Live concerts are a tough sell today. The combined cost of tickets, gas, food, lodging, parking, and souvenirs really add up. There’s also the potential of shows being cancelled due to weather and other factors. That could lead to having to get a refund on the money spent on tickets. Provided a show doesn’t get cancelled, there’s the risk of dealing with unruly concert-goers at the show. Added together, it’s enough to make one heck of an argument for live dvd’s instead of going to a concert. And if ever there was a live dvd worth buying, it’s the recently released performance of Ray Charles from his 1961 show in France. That’s also the name of the dvd; Ray Charles: Live In France 1961.
Ray Charles: Live in France 1961 is simple in its title, packaging, and presentation. But that’s what makes it one of the best live concert dvd’s to come along in a very long time. The dvd presents a series of performances held by Charles and his band during the 1961 Antibes Jazz Festival. It was a four day festival that ran from July 18 – 22 of that year. What really makes Charles’ performance at the festival so amazing is something noted in the dvd’s included booklet. The booklet–written by David Peck, Tom Gulotta, Phil Galloway, and Steve Scoville for Reelin’ In The Years Productions–notes that while Charles’ fame was on the rise in Europe at the time of the concert, most of the audience at the festival had little to no knowledge of him. Yet after the festival was over, everyone–including the show’s promoters–was so impressed by the performance, that he was invited back for three more dates in Paris, along with a handful of dates across Europe.
The notes in the included booklet state that the three dates that follwed the festival were sold out so fast, that two more shows were added to his itinerary. Little tidbits of information are just one minute portion of what makes the dvd’s booklet such a great addition to the dvd’s overall presentation. It’s the type of thing that a person can’t get from simply going to a concert in person. It makes the whole thing that much more enjoyable.
Speaking of the concert, the footage itself is just as great as being at a live show in person. Being that it’s been just over fifty years since this concert was recorded, the footage is in outstanding condition both visually and in its audio quality. It’s even more amazing considering the equipment available to record the concert at the time. Seeing the sepia-toned original footage at the end of the July 22nd date adds even more appreciation of the work done to bring the footage back to life. Musician audiences will really appreciate watching Charles and his bandmates ease their way from one song to the next. Given, the songs in each set are largely the same. But again, the minute differences in each performance of ‘Georgia on My Mind’, ‘What’d I Say’, and ‘Sticks and Stones’ are something that both general audiences and musicians will catch, and really appreciate.
Ray Charles: Live in France 1961 is one of the best live dvd’s to come along in a very long time. From the variants of the songs in each set, to the in depth liner notes in the included booklet to the footage itself, this dvd is a wonderful concert experience for music lovers of all ages. All combined, it’s proof that a person doesn’t have to spend exorbitant amounts of money to see a quality concert. It’s also proof in the argument for watching concerts from the comfort of one’s home over watching it in person. Regardless of whether a person opts for live or live on dvd, this concert is one that’s worth the money. It’s a concert that stands tall over nearly all others, and likely will for another fifty years.