Ray Charles Live in France 1961
Ray Charles Live in France 1961
Reelin’ In The Years/Eagle Rock Entertainment
In 1961, Ray Charles was being hailed as the father of soul music. Although his fame was already world wide at this point , with the massive #1 hit “ I Got a Woman, in ’55, “What’d I Say “in ‘59, “Georgia on My Mind” in ‘’60 , he had not toured Europe until his appearance at the Antibes Jazz Festival in France in 1961. The singer/pianist introduced as “The Genius” to European audiences for the first time was filmed over three days at the festival and the black and white tape has just been re-discovered.
For his European debut, Ray and his self-described “small big band” look elegant, but they can get down too. But for the first few numbers, Charles puts r&b on the back burner, opting instead for some jazzy arrangements with a hint of funk scattered around. “One Mint Julep” is transformed into a samba. Even the straight-up r&b tune “Let The Good Times Roll” is presented in big band style for the first day’s’ show. “Georgia,” accompanied by a breathy flute solo, is low key but still soulful. Things pick up considerably when his female back up vocal quartet, the Raelettes, hit the stage for “Sticks and Stones.” Ray’s rockin’, the girls are finger-poppin cool, wailin’ soulfully behind him. But even the first day’s presentation of “What’d I Say,” Charles’ rawest rocker to date, is a bit subdued. But the audience eats it up, with crowd shots showing the young French audience tapping toes, snapping fingers to the low down, dirty beat.
For his closing show, Charles’ takes his r&b off the leash. This time around, “Let The Good Times Roll” is rawer, more soulful. But things really start crackin’ when Charles trots out the Raelettes for the funkiest version of the old chestnut ”My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” you ever heard. “Bring ‘er back,” the Raelettes chant soulfully, “Yas indeed!”
Ray lets the Raelettes loose on “Tell The Truth,” with Margie Hendrix’ sandpaper growl taking the lead. He tosses in a grunt or two here and there, otherwise letting the girls have at it, jumping in at the end with a soulful, freaky scream, taking it out smokin’ and screamin with the ‘Lettes hot on his trail.
Ray takes back control for the scalding blues rendition of “I Wonder,” with the Raelettes wailing and swooping majestically behind him.
He’s rockin’ hard for “Sticks And Stones,” hollering like he’s been electrocuted as the ‘Lettes cover the background with honey-soaked soul.
Ray takes a standing ovation as the announcer asks the crowd to pay homage to the genius of Ray Charles before coming back with “I Believe To My Soul.” The Raelettes chant “I believe, yes I believe,” behind him, making believers of the audience as well, as Ray preaches the gospel of soul, a sermon about his no-good baby trying to make a fool of him.
For the final version of “What’d I Say”, The ‘Lettes jump in for some x -rated moans and groans, looking classy but sounding like they’re tangled up in Ray’s sweaty bed sheets as he grunts lustily over them.
It’s a great blast from the past, the clarity and sound excellent and the editing first rate, a great tribute to the genius and the music of Ray Charles.