Shout Factory presents
The Dick Cavett Show: Ray Charles Collection (1972-3)
"Ray Charles is the only true genius in our business."- Dick Cavett, quoting Frank Sinatra
Stars: Ray Charles
Other Stars: Dick Cavett, Tony Randall, Margaret Mead, John Lindsay
MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 03h:12m:50s
Release Date: 2005-09-13
DVD ReviewCome take a trip in the time machine back to the early 1970s, when the lapels and ties were wide, an embattled Nixon Administration clung to power, and late night talk shows were 90 minutes long. This 2-DVD set features three episodes of The Dick Cavett Show, originally broadcast on ABC; you're likely reading this because you're a Ray Charles fan, and there's a good amount of the man at work here, but also a significant amount of chaff along with the wheat. Musically, there's nothing groundbreaking or unfamiliar here; but these shows are great as cultural artifacts, and time with Ray Charles at the keyboards is always well spent.
The first episode here was originally broadcast on June 26, 1972, and Cavett, sort of a wry alternative to Johnny Carson, especially once The Tonight Show left New York for beautiful downtown Burbank, is in good form, though his monologue, loaded with Martha Mitchell jokes, is a reminder of why satire is what closes on Saturday night. Cavett goofs around with a video slo-mo machine, in a bit that's most retro with its veneration of what seems to us quite primitive technology. Anyway, soon Charles appears, with a great rendition of America the Beautiful; he then sits with Cavett and they speak quite candidly about Charles' blindness. Cavett is a good network soldier and does promos for sponsors like Lipton Soup and Jell-O; he's game, but he can't carry a tune, though he tries on a duet with Charles of Am I Blue? The show is filled out with a guest appearance by Mr. Tony Randall, in full Felix mode, discussing the varying physical attributes of the skinny dippers in the pool at his Los Angeles hotel; and Margaret Mead, recently back from a U.N. conference in Switzerland. (When's the last time Leno booked a leading anthropologist?)
The second episode, taped in September 1972 but not aired until January 26, 1973, is surely the best of the bunch, for Charles is Cavett's only guest. The Nixon and McGovern jokes fly fast and furious, but of course what you want to get to is the music, and there are some Charles staples (Georgia on My Mind, I Can't Stop Loving You, another rendition of America the Beautiful) along with a couple of songs we associate with others: Charles is joined by the Raelettes on a moving version of Eleanor Rigby, and they all rock out on Wilson Pickett's Shake. Between sets, Charles and Cavett discuss some of the audio problems inherent in television, and there's no doubting that they irk Charles. The two also unwisely reprise their duet from Charles' previous appearance.
Disc Two features an episode broadcast on July 9, 1973, on which Charles is sandwiched between New York Mayor John Lindsay and Dr. Samuel Rosen, who developed an operation to help the hard of hearing. There's no mistaking what's in the zeitgeist, as Cavett reminds us that "Watergate continues to be the big news"; Charles doesn't appear until about halfway through the show, and the highlight of his brief set is Born to Lose. There are more complaints about sound quality, and yet another Am I Blue? incarnation, which becomes like watching a stranger perform karaoke.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: There's been plenty of fading of the colors in thirty years, though the transfer is a reasonably successful one, and seems not to have introduced many additional image problems.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: It's clear from these episodes that Charles would have been the first to complain about compromised sound quality; these are a good long way from studio masters, but as taped live television goes, they're not so bad.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons, Superstars of Seventies Soul
Packaging: Book Gatefold
- accompanying booklet
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsAll in all, this isn't absolutely stellar television, but the talent level is of course very high; Cavett presides wryly over the proceedings, and Ray Charles is in very good form, though serious fans of his need not worry about this being his very finest hours.
Jon Danziger 2005-09-12