The genius of Appellate Judge James A. Stewart usually leaves him at home.
Our reviews of O-Genio: Ray Charles Live In Brazil, 1963 (published January 3rd, 2005), Ray Charles: Live At Montreux (Blu-Ray) (published November 26th, 2008), and Ray Charles Live: In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony (published January 14th, 2005) are also available.
"Ladies and gentlemen, you've been entertained by the genius of Ray Charles."
The 1961 Antibes Jazz Festival let French (and European) audiences hear Ray Charles for the first time. Ray Charles: Live in France 1961 puts those four historic performances—or chunks of them, at least—on DVD.
The set list is as follows:
July 18, 1961
July 22, 1961
You may have noticed lots of repetition in the set list, but the songs are just a little bit different each time. I'd say the best versions are in the July 22 concert; it's a high-energy performance that probably had the crowd mesmerized from "Let the Good Times Roll." It's also more varied, showing off Charles' gentle romantic crooning in "Ruby" before switching to the more powerful "Tell the Truth" with a Margie Hendrix solo, for example. In both full concerts everything's good, although the instrumentals that start his shows feel like he's just getting warmed up. Charles seems to get into the performance just a little more with each song, with "What'd I Say" ending each on a high note that undoubtedly sent audiences away happy.
The black-and-white film does a good job, for the most part, of providing an all-angles look at the concerts. There are plenty of closeups of Charles, with some shots of his hands on the keyboard and his feet tapping time. His combo and the Raeletts get their moments as well, although the camera was apparently right next to Charles throughout. Crowd shots show audience members dancing to the music or watching intently. I also appreciated the inclusion of the bilingual introductions in English and French; it just added to the feeling of being there.
The sound's mono, but the power of Charles' voice and the music come through. The picture shows its age, with flecks and lines, but it's still sharp.
If you've listened to Charles' music but haven't seen a full performance, Ray Charles: Live in France 1961 presents a rare opportunity. Chances are you'll be impressed as well as entertained by Ray Charles' genius.
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