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POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Ray Charles Lets Music Do Talking

October 09, 1995|STEVE HOCHMAN

Just when it seemed that Ray Charles was going to get through his entire show at the Universal Amphitheatre on Friday without speaking a single word to the audience, he had his 45-piece orchestra pause between songs and addressed that very issue.

"Normally I don't talk," he said, and went on to quote a woman he'd heard that morning on the radio complaining about one of his concerts. " 'He just came out on stage, just sat down at the piano and sang his songs--that's all he did.' "

Many in the audience applauded Charles' unstated point that his music speaks plenty.

Sure, the show was perfunctory and predictable, with no real surprises in its alternating mix of swingin' and swoonin' standards. But from his soaring signature performance of "Georgia on My Mind" to a sly, salacious blues encore, Charles never coasted, performance-wise.

Every vocal growl and slur, every frisky piano fill seemed soulfully off-the-cuff, even if this hourlong set presented only one slice of his incomparably vast soul-pop-jazz-rock-country legacy.

The arrangements, under the hand of conductor Victor Vanacore, were appropriately vivid and dynamic.

Still, the woman on the radio had a legitimate beef. No matter how eloquent the music was, it would have been nice to hear more from the man behind the music.

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