Half a century after its original release, Tangerine Records has re-issued Ray Charles’ landmark album, A Message From The People.
The label released the record this month. It marks the first time in a decade that the record, originally released April 4, 1972, that the record has been re-issued. The album, which features hits such as ‘Heaven Help Us All,’ ‘They’ll Be No Peace On Earth Without All Men As One’ and his timeless performance of ‘America The Beautiful.’ Audiences can hear that song here.
Also released by Ray Charles in 1972 was his live recording, Ray Charles Live in Stockholm 1972. The recording was captured during a performance by Charles in Stockholm, Sweden that year. Its set list includes and is not limited to performances of songs, such as ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band,’ ‘Don’t Change On Me,’ and ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You.’
More information on these and other titles from Tangerine Records is available along with all of the label’s latest news at https://tangerinerecords.com.
Wayne Coniglio and Scott Whitfield’s recently released album Faster Friends is an interesting addition to this year’s field of new jazz records. Released July 26, more than seven years after its “companion “ album, Fast Friends was released, it is notable in part because of its featured songs. That content will be discussed shortly. The album’s liner notes add their own appeal to its presentation and will be addressed a little later. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later. Each item noted is key in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make Faster Friends another offering from Coniglio and Whitfield that is sure to generate fast appeal among audiences.
Faster Friends, the “companion/follow-up” to Wayne Coniglio and Scott Whitfield’s 2014 album, Fast Friends, is certain to appeal to audiences quickly. That is due in part to its featured songs. The album is composed of 12 songs. The majority of those songs (nine in all) are covers. That leaves only three original compositions. Now while the majority of the record’s songs are covers, their work is still enjoyable in its own right. Case in point is the duo’s take of Neil Hefti’s ‘Girl Talk.’ The duo replaces the saxophone line used in the original with a trombone for its update here. The thing is that even with that replacement, the trombone line is just as gentle and flowing as the original saxophone line. Also gone from the original in this take is the string arrangement. Even lacking that string arrangement, the song is still just as engaging and entertaining as the original composition, if not more so.
On another note, ‘The Determinator’ – one of the album’s few originals – make for its own enjoyment. The three minute, 33 second composition opens with a piano line that lends itself to comparison to works from Vince Guaraldi. That comparison is short-lived, as the piano (performed by Ken Kehner) quickly gives way to the song’s trombone line. Kehner’s piano line serves as a subtle supporting part to the trombone line here, and adds so much to the song even in that subtlety. Meanwhile Kevin Gianino’s equally subtle but still stable time keeping adds its own touch to the whole, making for even more appeal. The whole is a nearly four-minute opus that stands as the best of the album’s originals.
Looking at everything noted, it goes without saying that the album’s musical arrangements offer audiences much to appreciate. That is only a part of what makes the album appealing. The album’s liner notes add their own appeal to its presentation. That is because while brief, the liner notes add at least some background to the songs. One of the most notable of the backgrounds is that of ‘The Determinator.’ Coniglio points out here that the song was inspired by Ray Charles’ saxophone player James Farnworth. He writes of Farnworth that his ability to settle disputes among his fellow musicians with a simple thumps up or down. That coolness of his personality against the energy of the alleged disputes is so well translated through this arrangement. It is clear proof of the need for liner notes in any instrumental music presentation.
On a completely different note, the liner notes for Coniglio and Whitfield’s take of ‘Free and Easy’ are just as interesting. The notes point out that the song, originally co-composed by Fred E. Alhert and Roy Turk, was the title song from actor Buster Keaton’s first-ever “talkie” by the same name. That is indeed the case. The movie debuted in 1930. On the surface, this may seem unnecessary. The reality though, is that it could serve as a starting point on someone’s journey into the realm of vintage cinema. Not only that, but in knowing that it is a cover of a song reaching all the way back to 1930, it could lead to an appreciation for the original song and other classic compositions from that era. So once again, audiences get in these notes, more proof of the importance of the album’s liner notes.
Keeping this in mind along with the importance of the album’s musical content, the two items together make the album this much more engaging and entertaining. It still is only a portion of what makes the album stand out. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements. The production is so important to address because of how light and easy most of these songs prove to be from one to the next. There is some energy in each song, but not one is too energetic or busy. Those responsible for the album’s production ensured that the noted energy remained stable in each composition. They did that by ensuring each song’s instrumentation was expertly balanced. Those efforts succeeded in each case, too. Simply put, the production brings out the best in each song whether cover or original. The result is that the album proves so enjoyable just as much for its general effect as for its content.
Faster Friends, the latest album from longtime friends Wayne Coniglio and Scott Whitfield, is a successful new offering from the duo. That is proven in part through the album’s songs. Yes, most of the record’s 12 total songs are covers, but there are also some originals. The originals and covers alike are enjoyable in their own right. The liner notes that are featured in the album add their own appeal. That is because of the background that they offer on the songs. The record’s production rounds out the album’s most important elements and brings everything together as it brings out the best in each song. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make this record a unique presentation that will find fast appeal among audiences. Faster Friends is available now through Summit Records. More information on this and other titles from Summit Records is available online at:
Eagle Rock Entertainment has for some time, been the place to go for anyone wanting to learn anything about the history of modern mainstream music. The company has released live recordings from greats such as: Ray Charles, Miles Davis, The B-52s, Deep Purple and more over the years. It has even ventured into the realm of newer music with live releases from artists including: The Raconteurs, Stone Temple Pilots, Alanis Morissette, and even Slipknot. Now Eagle Rock has taken music lovers the world over back in time once again with yet another impressive live release from another of music’s greatest names in the form of one Sir Paul McCartney.
Eagle Rock has just released a new live recording from Sir Paul McCartney and his band mates in Wings, titled, Rockshow. It would be so easy to state that this performance presents McCartney and company at the top of their game. But the reality is that McCartney himself has always been at the top of his game. This performance is just one more example of his and his band mates’ talent. There are those that have complained about issues with audio in the transfer from this performance’s original VHS recording to the DVD and Blu-ray format. One can’t help but wonder if this was a mostly isolated problem. The Blu-ray screener viewed by this critic didn’t seem to have any audio issues whatsoever. And for those that complained about the video quality, one must remember that this concert was originally recorded nearly four decades ago. So yes, it is going to be grainy. Fans of the music icon should be appreciative that the effort was even made to transfer the masters from Betamax to DVD and Blu-ray. Considering all that could have gone wrong with the transfer, the grainy footage is just one more part of the whole that makes this another success for Eagle Rock Entertainment and for Sir Paul’s fans.
Having tackled the elephant in the room, the next logical step here would be to take a look at the band’s performance overall. Whether one is a fan of McCartney’s time with The Beatles or more of his work away from the band that helped him launch his career, both sides will be equally impressed by the set list of this concert. It all kicks off with the crowd pleaser, ‘Venus and Mars/Rock Show/Jet.’ Throughout the course of the roughly two hour-long recording, McCartney and company cover largely material from Wing’s catalogue. Though there are some Beatles tunes peppered in for good measure including: ‘Lady Madonna’, ‘Blackbird’, and ‘The Long and Winding Road.’ They intentionally avoided the Beatles material as much as possible during this and other performances intentionally in order to separate the two bands. As author/media personality Paul Gambaccini writes in the included liner notes, “In the early seventies McCartney did not perform Beatles songs in concert, wanting to establish Wings on its own. Now, in 1976, the group is in full flight, and Paul can use some of the songs he wrote in the sixties to spice up the set.” It really was a logical plan of action for someone that had built his name with such a big band. And it helps to make this performance so much more enjoyable.
Staying on the matter of Gambaccini’s writing, this is another positive factor to the whole that is Rockshow. His writing style is less journalism and more storytelling. Set alongside the photos of the band, the pair takes viewers back in time. He doesn’t try to write above himself. And he doesn’t try to write above the heads of those that would buy this new release. It’s easily accessible for general audiences. Because of this, the actual concert experience is that much richer whether one was actually there or not when this performance was originally recorded.
Getting back to the actual concert experience, the band covers more than its own material and that of The Beatles. Audiences will enjoy the inclusion of the Moody Blues classic, ‘Go Now.’ This song about lost love is ironically one of the whole performance’s highlights. It’s a highlight not so much because of the music, but because of the sight of Paul and his then wife Linda performing side by side. There is something so contradictory about this sight set against a song about lost love. Audiences can see just how in love the couple was. Sadly, she would pass many years later. Knowing this, it makes this moment all the more special. It makes the final two pages of the included booklet all the more touching as a closing gesture, too. The booklet’s penultimate page features a concert poster for the original 1976 tour with Paul’s face there. The final page is a picture of Linda exactly as she looked in this recording. She was one of the ones for whom this re-mastered recording was dedicated. While McCartney himself might not have had a hand in this new re-issue, he surely had to have seen this touching gesture. Fans will see it too, and hopefully be just as moved by this and the sight of her performing with her then husband. It’s a touching final moment of what is another enjoyable live release from Eagle Rock Entertainment. The DVD and Blu-ray are both available now in stores and online. They can be ordered online direct from the Eagle Rock Entertainment website at http://www.eagle-rock.com.
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.