Ray Charles: Live At The Olympia, Paris, 1962

Three-CD set contains big band renditions of Charles' hits, 20 unreleased tracks and appearances by his favourites, Percy Mayfield and Louis Jordan

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Most of the material on this compilation is taken from concert performances by Ray Charles and his orchestra at his favourite Parisian venue. These Olympia titles (some of which have been previously available on LP, disc and film) have been selected from six different concerts.

The format is very similar on all of them – big band backings for Ray’s “live” presentations of his then (increasingly) popular recordings. Several of these appear on all three CDs: Let the Good Times Roll, Georgia On My Mind, What’d I Say, and Hallelujah I Love Her So. Even the most devoted disciples of “The Genius” will find these repeated and “rote” performances tedious. But there are also seven bonus tracks and 20 previously unissued tracks, on some of which Ray plays but doesn’t sing. Strangely, the producers have added two separate sessions made on his own label – Tangerine – on which he is accompanied his favourite singers – Percy Mayfield and Louis Jordan. Recorded in his own studio, Charles (as pianist) is barely heard on either of these dates. The mildly mannered Mayfield (coming in at under two minutes) and a stentorian and decidedly non-PC Jordan (who makes four short appearances), are acquired tastes.

Again, at least three of the concert songs – Marie, Margie and My Bonnie – are not suited to Ray’s vocal stylings. But he delivers arresting versions of titles from his controversial album Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music, which white DJs in the still-segregated South refused to play. He selects You Don’t Know Me, Just A Little Lovin’, Careless Love, and I Can’t Stop Loving You from the album. The last song had sold two million copies worldwide before he came to Paris in 1961.

The accompanying orchestra on all the Olympia concerts features excellent solos by Hank Crawford and David “Fathead” Newman on memorable renditions of Doodlin’, Moanin’ and One Mint Julep. The Raelets, led by the redoubtable Margie Hendricks (in slaughtering form on Night Time Is The Right Time) provide appropriate and familiar backings to Hit The Road Jack, Drown In My Own Tears and (most notably) the mesmeric What’d I Say – which closes all three discs.

But three concert performances – previously unreleased – deserve special mention. An orchestral number, Blue Stone (with no composer credit) is a loping blues, lasting over seven minutes. Ray delivers a searing alto saxophone solo – unfortunately one he never played in a studio. Untitled Blues has him, accompanied by bass and drums, creating a long (7.49) and haunting blues performance in which he can initially be heard making approving grunts, which then segue into a keening (but wordless) “vocal” that obviously had the audience transfixed until the end, when it erupted into thunderous applause. The closing track, Swingin’ Along, a sprightly blues, features Phil Guilbeau (t) and “probably” John Hunt (flh), Hank Crawford (as), David Newman (ts), Leroy Cooper (bar), Edgar Willis (b), and Bruno Carr (d).

Despite some fluctuations in sound quality, and the doubtful inclusion of the Mayfield and Jordan studio dates, this is a welcome addition to the Charles discography. An informative essay by Joël Dufour, an appreciative note by producer Patrick Frémeaux, well-chosen photographs, and the inclusion of 20 unreleased tracks make this a rewarding project. The ecstatic audience responses to every concert track contributed to the ambience. Let the good times roll.

Discography
CD1: Moanin’; One Mint Julep; Let The Good Times Roll; Georgia On My Mind; Hide Nor Hair; Careless Love; Hallelujah I Love Her So; The Danger Zone; Marie; Alexander’s Ragtime Band; I Believe To My Soul; Hit The Road Jack; My Bonnie; Unchain My Heart; Bye Bye Love; Drown I My Own Tears; Yes Indeed; What’d Say;(Night Time Is) The Right Time (alt studio take); Careless Love (alt studio take); Bonus track: Percy Mayfield (v) on Cookin’ In Style. Los Angeles (no date). (75.17)
CD2: Blue Stone; From The Heart; One Mint Julep; Let The Good Times Roll; Georgia On My Mind; Margie; I’ve Got A Woman; The Danger Zone; Hallelujah I Love Her So; Careless Love; Just A Little Lovin’; You Don’t Know Me; Hide Nor Hair; Come Rain Or Come Shine; Tell The Truth; What’d I Say; Bonus tracks: Ray Charles (p) and Louis Jordan (v) on Hardhead; Workin’ Man; Texarkana Twist; You’re My Mule. Los Angeles 17 April 1962 (78.20)
CD3: Doodlin’; One Mint Julep; Let The Good Times Roll; Georgia On My Mind; Margie; Careless Love; Hallelujah I Love Her So; Untitled Blues; Alexander’s Ragtime Band; I Can’t Stop Loving You; (Night Time Is) The Right Time; Hit The Road Jack; I Believe To My Soul; My Bonnie; Unchain My Heart; Bye Bye Love; Yes Indeed; What’d I Say (Paris 17-23 May 1962. Bonus track: Swingin’ Along, circa June 1961. (76.21)
Collective personnel: Charles (p, except alto sax on Blue Stone) with Marcus Belgrave, Wallace Davenport, Phillip “Phil” Guilbeau (t); John Hunt (flh); Henderson Chambers, Edward Lee Comegys, James Lee “Jim” Harbert, Frederic “Keg” Johnson (tb); “Hank” Crawford, Everard “Rudy” Powell (as), David “Fathead” Newman (ts, f); Donald “Don” Wilkerson (ts); Leroy “Hog” Cooper (bar); Elbert “Sonny” Forriest (g); Edgar Willis (b); Edward “Bruno” Carr (d); The Raelets: Gwendolyn “Gwen” Barry; Margie Hendricks, Priscilla “Pat” Moseley Lyles, Ethel “Darlene” McCrea (bv).
Frémeaux & Associes FA 5811