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Harold Ray: Live in Concert rescues old soul tunes from obscurity

Wednesday, Oct 9 2002
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Since forming last year, Harold Ray: Live in Concert has won over Bay Area clubgoers by rescuing old soul tunes from obscurity and breathing new life into them. From the graffitied concrete basement of UC Berkeley's Cloyne Court Co-op to the cushion-y comforts of Cafe Du Nord, Harold Ray has been a regular musical paramedic squad, delivering a healthy injection of hot soul sounds.

During live shows, Harold Ray frontman Jason Morgan is as incendiary as a firecracker, striking the dry tinder of the audience. As the well-dressed band -- sporting matching suits and ties -- launches into forgotten juke-joint stompers like Lou Courtney's "Skate Now" and the Jolly Green Giants' "Busy Body," Morgan leaps into the crowd, mike in hand, dancing, singing, and sweating. At the same time, Justin Magana bashes his bright red keyboard, eventually jumping on it or flinging the whole thing -- instrument, stand, and all -- into the throng. Meanwhile, the other musicians keep things tethered to the stage with chunky guitar riffs, raunchy rhythms, and righteous sax parts. By the end of the first couple of songs, even the most sober stiff-necks in the crowd are letting loose.

In an attempt to capture their dynamic live show, the members of Harold Ray -- a moniker that comes from the middle names of Morgan and his father -- have taped nearly every show they've played. From these recordings, the group plans to put together a few singles, the first of which should be out this winter.

As for why the band performs only covers, Morgan says, "There are too many old soul songs we want to play. Besides, 80 percent of the songs aren't easy to find." In other words, you're more likely to hear Otis Riley or the Pinetoppers than a well-worn James Brown tune when Harold Ray: Live in Concert takes the stage.

About The Author

Mark Murrmann

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