HAROLD RAY LIVE IN CONCERT
CD - $12.00 | LP - $12.00
HAROLD RAY LIVE IN CONCERT set stoic scenesters aflame with their genuine (not Ginuwine) R&B shuffle-with this live release, there's no stoppin' this blue-eyed soul train from infecting the nation with R&B mania! Heavy 60's soul meets garage rock a la The Dirtbombs, Geno Washington,.....for fans of In The Red Records,..etc.
"Harold Ray has been a regular musical paramedic squad, delivering a healthy injection of hot soul sounds."
"quality, smokin' blue-eyed soul stomp . . . romping on the grave of bands like the SPENCER DAVIS GROUP or MITCH RYDER & the DETROIT WHEELS . . . making the whole room dance like their shoes are on fire."
"So, what have we here? Some kind of archival recording of a James Brown contemporary? A lost legend of funk and soul, lovingly restored for you, the modern listener? Not exactly. From the trés retro packaging to the fuzzy live sound to the I-feel-good yelps and Booker T. jams, Harold Ray Live in Concert seems to be one of those dug-out-of-the-garage-sale finds, a forgotten sixties gem. But Harold Ray Live is not what it seems. To begin with, there is no Harold Ray. Harold Ray Live is headed by a white, twenty-something, Berkeley-dwelling record store employee named Jason Morgan. He is backed by a five-person band, all young and Caucasian, who improbably resurrect the raucous energy of Nixon-era soul. They are, naturally, a concept band, ironically appending the word "live" to their fictional leader's name, yet their ferocious show feels completely real and unmediated. Add them to the short list of bands (The Dirtbombs, basically) who can translate their record-collector passion for old soul discs into living, breathing, butt-shaking music. In-joke or not, this is a record that, to borrow a phrase from Harold Ray Live (and the Showstoppers and the J. Geils Band), "ain't nothin' but a party."
It is probably not a party you've been to before. Harold Ray Live is all covers, most of them fairly obscure. There are two Sly and the Family Stone tunes -- one ("Turn Me Loose") from the first album, the other ("Dance All Night") from long-unreleased studio sessions at Autumn Records. There's only one real James Brown cover -- "Tell Me That You Love Me" -- yet almost everything here could have come from the hardest working man in show business. There is a frantically funky, sax-propelled urgency to almost every track, and Morgan does the soul scream ("aaaaaaaaaouuuuh, yeah!) about as well as anyone working today. However, the point Harold Ray Live makes with its covers is how deep and wide the stream flows. You've probably never heard of R.L. Johnson or Wayne Cochran or the Combo Kings, yet these tracks are just as powerful, just as vibrant, as those from better-known names. They're played well, too, with thundering bass-driven rhythms, fast, frequent drum breaks and gloriously over-the-top sax, at once loose and tight. You can't sit still while the disc is playing -- and why would you want to?
There's a lot of entertaining "live show" interplay here, too. Morgan orders a Jose Cuervo, asks a talkative female fan "You got a microphone, young lady?" and prior to his house-shaking finale "Goin' Back to Miami", announces that he's got to talk to his accountant to see whether he had a good time. Judging from the applause, whistles and sporadic audience sing-alongs, it sounds like everyone else did.
How much you enjoy Harold Ray Live in Concert will depend, to a large extent, on how you feel about authenticity. Can a bunch of post-collegiate hipsters be said to have "soul"? Were the Blues Brothers funny or a racist prank? If you can shut that kind of crap off and just listen to the music, Harold Ray Live is as good as it gets."
- Splendid E-Zine