 64-minute CD omits the stage patter (including that of stage host Matthew McConaughey) presented on the 77-minute DVD, and reorders the set list. The widescreen, multi-camera video (with either stereo or Dolby 5.1 audio) adds dimension to the performances, as you see the emotion the vocalists put into their performances and the distinction with which the instrumentalists pull together as a band. Drummer Kenny Aranoff plays with joy and freedom on “Get Rhythm,” Don Was sways blissfully with his bass as he watches Buddy Miller solo, and McGlagen’s fingers fly across the piano keys for “Wreck of the Old 97.” The DVD extras include Willie Nelson rehearsing “I Still Miss Someone,” McConaughey performing “The Man Comes Around,” artist interviews and a short making-of video. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Johnny Cash’s Home Page

Billy Joe Shaver: Live at Billy Bob’s Texas

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

There’s no shortage of live albums on Billy Joe Shaver, including well-picked gigs from the ‘80s (Live from Austin, TX) and ‘90s (Storyteller: Live at the Bluebird and Unshaven: Live at Smith’s Olde Bar), but when you’re an honest-to-God troubadour, each performance is a unique combination of people, place and songs. This two-disc (CD/DVD) document of Shaver’s September 2011 show at Billy Bob’s Texas, is just as essential as the earlier volumes. Though one could never expect Shaver to fully recover from the passing of his son Eddy, he sounds more energized – and less haunted –than he’s appeared in several years. No doubt the stage is both a reminder and a sanctuary, and he throws himself into these songs in a way younger performers couldn’t even imagine. His voice sounds great, and his band plays in a deep, empathetic pocket.

The set list holds few surprises for Shaver’s fans, but mostly because they’re so fervent about his music. Those new to Shaver’s catalog will find many of his best-known songs here, and even his most well-traveled tunes are sung with enthusiasm for words that clearly remain both important and true. The two new titles are the Johnny Cash-styled “Wacko from Waco,” recounting a 2007 shooting incident (also memorialized in Dale Watson’s “Where Do You Want It?”), and “The Git Go,” deftly casting modern ills against biblical antecedents of temptation, truth and fate. Studio versions of the new tunes are also included as bonuses. Shaver’s musical range – from delicate old-timey tunes and folk-country to stomping country-rock – would be impressive at any age, but at 72, he’s hotter than most musicians a quarter his age.

On the DVD, Shaver looks older than he sounds, though his dancing and shadow-boxing, not to mention easy smile, speak to his vitality. The rapt attention and enthusiastic response of the audience clearly add fuel to his performance. The multi-camera wide-screen video runs down the same twenty live titles as the CD but also includes stage dialog and band introductions were edited out of the music-only program. Also included on the DVD are video inserts that provide comments and stories from fellow Texans Willie Nelson and Pat Green. Shaver’s mastery as a performer continues to deepen over the years, so while earlier live sets captured the firebrand energy of younger years, this one showcases his seemingly effortless state of grace. This is a superb collection for Shaver’s longtime fans, and a good introduction for those who’ve only heard his songs covered by others. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Billy Joe Shaver’s Home Page

Todd Rundgren: Todd

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Invigorating live run-through of Rundgren’s 1974 LP + interview

Following a trend chartered by Heart, Brian Wilson, Slayer, Lou Reed and dozens of others, Todd Rundgren has performed two of his albums live in concert. This DVD (and a separate CD) documents a September 2010 performance of Rundgren’s fifth solo release, the double-album Todd, in his hometown of Philadelphia. When originally released in 1974, Todd followed the direction chartered by A Wizard, A True Star, and pointed to Utopia’s heavier use of synthesizers. The track list mixed progressive-rock pieces and instrumentals with vocal pop songs, and following the delayed commercial success of “Hello It’s Me” (recorded in ’72, but a chart success in ’73), split fan ears between those who enjoyed shorter pop songs, and those who favored longer, more experimental productions.

Without any big chart hits as commercial tentpoles, the album works better in concert than it did on vinyl upon its release. The mix of progressive jams and succinct pop makes for a well-paced show, with the instrumental interludes punctuated by bursts of more easily digested melody and harmony. The material remains remarkably contemporary sounding, particularly the vocal arrangements. Rundgren is terrific, though his vocals are a bit low in parts of the stereo mix. The assembled band includes Jesse Gress, Greg Hawkes, Prairie Prince, Bobby Strickland and Kasim Sulton, and a children’s chorus is added for the closing “Sons of 1984.” There are a few minor hiccups in the staging (this was an early performance in a short tour), but the group is tight and hits some remarkable grooves, such as on “Everybody’s Going to Heaven.”

The 70-minute stage performance was augmented by laser lights and ornate costumes, and professionally taped with multiple cameras (though, disappointingly, in 4:3 rather than widescreen). The audio is available in both stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. The audience listens rapturously from start to finish, carrying the last song’s sing-along refrain for several minutes after the curtain’s closed. All that’s missing to make this a truly complete album performance is the experimental “In and Out the Chakras We Go (Formerly: Shaft Goes to Outer Space),” which was omitted from the tour’s set list.

The disc includes a 78-minute interview (part one of two; the second part to appear on an upcoming live DVD of Healing) conducted the night before the performance by super-fan (and sports commentator) Roy Firestone. Filmed in wide-screen before a live audience, Firestone takes Rundgren through his career via videos, photos, album covers, music snippets and Q&A. They alight on notable people, influences and accomplishments, and Rundgren is forthright (even dishy), full of interesting experiences and a natural storyteller. They’re an hour into the interview, having discussed Rundgren’s extensive work as a producer, before they even get to his own work. This is a terrific package for Rundgren fans, and whether or not Todd is one of your favorite albums, the interview alone is worth the price of admission. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Todd Rundgren’s Home Page

Ray Charles: Live in France 1961

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Ray Charles live in 1961 at the height of his powers

1961 was a banner year for Ray Charles. The crossover seeds he’d sewn with Atlantic on 1959’s The Genius of Ray Charles had led him to bigger bands and orchestras and a contract with ABC. In 1960 he’d notched his first #1 on the pop chart with a cover of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia on My Mind,” and by 1961 the demand for his concert appearances finally brought him to Europe, where he headlined the second-annual Antibes Jazz Festival in southeastern France. Charles performed four dates with the classic lineup of his octet, featuring Hank Crawford (alto sax), David “Fathead” Newman (tenor sax and flute), Leroy Cooper (baritone sax), Phillip Guilbeau (trumpet), John Hunt (trumpet), Edgar Willis (bass), Bruno Carr (drums) and the Raelettes (Gwen Berry, Margie Hendrix, Pat Lyles and Darlene McCrea).

The two full dates captured here – July 18th and 22nd – split their set lists between earlier titles recorded for Atlantic and then recent sides for ABC. The two sets repeat a few titles (“Let the Good Times Roll,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “Sticks and Stones” and crowd-rousing versions of Charles’ first crossover hit, “What’d I Say”), but also add unique titles, including a swinging take of Charles then-current Latin-rhythm single “One Mint Julep” a celebratory performance of “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” (with Newman stepping to the front for a short solo), and a cover of Nat King Cole’s “With You On My Mind.” The band’s instrumental tunes give Charles an opportunity to show off his considerable talent as a pianist, and the fluidity with which the shows move between jazz, blues, R&B, gospel and pop is mesmerizing.

The two sets are augmented by six bonus performances culled from shows on the 19th and 21st, bringing the total program to a satisfying 105 minutes. Originally filmed (not videotaped) for French public television, these performances have been unseen for nearly fifty years. The black-and-white footage is neatly edited, with interesting close-ups of the instrumentalists and images of the sunglasses-wearing cigarette-smoking audience. The audio is crisp, well-balanced mono with only a few inconsequential artifacts, including Charles’ enthusiastic foot stomping rattling his microphone stand on “Let the Good Times Roll.” This is a terrific archival discovery and a must-see for Ray Charles fans! [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]