Ray Charles: Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony [DVD]

Kevin Jagernauth

Fans looking for footage of his incendiary R&B will need to look elsewhere. However, Live in Concert is a pleasant trip to the crisp, seasoned concerts Charles gave in the latter part of his life.

Ray Charles

Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony [DVD]

Label: Eagle Eye Media
US Release Date: 2004-09-21
UK Release Date: 2004-09-27

Since Ray Charles' passing earlier this year, he has enjoyed a wealth of attention rarely seen in the last decade of his life. His final album, Genius Loves Company, has enjoyed unexpected chart success, and there is also the Oscar-hyped biopic Ray, with Jamie Foxx in the title role, opening this fall. With all this steam building, there is no doubt that a plethora of Charles material will be hitting the market hoping to cash in on the resurgence of interest in his work.

One of the first out of the floodgates is Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony. At the time of filming in 1981, Charles was still a popular concert draw, however, his years of cutting classic soul and R&B records were well behind him. With a crisp picture, and presented in Dolby surround sound, the concert looks and sounds great. At a mere 48 minutes, this DVD is priced for any budget, and will please both casual and serious Charles fans. However, this is a bare bones release, and any extras -- particularly the story of how the meeting between this R&B legend and the Edmonton Symphony came to happen -- would've been a nice addition.

The 11-track video features a 51-year-old Charles running through a repertoire of his most beloved songs and covers. After starting off with the lesser-known track "Riding Thumb", Charles swings into "Busted". Written by Country music songwriter Harlan Howard, the song has been performed by Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings among others, and Charles covered it on his groundbreaking Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. From there he swings into a beautiful rendition of "Georgia on My Mind", and a lively version of "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning". The set is rounded by R&B favorites "Hit the Road Jack" and "What'd I Say", the lovely "I Can't Stop Loving You" and the soul favorite "I Can See Clearly Now". However, it is odd that Charles chooses "America the Beautiful" to close the set while in the heart of Canadian prairies.

The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra does a great job of accompanying Charles through a wide range of material. The arrangements are never overbearing, always tasteful, and fit the mood needed for each song. Charles has always been recognized as the innovator and creator of soul, however, as this performance confirms, he was also an excellent arranger and interpreter of song. Songs like "Georgia on My Mind" (written by Hoagy Carmichael) and "I Can't Stop Loving You" (written by Don Gibson) are best known in their incarnations by Charles and are testament to the variety of sources that he draws his inspiration from.

Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony is a fine document of Charles in the last half of his career. By this point, he had moved from the R&B that marked his early works, into the adult contemporary songwriting that arguably brought him his widest audience. Fans looking for footage of his incendiary R&B will need to look elsewhere. However, Live in Concert is a pleasant trip to the crisp, seasoned concerts Charles gave in the latter part of his life.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.