Ray Charles In Person – Atlantic Records/ Pure Pleasure Records #8039 – 1959 vinyl mono ***1/2:
(Ray Charles – piano, vocals; Marcus Belgrave & John Hunt – trumpets; David “Fathead” Newman – tenor sax; Bennie Crawford – baritone sax; Edgar Willis – bass; Teagle Fleming – drums; Vocal accompaniment – The Raylettes; Vocal solo on “The Right Time” and “Tell the Truth” – Marjorie Hendricks)
There are albums that lacking in sound quality can still be highly recommended for their historical significance in highlighting a true superstar in the prime of his or her life. It is worth a premium price to obtain such an album in the best quality sound available. Such is the case with the release of In Person by Ray Charles, by Pure Pleasure Records out of England.
Ray Charles was recorded as part of a 12-act show at the Herndon Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on May 28, 1959. The concert was a recognition of the fifth anniversary of WAOK, a local Atlanta radio station. It must have been a mighty fine celebration as the headliners included Ruth Brown, The Drifters, Jimmy Reed, and B.B. King. Brother Ray was the final act and the audience went absolutely berserk for Charles. Approximately four years before the Beatles stormed the US, the enthusiasm of the Atlanta crowd for Ray Charles was palpable. Even in a rainstorm, 9000 people remained for Ray’s band and the Raylettes. Recorded over a mere half hour on a single one-track tape recorder using only one mic 100 feet from the stage, the heat generated by Ray and his band could have been enough to dry any wet clothes.
Pure Pleasure’s Ray Staff has done an admirable job in presenting the just passable recording quality to its maximum benefit. The solos of Fathead Newman and Marcus Belgrave retain their bite, and the two vocal solos of the inimitable Marjorie Hendricks must be heard to be believed. Her legendary fiery voice as the leader of the original Raylettes is put to full effect on “The Right Time” and “Tell the Truth.” She has never received the attention she deserved as a rightful forgotten member of the “20 Feet From Stardom” sisterhood.
On two tracks, “The Spirit-Feel,” and “Frenesi,” we are treated to true jazz instrumentals with tenor, David Newman, baritone saxist, Bennie Crawford, and the trumpets of Marcus Belgrave and John Hunt, showing their talents, well before Charles concentrated on primarily vocal selections during his career.
With the welcome issue of this classic album on 180 gram vinyl, Pure Pleasure provides just that. We get as close to the genius as possible from 100 feet away. Rarely has a single microphone provided music so memorable…
Side One: The Right Time, What’d I Say, Yes Indeed!, The Spirit-Feel
Side Two: Frenesi, Drown in My Own Tears, Tell the Truth