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Ray Charles
Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings 1952 - 1959
Rhino

Ray Charles - Rhino set

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

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Ray Charles
The Dick Cavett Show: Ray Charles Collection

Shout Factory

Ray Charles - Dick Cavett showAs 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 priceless.

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

 

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