Mediagraphy - Discography - Trackography - Videography - Gigography - Biography - Chronology

30 April 2011

Video Of Legendary Spirit In The Dark Duet (1971, With Aretha)!

Wolfgang's Vault, those wonderful guys who, since a few years, regularly give us supposedly long-lost audio recordings of live concerts, last year pleasantly surprised Rea & Ray-lovers with the unabridged 25m05s audio version of Spirit In The Dark, formerly only known through Jerry Wexler's cut for the Atlantic album Aretha Franklin, Live At The Fillmore West.
They recently unleashed an even bigger surprise: a crude 9m22s video that was recorded of the same concert over the Fillmore West's in-house tv-system. The release is part of a new program where Wolfgang's Vault will digitize and publish hundreds of hours of historical concert video tapings.

ThisThe integral version of this wonderfully primitive video can be watched here.

Every fan can no doubt live with the very limited quality of the video and the audio. The discrepancy between the concert as I have always visualized it in my mind and these actual pictures is huge. The stage is even smaller, and much more cramped, than I thought, and the response of the audience seems to have been much more laid back than Wexler's edit suggested. But that's just a reality check.
A bit harder to swallow is that the footage does not include the golden moments where Aretha interrupted her own rendition of Spirit to bring Ray on stage, happily shouting "I discovered Ray Charles".
Since those were the moments that always raised my neck hair and always gave me goosebumps when I listened to the original album version. Those were the moments that became part of my life's sound track.
By the way, I'm not sure if this footage actually is completely lost. As I wrote in an early post, the BBC archive's description of the Omnibus documentary Aretha Franklin - Queen Of Soul (1987)  promises 168 seconds where we see how "Aretha brings Ray Charles onto stage & they sing Spirit in the Dark". And I still have a few more trails to follow to other footage.

Update 18 May 2012:
A friend send me a complete 25-minute copy of the in-house video with Ray's contribution to the show, entirely congruent with the unabridged audio copy mentioned above.
This is what really happened: after performing Spirit In The Dark as her solo concert's finale, Aretha leaves the stage (at 5:05), obviously preparing to come back for an encore. When she returns (at 6:15), Ray is at her side. After bringing him to center stage, she sits down behind the electric piano, and leaves Ray standing beside her to do his thing (from 7:20). Ray then delivers his first eight minutes standing up (only time I have ever seen him doing that in a live concert!). 15 minutes into the tape, Ray takes over the piano - and this is where the Wolgang's Vault video (linked above) starts.

Update 19 May 2012:
The unabridged video (the only omission is Ray's walk-off) is also on Youtube!

25 April 2011

Soul Bag - The Best R&B Magazine In The World (FYI)


The historiography of African-American popular music is mainly in the hands of volunteers. And somehow, the appreciation for blues, rhythm & blues and soul music by these amateur specialists has always dominantly been a European thing.
Since the early 1960s France was without a doubt the market where Ray Charles was more popular and was taken more seriously than anywhere else in the world. Selling out theaters for weeks in a row. Giving the band an alibi for intensive tours through the country almost every year. Filmed, televized and radiobroadcast on a regular basis. Being covered and analyzed in the local music press - most notably by Le Jazz Hot - frequentlly.

Soul Bag is little known outside France. It's a quarterly magazine published by the CLARB (Liaison Committee Lovers Rhythm & Blues), lead by chief editor Nicolas Teurnier. With the Swedish Jefferson Blues Magazine (also launched in 1968), Soul Bag holds the longevity record among magazines devoted to the genre. You can read more about the magazine's history here.
Each new issue is not only a small productional miracle in itself, but also a huge delight because it looks and feels like a magazine from a big publishing house, and the best writers of Soul Bag combine a rare talent for story telling with an exceptional eye and respect for detail. Its regular contributors, all volunteers, are among the best specialists in this niche of music writing.
One of these writers is Joël Dufour, who has contributed to the liner notes of many re-releases of Ray Charles records, and whose writings and insights are also often quoted in this blog. Joël is not only an unsurpassed connaisseur of Ray Charles' music, but also knows around and about everything there is to know about many of the great musicians and singers who have played and recorded with Ray through his career (cf. e.g. his marvelous article on Ernest Vantrease in a recent issue of Soul Bag!).

Hit The Road Jack (1969)

On 7 October 1969 the program Midi Magazine on TF1 had one or two items announcing Ray Charles' concerts at La Salle Pleyel in Paris, on 8 and 9 October. They had an interview with Ray that was recorded in Salon de Provence, and showed an archival performance, filmed somewhere in France, probably also in 1969, of Hit The Road Jack (released as a bonus track, #17, on the DVD bootleg of the 1969 concert at La Salle Pleyel). The bonus track starts with a sequence where Ray is led on stage, while the band plays (a few notes of) Sidewinder.
The program is archived by Ina, ID CAF90011598.

21 April 2011

Ray Charles On The Dinah Shore (Chevy) Show (1963)

The integral 58m47s Dinah Shore Show  that was aired by NBC on January 23, 1963, is embedded below.
I strongly advise to watch the whole show; it's a gem. It seems to be totally in tact, as originally broadcast (although I suspect that the original was in color). With  filmed and inscripted studio commercials and all. With the infamous hand that Dinah put on Ray's shoulder. But above all: with a mini concert by Ray Charles, with his Orchestra, and with The Raelettes.
The only thing that seems to be missing, compared with several television history sources, is a rendition of Georgia On My Mind, but I think these sources were wrong on this detail.
  • [Dinah's laudatory intro] 27:00
  • Just A Little Lovin' 27:40
  • You Don't Know Me 30:50
  • What'd I Say 34:24
  • [Finale:] Zip A Dee Do Dah (with Dinah Shore, Liberace, Peter Nero and Big Tiny Little) 54.39
For more context see my first article on this program.

19 April 2011

Ray Charles Live At The Nassau Coliseum (1973)

Tony Horowitz (his mother was in the audience), on trumpet.
George Wein's bill of the last night of the second Newport Jazz Festival, on 8 July 1973 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale on Long Island, carried the names of  Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Donny Hathaway, Aretha Franklin, and Tito Puente. Cf. this squib, this article, this article, and this source.
Wolfgang's Vault has made a near-complete audio live recording of Ray Charles' part of that concert night available on their website.
The sound quality is mediocre, the editor's cuts between the songs are ruthlessly ugly, but all in all the atmosphere of this good concert, and the audience's reception, was well captured.
  1. Intro
  2. Let The Good Times Roll 
  3. Georgia On My Mind 
  4. The Long And Winding Road 
  5. Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma 
  6. Don't Change On Me 
  7. I Can't Stop Loving You
  8. Eleanor Rigby 
  9. I Can Make It Thru The Day (But Oh Those Lonely Nights) 
  10. Shake (with The Raelettes)
Track #9 is a special treat. I Can Make It Thru The Days (from the 1972 album Through The Eyes Of Love) was climbing the charts when this concert took place (peaking at #81 on the Pop chart and #21 on the R&B chart), explaining the extra cheerful response of the audience on the performance of this (great!) tune. It's the only live recording of this song that I know of.

The Voice of America collection in the Library of Congress holds a taping ("quality levels fluctuate") of this concert (catalog number RGA 0227-0229; RWD 7049-7051), which includes the expected finale:

   11.  What'd I Say.

Musicians: Phil Guilbeau, Walter Miller, Tony Horowitz, [unidentified] - trumpets; Ken Tussing, Craig Woods, Don Switzer, Glenn Childress, Fred Murrell - trombones; Gregg Abate, James Clay, Leroy Cooper, [unidentified], [unidentified] - saxophones; Calvin Keys - guitar; Edgar Willis - bass; Bill McCullough - drums;  John Henderson - keyboards. The Raelettes: Vernita Moss, Susaye Greene, Mable John, Dorothy Berry, Estella Yarbrough.

06 April 2011

Ray Charles On The Soto Tapes (c 1980)

Marci Soto's book Ray & Me (Monograph Publishing, 2011, ISBN-10: 0979948274) so far only attracted some attention from gossip writers. The first more or less respectful article on it appeared in the blog of the Riverfront Times, written by Aimee Levitt. It comes with a surprising "Exclusive", entailing 3 home-audiotapes from 1979 - 1981, where Marci, her daughter and Ray have some fun on and around the piano (low quality recordings, documentary value only).

01 April 2011

Ray Charles Interviewed By Michael Jackson (c 1997)

Michael Jackson is famous for his radio interviews with celebrities and politicians. He made his reputation as a longtime morning talk host on KABC, and also worked for KNX-AM in Los Angeles.
The Museum of Broadcast Communications has archived a KNX episode from 27 August 2005, titled Spike Lee & Ray Charles Tribute (archive ID RA_2849-B), where he first interviewed Lee, and then presented a découpage of an interview with Jamie Foxx (obviously from 2004) and historical sound bites that he recorded in earlier interviews with Ray Charles (possibly from 1997/8). You can listen to it here (after registering).