Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings 1952 - 1959
Baby, what I say! The
ultimate archivists at Rhino Entertainment have assembled a package
that no hardcore fan of the late, great Brother Ray can do
without --- seven compact discs containing every note he ever
played, as a leader or as a sideman, during the decade of the '50s,
plus one DVD of his band's historic live performance at the 1960
Newport Jazz Festival!
That means not only the
original hit versions of classics like "Mess Around," "Drown In My
Own Tears," "Hallelujah I Love Her So," "I've Got A Woman," and so
many others, but all of the B-sides, obscurities, rarities,
out-takes, alternate takes ---you name it, if he recorded it for the
Atlantic label, it's here.
Included are his two
jazz-oriented albums with vibraphonist Milt Jackson, as well as the
complete debut disc by saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman (which
featured the Charles' band, including the Man himself, in support of
his star soloist).
The box set, cleverly designed to resemble a portable record
turntable of yesteryear, includes a beautiful 80-page hardbound
booklet chock full of liner notes by Atlantic label founder Ahmet
Ertegun, biographer David Ritz, critic Nat Hentoff and many others,
along with complete personnel listings for every session.
When it comes to those
personnel, we're talkin' about some of the heaviest cats ever to
come out of Texas, New Orleans, and New York City. Aside from the
aforementioned Jackson and Newman, there are contributions from
saxophonists Sam "The Man" Taylor and Hank Crawford (Ray himself
plays the occasional solo on alto), as well as from guitar greats
Mickey Baker and Kenny Burrell. And let's not forget the Raelets, in
particular the stunning lead vocals of the much-underrated Mary Ann
Fisher and Margie Hendrix.
In the interests of full disclosure, fans looking for versions of
"Hit The Road Jack," "Georgia," "Let's Go Get Stoned," or for Ray's
country-western recordings, are advised that his hits of the '60s
and '70s were originally recorded for the ABC label (not Atlantic),
and thus will not be found here (although these later recordings are
available elsewhere, again thanks to Rhino).
During the period at
hand, the Genius' recordings tended to fall into either "jazz" or
"R&B" categories. Nonetheless, he did begin to experiment with both
string-laden pop standards and with C&W songs (including a killer
version of Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On," complete with pedal steel
guitar!), and those early experiments are included in this set.
As for the DVD, I must
confess that I found this performance to be even stronger than the
two shows contained on the Live in Brazil 1963 set released
by Rhino last year. It also includes a recent interview with Ahmet
Ertegun conducted by "Ray" film director Taylor Hackford.
So that's it in a nutshell --- if it's possible to gorge oneself on
too much great music, this is the way to go.
Tell Santa that you have
been a very good boy or girl this year, and that the Pure Genius
box set is what you deserve in return.
--- Lee Poole
The Dick Cavett Show: Ray
As wonderful as Ray
Charles' music sounds, there sometimes is no substitute for
getting to see the Genius and to hear him speak, at least on film.
The Dick Cavett Show:
Ray Charles Collection is a sensational two-DVD set documenting
the three appearances Charles made on Cavett's late night talk show
of the early 1970s. Both the musical performances and the chit chat
show the man's musical genius and his charming personality.
The viewer has the
option to watch just the musical performances as well as the entire
show (minus the commercials, of course). The interviews with the
other guests, including actor Tony Randall, author Margaret Mead,
New York mayor John Lindsay (looking quite dapper in early '70s
urban styles), and Dr. Samuel Rosen, are in itself fascinating
glimpses into the era, especially the comments on the possible
impeachment of then President Nixon.
The second episode,
which aired on January 26, 1973 featured Charles as the only guest.
With the extra time, he was able to perform eight songs rather than
his usual two per show, including stunning performances of "Georgia
On My Mind" and "Eleanor Rigby."
In addition to the
performances with the house band, Charles allowed Cavett to join him
on a duet on "Am I Blue"; these moments from each episode are
In addition to the three
complete Cavett shows, disc two includes an interview with the
current day Cavett reminiscing about his relationship with Charles
and their three talk show appearances.
The film quality is so
good that it wouldn't be hard to imagine these shows to have been
taped just yesterday instead of more than 30 years ago.
This DVD set is a must
have. It's one that you will want to watch over and over.
--- Bill Mitchell