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Live in France 1961 [DVD] [2011] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 14 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Ray Charles in his prime! Jazz! Pop R&B! and unseen for 50 years! 2 Nov 2011
By Steven I. Ramm - Published on
Ray Charles was an American music icon. He scored hits on the R&B, pop, jazz and even country music charts. There are a number of DVDs of Charles live performances, but this new release is - in my opinion - the best. And, though 50 years old, it is being released on home video for the first time.

If you've read my other reviews over the years, you know that I'm a huge fan of any video release produced bt Reelin' in the Years Production. They've never let me down whether it was their Motown or Stax documentaries, their superb "Jazz Icons" and "British Invasion" sets or the sole release on there "Folk Icons" series: "Pete Seeger in Concert", The team of David Peck, Phil Galloway, Tom Gulotta and Steve Scoville search Europe television archives for film footage of music performances that the (mostly) government-owned networks have preserved. And, because the performances are on film, not videotape (easily erased and reused by US television networks) they have survived.

Charles was at the peak of his career in 1961, He was leaving Atlantic Records and starting at ABC Paramount - and, between the labels, had 10 albums released that year. A French music promoter booked Charles for his Antibes Jazz Festival (which also featured Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Count Basie and Les McCann, among others). The musical performances were filmed (as well as separate audio recordings in real time) and edited into "compilation" shows for broadcast. No complete, sequenced, video of Charles performances was ever aired.

The RITY team went back to the original "set list" for the four nights that Charles performed and "recreated" the concerts. Using footage of the audience as "connectors" for the individual songs, the programs are seamless. And the quality of the prints used is superb.

The two main concerts presented on the 111-minute DVD are from July 18 and July 22, 1961. Each starts off with an instrumental jazz number or two (James Moody's "the Story" or Horace Silver's "Doodlin'") - after all this is a jazz festival. Charles plies the ivories with ease. For this tour he brought a smaller eight-piece band with the amazing tenor sax player, David "Fathead" Newman getting lots of solos on both sax as well as flute (on an arrangement of Charles' classic "Georgia on my Mind"" that was new to me). Another big name in jazz - alto sax man Hank Crawford - is in the band too. "Georgia" covers Charles' pop repertoire an d "One Mint Julep" straddles the jazz/R&B mode. Then it's on to the all-out performance of "What'd I Say" with Raelettes doing call-and-response with Charles. Because it was filmed over consecutive nights, there are repeated songs. "Georgia", "the Story", and "What'd I Say" are repeated - the latter, three times. But Charles makes it a bit different each time and the songs hold up.

As with other RITY productions, there is a nice 16 page booklet of informative liner notes - by Rob Bowman - and photos. And all this is offered at a mid-range price point.

Whether you are long time Charles fan - or only know him from his "pop" and "R&B" years, you will find these performances a revelation. He was at his prime and we owe a big debt to French TV (and to the RITY team) for preserving the footage and making it available 50 years after it was captured on film.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Ray Charles live in 1961 at the height of his powers 18 Nov 2011
By hyperbolium - Published on
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]
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic Early Live Ray Charles Footage! 28 Aug 2012
By Steve Parsons - Published on
Verified Purchase
It never ceases to amaze me the amount of quality live footage that is constantly being discovered or circulated of Jazz & Blues artists performing in Europe. It seems like Europeans, the UK, France and Germany in particular made every effort to record and film as many legendary artists as they could performing in their countries in the late 50's to the 70's. This recently available footage of Ray Charles' first live performances in Europe is nothing short of astounding. The footage, while black and white (common for the time period) was recorded on actual professional reels as opposed to VHS tape for TV broadcast and thus is excellent quality. There are some slight shifts in audio mix elements and quality throughout but these are really only minor issues. The fact that nearly 2 hours of footage, culled from the 1st and 2nd set of Mr. Charles' performances, is presented in excellent quality is really amazing. If you're a fan of Ray Charles in his prime, this is a must-have DVD to own! The jazz side of Ray Charles as well as his classic r&b material is represented well here.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Ray up close and personal 3 Jan 2012
By Boo - Published on
Verified Purchase
A fascinating artefact from the 1960s. In the first concert, Ray and the guys' gear must still be in transit because the musicians are reading charts placed on chairs in front of them. Show business! It's typical of the slightly down home aspect of the whole show, in which Ray bumps the mike stand repeatedly. Similarly with all of his streamlined unit -- they are a joy to watch. When the backup girls finally join the band on stage it's quite a moment and they add another layer of finesse to the music. The mono recording is good enough, quite rich in its own way, and carries plenty of detail. What's with Fathead Newman's horn? Twice he steps up to the mike to solo and is fiddling with a loose gooseneck on his tenor that he has to readjust at a crucial moment. His solos are these low key semi elliptical affairs that sound like partial telegrams from other solos. Finally, on his third solo you get to see what he can do. Why wouldn't he have sorted that out before the show, or at least before his solo?? As I said, fascinating. It's not quite the definitive Ray performance I look for, but a gem in that it presents him and the band at a peak, winning new audiences and showing the wares in depth.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A dream ! 31 Oct 2011
By Yvon Salaun - Published on
Verified Purchase
Absolutly INCONTOURNABLE ! despite a weak sound on some titles .At this time , french jazz fans were as chapel : R Charles was not jazz for them .In the same time blues was not admitted in french jazz magazines except after chronicles about Chicago blues by J Denêtre and M Chauvard .Look at this wonderful concerts They are the bests of Brother Ray live ...and Marjorie Hendrix still in the band powerful Marjorie as usual .A rare document from R Charles's in his beginning in France .
Wishes and dreams : when video about Brother Ray at Palais des sports in Paris oct 61 ...? or his fabulous concert in Atlanta ...?
If you like soul music , blues , jazz YOU MUST BUY THIS DVD .
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