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Image Entertainment presents
Ray Charles in Concert (1999)

"America, America/God shed his grace on thee!"
- Ray Charles

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: March 28, 2001

Stars: Ray Charles
Other Stars: Diane Schuur
Director: Michael Giacalone

Manufacturer: Wamo
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (suitable for all audiences)
Run Time: 01h:22m:23s
Release Date: March 20, 2001
UPC: 014381987829
Genre: r-b

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- BC+B- D

DVD Review

Ray Charles swings to the steady beat and belts out the slow, emotional lyrics of A Song for You. His unique, soulful voice brings the tune to new heights and adds compassion to its words. At this specific moment, his rising age and often dull pop songs of recent years are forgotten with this remarkable, heartfelt performance. This is the quintessential Ray Charles, and this kind of performance shows the talent that still resides in this legendary singer.

Known today as much for Diet Pepsi commercials as for rhythm and blues, Ray Charles doesn't have the same place of prominence today that he once held within the mass culture of music. During his 1999 concert for The Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, he evokes memories of his golden age, but also stumbles with some boring pop tunes. The audience at the James L. Knight Center in Miami appears to be an upper-class, mostly Caucasian crowd who enjoy slower pop tracks. These songs work decently, but they fail to utilize the full depth of Charles' talents. His vocal powers remain sturdy and impressive, but many of the numbers don't require these abilities.

Even without a great song list, Ray Charles in Concert does have some wonderful musical highlights. Your Cheatin' Heart is an excellent piano number that allows Charles to move away from the big band backing him on stage. Possibly a better concert would feature him with only a few backing instruments. This big band nearly removes him from several songs, especially during It Hurts to Be in Love. Another nice tune is the famous Georgia on My Mind, which works strongly on the emotions. This tune is a staple in Charles' repertoire, and shows why he still draws large audiences.

Midway through the concert, fellow blind vocalist Diane Schuur joins Charles for an interesting duet. It Had To Be You spotlights her powerful voice, but the song is too slow to generate much excitement. Schuur looks nothing similar to her voice, and belts out impressive melodies on You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To. The two singers have a nice chemistry, and these tunes provide an interesting change of pace from the other tracks.

Although the overall show is uneven, Charles does finish strong with three enjoyable songs. All I Ever Need is You is an upbeat ditty that switches effortlessly between slow and fast tempos. It also features a surprising saxophone solo from Charles himself. His country/western background comes out in Love in Three Quarter Time, a twangy tune that showcases his mastery of various genres. The finale is his patented version of America, The Beautiful - a patriotic, tear-jerking rendition of the well-known song. Once again, it depicts Charles' remarkable talents in vocalizing powerful emotions.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Ray Charles in Concert contains an adequate visual transfer that probably springs from a television performance. The picture barely exceeds the average VHS transfer, and the colors are rather muted and simple. However, since it contains basic concert footage with little innovation, it's not a major surprise that the transfer isn't very impressive. The images are clear, and that's probably enough to enjoy the contents of this disc.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: This disc contains the worst audio transfer of the concerts DVDs I've viewed recently. However, this speaks more towards the excellence of the other discs than the poor nature of this one. The 2.0-channel audio transfer conveys the music decently with clarity and some depth, but it lacks the pristine quality necessary for the best concert discs. The track doesn't distract from the events on screen, but it also fails to heighten any of the numbers to a higher level.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Music/Song Access with 17 cues and remote access
Packaging: Snapper
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There are no extra features on this disc, which is not surprising, considering the nature of the event.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Although Ray Charles may not be as liveley as his younger days, he still possesses one of the most distinctive vocal styles in music today. This concert features moments of musical brilliance, but they sometimes are lost within the world of boring, big-band pop songs. Charles does showcase his musical diversity in a series of entertaining tunes, and they depict the promise still inherent in this energetic singer's mind.


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