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Rhino presents
O Genio: Ray Charles Live in Brazil 1963 (1963)

"What'd you say?"
- Ray Charles, from Hit The Road Jack

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: November 23, 2004

Stars: Ray Charles, The Raelettes (Margie Hendrix, Gwen Berry, Darlene McCray, Patricia Richards)
Other Stars: David Newman, Edgar Willis, Wilbert Hogan, Oliver Beener, Roy Burrows, Julian Priester, Frederic "Keg" Johnson, Harold Minerve, Dan Turner, Leroy "Hog" Cooper, Tina Brooks, Dan Turner, Henderson Chambers, Phillip Guilbeau, James Harbert, Elbert "Sonny" Forriest
Director: Elio Tozzi

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:45m:00s
Release Date: November 16, 2004
UPC: 603497038923
Genre: r-b

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

One of the true joys of being a fan of a musician or band with a deep discography is the occasional unearthing of a heretofore unknown recording, outtake, or live performance, which is the case with Rhino's O Genio: Ray Charles Live in Brazil 1963.

Nicely timed to glide alongside the theatrical release of the excellent Taylor Hackford-directed feature Ray, this magnificent excavation consists of two concert-length performances with the latter broadcast on Brazilian television (taped on September 22, 1963;just one day shy of Ray's 33rd birthday).

While many are familiar with Charles' talents on the ivories and musical innovations that melded gospel, country, and jazz into a sound instantly identifiable as his own, the Georgia-born musician was also a very shrewd businessman who became one of the first artists (if not THE first) to have sole rights to master tapes of his recordings upon signing to ABC Records in 1960. Such savvy served him well at the time of this gig; part of the agreement for Ray and his band to grace the cameras was the promise of the Brazilian television station to give him the video master of both rehearsal and final run-through following the broadcast.

For many years, the two-inch formatted recording sat silently in Charles' archives until the 1990s, when a collaboration with Rhino's musical re-issues unit resulted in some of the singer's landmark early 1960s albums (The Genius Hits the Road and Ingredients in a Recipe for Soul) debuting on compact disc. Thanks to a close friendship with label executive James Austin, Ray let him borrow the video master to the Brazil appearance. Like any excited collector would, he promptly made a copy. In wake of the singer's passing this past summer, Austin waded through his collection and rediscovered this special treasure, sent the original source to restoration specialists for fine tuning and penciled it onto the video label's fall release line-up.

At the time of O-Genio's conception, Ray was at the peak of his professional career, riding a wave of critical kudos and huge record sales for two album chart topping efforts filled with soul-spiced reinterpretations of country music classics (Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music). While Charles doesn't miss an opportunity to plug them via stellar performances of You Are My Sunshine, Take These Chains from My Heart and I Can't Stop Loving You (the latter being one of his signature songs), he doesn't neglect his roots, which results in versatile sets that cover his expertise in jazz, big band, blues, and of course, the genre he fathered, soul.

From the opening rehearsal version of What'd I Say to its reprise as the live broadcast's finale, there's nothing resembling filler (although eight songs are duplicated between the two performances, Ray was the type of entertainer that lived in the moment, never going through the motions: he never sang a song the same way twice). But if forced to pick the best of the best, I'd have to go with the first show version of In the Evening (When the Sun Goes Down), which showcases Charles' phenomenal feel for jazz with ear-opening runs and pounding chords on his baby grand (it's also a good showcase for the band with guitarist Elbert Forriest and trumpeter Phillip Guilbeau taking terrific solos that help build the number toward to a fiery finish, moving Ray to blurt out a quietly satisfied "alright" afterwards); a beautiful Carry Me Back to Old Virginny, whose deeply felt, slow pacing recalls his classic Drown in My Own Tears and features super harmony work from Charles' terrific vocal back-up group, The Raelettes, who also figure prominently in bouncy renditions of Hit the Road Jack and You Are My Sunshine. Both of these last two tunes spotlight the great Margie Hendrix, who was the only singer that dared to go toe-to-toe with the Charles, matching his intensity shout to shout, scream to scream. The free rendition offered here in You Don't Know Me, one of the key tracks from Charles' initial offering of Modern Sounds, may be preferential to those that felt the album was overproduced (a minority opinion for sure, but no matter; with or without embellishment, its one of the best examples of how he could take a tune and make it his own); Untitled Jazz Instrumental is a special treat, giving us a rare look at Ray on his feet honking away on his saxophone, giving his fellow brass ensemble (including long time band member David "Fathead" Newman) a run for their money.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: If there's any drawback to this wonderful piece of vintage musical history, it's the unfortunate visual problems that mar the second performance. Looking barely controlled in terms of tracking, fans can thank a very persistent Sophia Fields from Rhino's video production department who went through a number of vintage machines before finding one that could play the delicate master in presentable fashion so it could be digitally preserved; just pretend the second show is a bootleg item and it'll be okay.

Kidding aside, once you get used to the defects, it's not that difficult to watch; Charles being at his best helps tremendously. But it's a shame that it can't measure up to the simply striking clarity and virtually nick-free quality of the first program, which is comparable to the crisp, "live" standards of other much-acclaimed television variety shows of the black-and-white past, including Pioneer's Judy Garland Show collections and Ed Sullivan Presents The Beatles from Good Times Video. Graded individually, I'd give the first half of the disc an A-, while I hesitantly give the remainder a C.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: It's a fact that people affected by blindness are blessed with amazing hearing and it wouldn't surprise at all if Charles consulted with the audio techs at the Brazilian television studio prior to showtime. Very well mixed for a mono track, it's without distortion, splendidly vibrant, and superbly equalized. Even the deficienct second half of the show fares better in the sonic department, although it's slightly muddier and compressed in comparison, but still extremely listenable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 31 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 26 cues and remote access
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. English Subtitles For Brazilian Commercials
Extras Review: One extra brings to mind an old David Letterman skit: Everything is funnier in Spanish!

There is also a four-page booklet with terrific liners from disc producer James Austin and noted biographer David Ritz (co-author of Charles' highly recommended life story, Brother Ray) along with complete musician and DVD credits.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

If you only have enough dough to spend on one of the handful of Ray Charles concert DVDs on the market today, O Genio: Ray Charles Live in Brazil 1963 is the one worthy enough to slap down those hard earned greenbacks for; I can't think of a better way to honor his memory (other than Jamie Foxx picking up the gold on Oscar night). A "must-have" for any serious student of classic R & B and fans of the man himself.


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