Monday, July 25, 2011

Porretta - Days 2 and 3

Day 2 of Porretta, and a vintage one at that, with four top soul and blues artists and no filling.
The evening began with Harvey Scales, who I hadn't seen before and who had a soul hit in the late 60s with Get Down backed with Love-It-Is. Dressed in a lime green suit Harvey proved he is a real showman and any limitations vocally were more than made up for by his dynamic stage act. Kicking off with Sweet Soul Music, which got the crowd going, he moved into more imaginative territory with Wilson Pickett's I'm In Love and his own material - Spend The Nite Forever, What's Good For You, Broadway Freeze and snatches of Get Down and Love-It-Is. He finished with Disco Lady, a song he wrote for Johnnie Taylor and which was the first ever platinum single by an African-American artist.
Next on was the great Spencer Wiggins, Goldwax recording great and the star of Porretta 2009, who oozed soul as he performed Lonely Man, That's How Much I Love You, Love Attack and a sensational version of Uptight Good Woman who umpteen dramatic false endings. His vocal range is amazing, with deep growling soul suddenly soaring into brilliant falsetto. He was joined on stage by brother Percy and together they did excellent versions of Sam and Dave's When Something Is Wrong With My Baby and Hold On I'm Coming. Great stuff.
The next act, Sugar Pie DeSanto is a regular fixture at Porretta these days and a favourite with the crowd with her gurning, buttock clenching and contortions. Now 75, she is great fun, with a mischievous sense of humour, and doesn't take herself at all seriously. She started with Soul Power (or was it Go Go Power?) and moved through Life Goes On, Having A Good Time, I Don't Care, Let's Keep It Nice and Easy, her first hit I Want To Know and Hello San Francisco. She finished off with her big Chess hit Soulful Dress and In The Basement, which she dedicated to Amy Winehouse, who died that day, and co-singer Etta James, now suffering from dementia.
To complete a superb evening we had the unique Swamp Dogg. He describes himself on his website as the great misfit of African American music and you can't really argue with that. His lyrics are often challenging and sometimes surreal and probably lost on the mostly Italian audience. Kicking off with I'm The Lover Man, he then moved on to Crawdad Hole , which brought back memories, he said of his early heroes Joe Turner (whose song it was originally), Amos Milburn and Guitar Slim, who he remembered as driving a red Cadillac and being dressed all in red. He followed up with some of his own material - Did I Come Back Too Soon (Or Did I Stay Away Too Long), Sam Stone, Mama's Baby - Daddy's Maybe, Synthetic World, the amazing Total Destruction To Your Mind, The More (which he wrote for Solomon Burke - with whom he had a love/hate relationship, he said), finishing with an extended version of Gotta Get a Message To You, which saw him tour the audience shaking hands with many of them. Called back for 'Uan mor taim' by MC Rick Hutton, he chose Since I Fell For You, with In My Resume as a second encore. This was a vintage day at Porretta - one of the best that I can remember.
Day 3: The third evening of Porretta traditionally features all the artists of the previous two nights doing two or three numbers each, and this was no exception. But the day began with a service at the local church with some stirring gospel from the Wiggins brothers and backing singer Shontelle Norman.The evening was again highly enjoyable but there was little new material from the eight artists (Harvey Scales, Chick Rodgers, Percy and Spencer Wiggins, Toni Green, William Bell, Sugar Pie DeSanto and Swamp Dogg). An exception was William Bell's Everybody Loves A Winner and Rehab, a tribute to Amy by Austin Delone's daughter Caroline. As ever, the evening ended with all the artists (except Sugar Pie) joining in Swamp Dogg's Gotta Get A Message To You.
Yet again, the festival was a huge success - fantastic music, a wonderful laid back atmosphere and good company. Photos will follow soon.


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