Ray Charles

In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony

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This January 27, 1981, Canadian concert from a 50-years-young Ray Charles was recorded with the Edmonton Symphony, also billed as the ITV Concert Orchestra when they were performing on the ITV television channel. The full band from Alberta became famous to pop fans a decade earlier when in 1971 they accompanied Procol Harum and had a big hit with a remake of Gary Brooker and company's "Conquistador" from that group's monster 1972 live release. With the ITV tag disguising them, the Edmonton Symphony got less acclaim for this marvelous effort than they did on the Procol Harum Top Five album. Originally issued in the VHS and laser disc formats by MCA in 1992, this material recorded at the Jubilee Auditorium was conducted by Sid Feller and makes the transition well to DVD. Though short -- only 11 titles long with an extended intro/overture -- the 47-plus minutes have such fine audio that you can take your eyes off the screen and hear a pretty tremendous on-stage recording by Ray. Only "What'd I Say" is reprised from his 1965 Live in Concert album, though many of his other classics are here, from "Take These Chains from My Heart" to "I Can't Stop Loving You." With seven camera people on the job, director John Blanchard skillfully fades the motion of the string players into the face of Charles, with multiple images of the singer performing "Georgia on My Mind" in this classy setting. Five Raelettes add their charm and backing vocals -- wonderfully choreographed for the cover of Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now." No DVD bonus material, but a fine presentation nonetheless.

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