Ray Charles
" Live in Concert "
Concord Music Group

Blueswax 5

What'd He Say?

he first thing that smacks the listener is how well recorded this 1964 live set was captured. Wally Heider was an exceptional recording engineer, and his legacy needs to be spoken about more often. But ultimately, it's about the music right? Yes, but we've heard many of these tunes compiled before. They are a little different here, but I found this set a little too laid back for my ear-buds.

This was Ray's classic ensemble, but it's the expanded version of fifteen pieces: most notably David "Fathead" Newman's Texas tenor and the Memphis alto sax-man Hank Crawford, who typically did the arranging for Charles, but Bill Dahl's fine liner notes tell us that these were Quincy Jones' arrangements and Hank is just listed as the alto saxophonist. These tracks had seen the light of day in 1965, but here we get six previously unreleased tunes. Don't get too excited. _ _After a brief introduction by Los Angeles D.J. Joe Adams, this big band instrumentally swings into resident trombonist Julian Priester's "Swing a Little Taste." Its pretty hip. A little bit of soul exudes on a mostly instrumental "One Mint Julep," wherein the horn section is dead-on, but it's performed at a slower pace than I'd expected. There's an interesting classical introduction by Charles' piano that shifts into "I Got a Woman." Kind of odd. Seven-plus minutes recited at a snail's pace of "Georgia On My Mind" was far too long for me to endure, and was no surprise why it wasn't offered on the original recording.

I felt like I was at a funeral, complete with Ray's church-like organ, on the dawdling "That Lucky Old Sun," another tune that didn't make it on the original release. Another previously unreleased "In the Evening (When the Sun Goes Down)" just crawls. In fairness, the band eventually picks up the tempo during the instrumental passage, but it's not enough to save this tardy rendition. Supposedly "Makin' Whoopee" was a spontaneous and unrehearsed on-stage call by Ray that wasn't one of his best decisions. It's pretty lame. Yet another previously unreleased bonus track, "Busted," is unremarkable and not the least bit memorable.

The Raeletts don't add much spark to "Don't Set Me Free." "Two Ton Tessie" is yet another previously unreleased addition that could have been left on the cutting room floor, plus it's terribly corny. "My Baby (I Love Her, Yes I Do)" is a painful dirge it's so slow and, yes, another bonus track that doesn't add any substance to this sleepy disc. It's almost over and "What'd I Say" is okay, but other versions are far more igniting. Then Ray talks about going to Japan and discovering a new groove which is, are you ready? "Pop Goes the Weasel," good night and amen. That's how the album ends, as I scratch my head in disbelief.

There you have it, even with the six previously unreleased tracks (yawn) I'm not sure why the Concord Music Group felt compelled to revisit this live performance. Yes, we all know that Ray is one of the greatest artists of our lifetime, but unfortunately the most fascinating aspect about this Ray Charles Live In Concert is how remarkably well it was recorded. That's it, that's all. Besides: That's what'd I say!

Bob Putignano a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at www.SoundsofBlue.com. Bob maybe contacted at: bob8003@yahoo.com

Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com