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Music Review: Ray Charles – Ray Charles Live In Concert

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Ray Charles’ recording career, from the 1950s until his death in 2004, produced one of the finest catalogues in American music history, which elevated him to iconic status.

The Concord Music Group has been reissuing many of his classic albums. The latest to be chosen is his brilliant 1965 release, Ray Charles Live In Concert. Recorded at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, during September of 1964, it was originally released on vinyl with 11 tracks. It now returns as a remastered CD, with extensive new liner notes, and an additional eight tracks, seven of which were previously unreleased. My only complaint is the new material was interspersed among the original. I would have preferred the music to have been presented in the order, as originally released, which would have preserved the initial intent and flavor of the album. The new material could have been added as a second section.

As with any Ray Charles album, it all comes down to the music. Ray Charles live, in concert, was very different from in the studio. Here he is surrounded by his big band, with the Raeletts providing vocal support. It included a twelve piece brass section, plus the usual guitar, bass, and drums. The sax section included David “Fathead” Newman, Hank Crawford, and Leroy “Hog” Cooper. He provides his own expert piano and organ work.

The music from the original release is brought into the modern age thanks to 24-bit remastering. My favorite track is “Makin’ Whoopee,” which made its Ray Charles debut. It was a spur of the moment choice as the band is initially not sure what Ray is playing. This six minute version has an improvisational feel as the band settles into a song that had not been expected or rehearsed. “Hallelujah I Love You So” was a rhythm & blues hit for him back in 1956. Here he resurrects the song as a rousing gospel tune, with the saxophones providing the foundation. He just rocks his way through his own “I Got A Woman.”

While the bonus tracks may not completely fit into a unified concert concept, they are excellent in their own right. A seven minute version of his big hit, “Georgia On My Mind,” was recorded at the same time and is enhanced by some organ improvisation and flute lines which run counterpoint to the vocals. Another added treat was his cover of the old 1952 Clovers tune, “One Mint Julep.” He gives a saucy vocal, which gets the song just right. Another nice addition is his soulful vocal on “That Lucky Old Sun.”

Just about all of Ray Charles’ music from this period of his career is excellent, and these live performances fall into that category. Ray Charles Live In Concert catches him at the height of his career. An essential reissue that reserves a seat for you in the front row.

 

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