Ramsey Lewis

In Person, Vol. 2: 1965-'67

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In Person, Vol. 2: 1965-'67 Review

by Richie Unterberger

This collection of live mid-'60s Ramsey Lewis Trio recordings includes most, but not all, of his 1965 LP Hang on Ramsey and his 1967 LP Dancing in the Street, missing two and three tracks from each album, respectively. Completists might be a little ticked off by the absence of those cuts, but it still adds up to a generous 64 minutes of playing time from Lewis' prime. The Ramsey Lewis Trio were scorned by critics but widely enjoyed by black and white audiences alike, and this collection offers very much what you'd expect from Lewis' group during this period: swinging, accessible lounge jazz with some guts and quite a bit of pop-soul, devoted almost exclusively to cover material. The seven songs fromHang on Ramsey are the most typical of the Lewis that pop fans are most familiar with, in part because it has his big hit cover of "Hang on Sloopy," as well as highly enjoyable -- dare it be said, as it certainly isn't a popular opinion among jazzbos -- covers of the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" and "And I Love Her." Lewis gets more serious on the six songs from Dancing in the Street, tackling a "Black Orpheus Medley" of material from Luiz Bonfá and Antonio Carlos Jobim, as well as Jobim's "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars," Eddy Arnold's "You Don't Know Me," and John Lewis' "Django." The title track cover of Martha & the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street" aside, it shows a more subdued, jazz-classical side of the group. And, to be honest, it's just not as good as the more freewheeling pop-soul-influenced sides from Hang on Ramsey, and certainly not as much fun. Still, the two albums, or rather the bulk of these two albums that are excerpted for this compilation, complement each other fairly well, making for a good listen for those who want more than a greatest-hits collection, but aren't determined to get every Lewis album in its entirety.

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