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

23 December 2017

Uroš Perić Shines On Have A Merry Christmas!

Within a year or so after Ray Charles passed away, two things happened that would help a lot to soften the pain and fill the emptiness his death left behind in the hearts and souls of his fans. Firstly, YouTube was founded, slowly but surely opening up a plethora of Brother Ray's live performances - over the past years 250 TV performances and close to 200 of his live concerts have emerged.
Secondly, Uroš Perić, a singer / songwriter / keyboardist / arranger from Slovenia, couldn't suppress his urge to keep the Genius' music alive in the 21st century. Not by imitating Brother Ray, but by meticulously studying all these live materials, and by re-interpreting Ray's own re-interpretations of the American Songbook and the Ray Charles Songbook.
Listening to Uroš newest album, Have A Merry Christmas, your first realization of course will be that the similarities between Ray’s and Uroš’ voices are indeed downright stunning. But that shouldn’t close your ears for how Uroš has mastered the idioms of the jazz and blues piano. And how, just like Ray, Perić is consistently collaborating with great musicians - in combos, small bands, big bands and symphony orchestras - reconstructing or recreating the best possible arrangements, and thus becoming one of the very few modern balladeers to keep alive a broad spectrum from the 20th century's orchestral traditions of jazz, rhythm and blues and pop ballads.
A lush live TV-show aired by RTV Slovenia in 2016* was so successful that they decided to invite Perić, his Pearlettes, the RTV symphony orchestra, RTV big band, RTV youth choir and the Pearlettes back to their audio studio in Ljubljana, to record this CD, showcasing (mostly) the same repertoire.
In his lifetime Ray Charles performed many of the tunes on this CD (but the Genius never studio-recorded his magnificent rendition of Merry Christmas Baby). Perić also included three of his own songs, and a great version of Heaven Help Us All.
It’s easy to imagine what Brother Ray's own comment would have been after hearing this great new Christmas album:  "Uroš has taken some of the things that he has heard over the years from me and put himself into it. He made it fresh. I like that! And by the way, that rendition of Merry Christmas Baby may be better than Charles Brown's original; and it certainly is better than mine!"**

Uroš Perić, Have A Merry Christmas (RTV SLO 114816, 2017).
For sale through this webshop (11 euro); also available soon via iTunes and other streaming services.

Merry Christmas Baby (CD):

Merry Christmas Baby (2016, live):

Heaven Help Us All (2016, live):

I've contributed parts of the text above to the liner notes of Have A Merry Christmas. *All or most video tracks are currently on Youtube.**The first part of this 'quote' actually is an almost literal paraphrase of what Ray once said about Joe Cocker.

15 December 2017

Ray Charles In Skellefteå

On June 29, 1999 Ray Charles performed with "FunkFilharmonik" (a group formed for the occasion, led by U.S. trombonist Ozzie Melendez, husband of the local business woman who organized the concert), the Skellefteå Orkesterförening, and the Skellefteå Chamber Choir at The Old Driving Range of the Rönnbäcken golf course, near Skellefteå.
Here's an amateur video with some funny storytelling in the titles, presenting a few sequences of the show, including parts of If You Go Away, It Hurts To Be In Love, and (well, kind of) a choral rendition of Georgia On My Mind. Despite the video's story line, I don't think it was all that badly prepared - those strings sound as if they were rehearsed by Victor Vanacore, Ray's own conductor.

(Not so funny: the event organizer went bankrupt after the event (and possibly because of it). Most of the free lance musicians were not or only partially paid. Ray, uncharacteristically, let a handful of gigs in the U.S. slip to take on this one. He no doubt got his money - he always did).

12 October 2017

Ray Charles & The Raelettes Playbacking Crying Time At Grammy Show

Probably a set photo from this show.
Ray Charles after the ceremony where he
accepted his Grammy for Crying Time.
With Ray Conniff and Joanie Sommers.
This awkward clip (see how The Raelettes appear to have sunk into the studio floor) looks like a(n extremely rare) example of Ray Charles and the girls playbacking a song. It comes from The Best On Record, a TV special produced for the 9th Grammy Awards, taped on 2 March 1967, and broadcast the next day. The Grammy website describes Ray's part in the show as "After singing a few bars of I Can’t Stop Loving You, Frankie Avalon and Buddy Greco joked that anyone who sings like Ray Charles was 'Italian, whether he wants to be or not.' They then introduced Charles as 'one of the greatest Italian singers,' before the Genius of Soul performed his classic version of Crying Time for which he had won the Grammys for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording and Best R&B Solo Vocal Performance, Male or Female."

Contact sheet; Ray Charles bottom left & right during the award ceremonies; (c) Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images.

* The line-up in this show is: Alex Brown, Merry Clayton, Gwen Berry, Clydie King. The lead vocal on the original recording was delivered by Lillie Fort.

07 October 2017

This Time (I’ll Be the Fool) - Ft. Madelyn Quebec

A substantial part (i.e. about half) of Ray Charles' 1st concert at the Northsea Jazz Festival on July 13, 1980, has just emerged on YouTube for the first time.

The cameras caught The Genius in excellent condition, and in a playful mood (watch him fool with his rhythm section, and hear him deliver some rare scatting in the final!), but the big and pleasant surprise is the rendition of This Time (I'll Be The Fool), starring Madelyn Quebec.

The newly found footage, starting with Madelyn:

Ray Charles - vocals, piano, el. piano; Mitch Manker, Doug Crescimano, Tom Swayzee, Doug Martin - trumpets; Art Velasco, Dan Marcus, Papo Vázquez, Steve Davis - trombones; Ricky Woodard, Clifford Solomon, Ira Weinstein, Rudy Johnson, Mark Roland - saxophones; Tony Matthews - guitar; Curtis Ohlson - bass; Peter Turre - drums; James Polk - keyboards. Raelettes: Estella Yarbrough, Pat Peterson, Madelyn Quebec, Trudy Cohran, Avis Harrell.

06. Don't You Love Me Anymore
07. Intro Raelettes (by RC)
08. Love Is What We Need (ft. Estella Yarbrough)
09. Knock On Wood (ft. Trudy Cohran)
10. I Can't Stop Loving You
11. I Can See Clearly Now
12. This Time (I'll Be The Fool) (ft. Madelyn Quebec)
13. I'm Gonna Keep On Singin'
14. What'd I Say
15. Outro

In 1975 Ray had produced and co-engineered a recording of This Time by Darrow Fletcher for his Crossover label (the B-side of CR-983, 1975, b/w We've Got To Get An Understanding); the song was also released on the compilation album Darrow Fletcher ‎– Crossover Records 1975-79 - Soul Sessions (Kent Soul - CDKEND 382, 2012).*

Darrow's 1975 recording:

* Many thanks to Joël Dufour.

28 September 2017

February 22, 1968 - RPM Studio, Los Angeles

Session No: Liberty 1426.
Period: The ABC / Tangerine Years (1959 – 1972).
Location: RPM Studio, Los Angeles.
Artist: Clydie King.
Album (compilation): Clydie King ‎- The Imperial & Minit Years.
Label: Liberty Records; Stateside 5099950958122.

Clydie King (vocals); Jimmy Holiday (2nd lead vocals); Bobby Bryant, Mike Akopoff, Melvin Moore, Roy Burrows (trumpet); Bobby Knight, Tommy Shepard, Streamline Ewing, Dick "Slyde" Hyde (trombone); Georgie Auld, Charles Miller (alto saxophone); Plas Johnson, Jay Migliori (tenor saxophone); Leroy Cooper (baritone saxophone); Donald R. Stolz (unid. instrument); Ray Charles (piano); Cecil Womack, Terry Evans (guitar); Ronald Brown (electric bass); Jim Gordon, Teddy Robinson (drums); Unidentified mixed singers (background vocals).

Jim Gordon, Ray Charles (arranger); Dave Pell (producer).

Master # Titles Dur. Writers Releases
NA Ode To Billy Joe (4:31) Bobbie Gentry Stateside

NA (omit piano - RC; add choir - background vocals)
Good Kind Of Hurt

(2:16) Mickey Newbury Stateside
NA Something To Remember You By

(2:22) Arthur Schwarts, Howard Dietz Stateside
NA (2nd lead vocals - JH)
We Got A Good Thing Goin' On

(2:20) Jimmy Holiday Stateside
NA (omit JH, choir; add piano - RC)
If You Love Me Like You Say
(2:40) Little Johnny Taylor Stateside

  1. Source: AFM (Local 47) recording contract #479705 (dated 26 February; 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM, 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM).
  2. Clydie King was a Raelett from March 1966 to July 1968. She was Ray's duet partner when he recorded Sweet Memories, and during concerts she was 2nd lead on Baby, It's Cold Outside, and solo'ed in If You Love Me Like You Say and Ode To Billie Joe. In this session, which was assigned by Liberty records and took place at RPM, she sang two of these songs. In an interview Ray Charles had already declared that the final piano chord on You Love Me Like You Say was his. When these tracks, after almost 40 years, were first issued by Stateside, Clydie said in the liner notes that Ode To Billy Joe had been arranged by Ray Charles. Listening to this recording, it becomes clear that he subtly contributed to it as well. At 0:25 you can vaguely, in the background, hear him respond to Clydie's call (just as he did in the live version that was captured at the Blues Thing concert), and the final piano chord is unmistakably his also: he plays Pop Goes The Weasel!
  3. In the line-up above, instruments were inferred based on what these musicians were best known for. Jim Gordon, a multi-instrumentalist, may also have played reeds, flute or clarinet. The attribution of the alto to Charles W. Miller is uncertain. Regrettably, I haven't found anything on Robert L. Stolz. Dick "Slyde" Hyde was credited for "1 Dbl", i.e. he either played a second instrument (in his case that may have been any kind of horn), or he was paid double as a 'first call'-session musician.
  4. The Stateside release credited Ike Turner (who recorded it in 1972) for writing the song. Taylor's own original is from 1964. Ray Charles was mentioned in the notes to Taylor's compilation CD The Galaxy Years: "Members of the Ray Charles band are said to be present on some selections and indeed [a few tunes from this period] have a strong Charles flavour". Any contributions by band members (or maybe even the song being recorded - at RPM??) may explain how Ray got to know the song, which wasn't a hit.

15 September 2017

Ray Charles In Manchester (1996) - Fragments

In June 1996 Van Morrison and Ray Charles joined forces on a UK tour that brought them to the Wembley Arena in London, on 15 and 19 June, the Nynex Arena in Manchester (June 21), the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham (23) and the Arena in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (24).

A Van Morrison fan* shot a few parts of Ray's Manchester concert from an audience perspective. Here you can listen to parts of Busted, Georgia On My Mind, I Can't Stop Loving You, and What'd I Say:

Reconstructed line-up:
Musicians: Steve Elliott, Al Jackson, Al Waters, Rudy Johnson, and Jim Farnsworth - saxophone; Ted Murdock, Chuck Parrish, John Bailey, Kenny Scharf - trumpet; Steve Sigmund, Michael Guerrier, Sarah Morrow, Jason Jackson - trombone; Kenny Carr - guitar; Curtis Ohlson - bass; Ernest Vantrease - Hammond organ; Peter Turre - drums. Raelettes: Estella Yarbrough, Karen Evans, Cathy Mackey, ?Katrina Harper-Cooke?, Tonette McKinney.

* Woolhall, a Van Morrison/Bob Dylan  archivist, runs this entertaining channel on YouTube.

09 September 2017

Take-Off For Ray Charles Big Band's First Europe Tour

The complete Ray Charles troupe on October 17th or 18th, 1961, departing from Idlewild for their first European tour. From Cashbox, Nov. 4, 1961.

31 July 2017

Ray Charles Guesting In Venezuelan TV Show

Ray Charles and Renny Ottolina, c. 1970.
Renny Ottolina was a Venezuelan variety TV superstar. In the 70's his major success was Renny Presenta, produced for VTV, where he brought international guests like Charles Aznavour, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles to the studio. In the clips below, Renny can be seen... disturbing a jazz piano solo by Ray Charles.
In the photo at the right Brother Ray sports another suit jacket than in the YouTube video. Is it from another show?

Who recognizes the tune? Who knows if more footage has survived?

Renny Ottolino, while campaigning for the presidency, died "in a strange air incident" in 1976.

21 July 2017

Ray Charles Promoting 音楽マイ・ラブ

In 1991 (or was it 1990?) Ray Charles helped the the tv show 音楽マイ・ラブ (Music My Love) to promote themselves.

23 June 2017

Ray Charles Live In Roanoke

Someone in the audience made a (mediocre) recording of Ray Charles' concert at the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke (VA) on September 1, 1984. The setlist went like:

  1. Intro + Metamorphosis
  2. Let The Good Times Roll (start missing)
  3. Georgia On My Mind
  4. Then We'll Be Home (Sadies Tune)
  5. I've Got News For You
  6. Some Enchanted Evening
  7. If You Wouldn't Be My Lady
  8. Crying Time
  9. Eleanor Rigby
  10. I Can't Stop Loving You
  11. Knock On Wood
  12. Baby Please Don't Go
  13. What'd I Say
  14. Outro
Seeing Ray Charles, despite his blindness, navigate a set of narrow, sharp-turning stairs quicker than a sighted person might, programmer Philip Poff remembered, “Ray came flying down those steps. He shocked us so much that we were almost dumbstruck.”

27 May 2017

Ray Charles Ft In Le Spectacle Noir

Le Spectacle Noir was a 45 minute ORTF documentary directed by Armand Ridel, first broadcast by RTF 1 on August 30, 1972. It presented an impressionistic, kaleidoscopic mix of existing films and documentaries with contemporary street scenes, concert footage and interviews with jazz and r&b stars.
With a.o. Ray Charles (contributing a good, but truncated, version of I've Got A Woman, from a concert in circa 1972), Count Basie, Tina Turner, Louis Armstrong, Cecil Taylor, Miriam Makeba, and Jimmy Hendrix (from the Woodstock movie).
The film has been archived by INA, ID: CPF86653022.

18 May 2017

The Schiffman Index Cards On Ray Charles At The Apollo, 1957 - 1971

The Schiffmans, owners of the Apollo Theater, kept concise and hugely interesting notes on all acts he booked and re-booked. Each index card tracked the acts through the years, listing the dates of the opening nights (many gigs were for one week), the amounts paid out, and - above all - the Schiffman family's brutally honest comments on the act's quality and cash box success.
Up till now the notes were only known from the Frank Schiffman Apollo Theatre Collection in the Archives Center of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, but recently a few additional cards on the Apollo's top artists (Ray Charles, but e.g. also James Brown and Aretha Franklin) have popped up on Ebay.

04 May 2017

How To Raycharlesify A Tune

Ray Charles' studio version from 1964 of A Tear Fell (single: ABC-45-10571; album: ABCS-480-4), as arranged by Sid Feller, was nice enough.
But only in this live version at the Pleyel Room in Paris, in a concert on October 8, 1968, the Genius could share what he really heard in the song, showing how beautiful it really was.
The original tune was written in 1955 by Dorian Burton and Eugene Randolph. Two of their grandchildren recently met in the comments section on YouTube:

03 May 2017

We're Gonna Make It (The Raelettes)

Until now* I've confused the description of this Raelettes live-song, which was on the band's repertoire between 1978 and 1984, with the We're Gonna Make It-track from the Renaissance album.

This actual tune was written by Billy Preston. Rene Hall penned the arrangement for the band.

'78 LC Antibes
'84 LC Viareggio
'84 LC Warsaw - Released**
'86 LC Toyohashi

*Thank you, Steve Sigmund. **Search for Ray, then page-search for Warsaw, then go to ~39:20.

11 April 2017

Ray Charles Authoring Jack Sheldon Album's Cover Notes (1961)

Ray Charles' notes to Jack Sheldon's album.
In 1961 Ray Charles was at the pinnacle of his fame. It was also the year that he was first recognized and honored with a tribute album, by the soulful trumpeteer Jack Sheldon: A Jazz Profile Of Ray Charles (released by Frank Sinatra's Reprise Records, R-2004, July 1961).
Sheldon recorded the 12 tracks over two days in May (spanning a selection from five Ray Charles albums issued between 1957 and 1961) with his trio: Marty Paich on piano and organ, Joe Mondragon on bass and John Markham on drums. The elpee came out in July 1961, with a testimonial by Ray Charles, praising Sheldon, and adding some humble remarks regarding himself.

I assume that Paich - who was Ray's favorite arranger in his early ABC-Paramount years - was the linking pin between Charles and Sheldon. Highly remarkable was his organ playing, sounding almost exactly as awkward as Ray's Hammond wizardry on Genius + Soul = Jazz  (Impulse 2, February 1961), "[...] making it seem as if the instrument is being operated by a bellows", as Marc Meyers remarked in this excellent Jazz Wax article about this album.

Meyers made 3 of the tunes available online (I wish someone would send me a copy of the complete album;-): When Your Lover Has GoneMoonlight in Vermont, and One Mint Julep.

12 February 2017

Ray Charles On The David Frost Show

A while ago Reelin' In The Years, a great resource for licensed footage of blues and jazz music, submitted this clip of Ray Charles, singing America The Beautiful. It doesn't match any entry in their online database, but it turns out to be from the the final episode (#209) of the 4-season series of the David Frost Show, aired on July 7, 1972. The other guests were senator Edward Kennedy (who discussed the book To Ask Why Not: Robert Kennedy) and singer Carly Simon.

Ray performed the tune on David's special request (from 12"00'):

Ray Charles Interviewed By Ralph Emery

Country music disc jockey and television host Ralph Emery interviewed Brother Ray sometime in the early 1980s. Their discussion on the Maxwell House commercial seems to place it in 1981 or 1982. I guess it comes from Emery's weekly, syndicated radio show, distributed by Show Biz Inc. Each week Emery would profile a guest star, while playing the hottest country hits.

22 January 2017

Newport 1993 Now Complete

On August 14, 1993, Ray performed at the Fort Adams State Park in a program of the Newport Jazz Festival. Until today I had only seen 4 of the tunes, but now Concert Vault has brought the complete concert online. See this for more context.


15 January 2017

Ray Charles' 1979 Austin City Limits Concert Released (Audio Only)

Complete digital audio bootlegs of Ray Charles' Austin City Limits TV concert, originally taped on October 23, 1979, have been circulating on the web since the late 1990s. For free, in a very decent quality. It's still easily and freely available through torrent websites.
Nevertheless, Hi Hat, an obscure British-Cypriot record label, found a reason to issue the concert on CD (announced as a "remastered, unofficial release"). For an indiscernible reason, the majestic version of Oh, What A Beautiful Morning was mutilated.* The least essential information I aggregated in this article and on this page was used for the liner notes.**

Ray Charles - Live Austin Texas '79. Hi Hat HHCD3059, July 22, 2016. In Europe also streamed on Deezer.
A second release, its text-less cover illustrated by a moron, also from last year is: Ray Charles - Live At Klru Studios, FM Broadcast, Austin Tx, 23rd October 1979 (Remastered). Groove Dust, November 15, 2016.

*According to Joël Dufour in Soul Bag #225. **Special thanks to André Monnot for sharing a copy of the CD booklet.

14 January 2017

Ray Charles' Zurich 1961 Concert Released

Cover CD booklet.
A while ago my inquiries at the Swiss Radio archives resulted in the discovery of a set of 2 edited tapes with parts of a Jazzkonzert by the Ray Charles Big Band at the Kongresshaus in Zürich, on October 18, 1961.
This concert is now part of an abundant "Swiss Radio Days Jazz" CD-series with post-WWII radio concerts, issued by TCB, "the Montreux Jazz Label", a sub label of Challenge Records.

Any new album with Ray Charles materials is good news (especially when the songs originate from the early 1960s), and this was an excellent concert. But... well, let's say that this one is far from perfect as a CD release because, unfortunately and without due respect, an awful mistake was made, and the liner notes are crap.

From the concert's souvenir
Why is the CD-title presenting the Ray Charles Orchestra, where it should be Ray Charles (or Ray Charles, the Ray Charles Orchestra and the Raelettes)?
And WHY in Genius' name was the excellent rendition of My Bonnie omitted (listen to the Youtube file below)?

The notes lack any relevant historical context (but you can go here to compensate that). They include nonsense, for instance a complaint about the quality of the original recording not doing "full justice to [Ray Charles'] piano playing, at times strangely behind in the mix of the time..." - pointing at the instrumentals where Ray, as per usual, simply didn't participate. And they include many factual mistakes (like attributing the arrangement of Come Rain Or Come Shine to Quincy Jones; a similar attribution i.c. Ray Minor Ray is questionable at least).

Ray Charles Orchestra - Zurich 1961. TCB (Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series #41), [2016]. The CD is also streamed by Deezer (probably only in Europe).
For sale through most European music webshops and, as long as the rights owners allow it, also via Amazon USA.

My Bonnie (tenor solo by Don Wilkerson):