The Tales FromThe Woods British Rock and Roll Heritage show
has become a regular feature of the January music scene in London in recent years and it's fair to say that the shows have become better and better. Last night's show at the Borderline - the 9th in the series - was no exception, with some excellent rockabilly from Mike Berry, blues from Jimmy Powell, sixties pop from Chris Andrews and good rocking support from Sam Hardie and Buddy Britten. As usual, the driving force behind the bands was the Tales From The Woods House Band, featuring musical director and lead guitarist John Spencely
(who was credited with choosing much of the material on the night), brilliant keyboardist Claire Hamlin
, hard-working drummer Brian 'Bunter' Clark
, Robb Davis
on bass and Alex Bland
and Sid Phillips
on tenor and baritone sax respectively.
Three of the acts this time were new to the show (Jimmy Powell, Chris Andrews and Sam Hardie), but it was the return of Mike Berry
(pictured below) that was most impressive, ignoring his considerable back catalogue from the 1960s and running through a first rate rockabilly set instead. Mike remains pencil slim and has a fantastic voice, as well as a great self-deprecating sense of humour. Dressed in black leather jeans but not looking in the least bit menacing he began with Blue Days, Black Nights and then moved through Mac Curtis's If I Had Me A Woman and Broken Heart, a new song to me but originally by the Moonlighters. Then it was Elvis's I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine, featuring a blistering guitar solo from John, Warren Smith's Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache, Rock And Roll On A Saturday Night and I'm Gonna Tell On You (originally by George Fleming). You don't often hear many of these numbers performed (never would be more accurate in some cases) but they were excellent and showed off John's in depth knowledge of the genre as well as Mike's great flexibility and ability. Other songs included first rate versions of Marvin Rainwater's Whole Lotta Woman and its B side Baby Don't Go, On My Mind (a Mike Berry original), Rocket In My Pocket, Johnny Horton's Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor, Don Woody's You're Barking Up The Wrong Tree (with woofs from the audience), Sanford Clark's The Fool and Teenage Boogie, originally by Webb Pierce, before finishing with High School Confidential.
Running Mike a close second was Birmingham's Jimmy Powell
, an artist who made some excellent bluesy singles in the sixties with his band The Five Dimensions, including Sugar Babe, which was produced by Chris Blackwell. I've never seen him on a stage before and I was impressed. He's a large man with a strong voice well suited to the blues and also plays harmonica at times and air guitar at others. He began with Susie Q and then did his vocal version of Tom Hark, with words co-written with Jack Good. A swamp pop song followed (One More Time, I think) and then one of my personal favourites, I Can Go Down. Next was a superb blues number called Ivory, followed by Messing Around With The Blues and Sugar Babe, before finishing with classy versions of House Of The Rising Sun, What'd I Say and Bony Moronie. Definitely a class act.
The top act of the night was Chris Andrews
, a man who had hits in his own name in the sixties and wrote top selling songs for the likes of Sandie Shaw and Adam Faith. He's written 800 songs apparently, yet his first eight numbers were rock and roll standards, presumably to please the predominantly rock and roll loving crowd. These included Johnny B Goode, Move It (which he performed on Oh Boy in 1959), Be Bop A Lula, Oh Boy, Rave On, Sixteen Candles, Brand New Cadillac, which he recalled singing at Soho's famous 2 Is coffee bar, and What'd I Say. Eventually Chris got on to his pop hits of the era, including Adam Faith's The First Time, Sandie Shaw's Girl Don't Come and Long Live Love and his own hits To Whom It Concerns and Yesterday Man: all rather bland sixties pop songs but undoubtedly successful. Chris's voice was well up to the job but after the earlier acts his was just a little flat I thought.
The first act of the night, and one of the lesser known ones, was Sam Hardie
, a rock and roll keyboard player from Liverpool who was once a member of Kingsize Taylor's Dominos. Sam set the evening off to a great start with some straight ahead rock and roll, including Flip Flop and Fly, Rockin' Daddy, Move Around, Gene Vincent's Rocky Road Blues, a couple of Fats Domino numbers (Country Boy and Margie) and some swamp pop in the form of Joe Barry's Watching Raindrops. Sam's version of Money Honey, performed in the manner of On Broadway, was a highlight, and his final numbers - Larry Donn's Honey Bun - and Little Richard's Good Golly Miss Molly - rocked like mad. A truly great way to kick off the show.
Following Sam it was the return of Buddy Britten
, one of the stars of an earlier show, a man who made a number of records in the early sixties on Oriole, Piccadilly and Decca but never had a big hit. His glasses gave him a Buddy Holly look at the time and he played for a while with Vince Taylor's Playboys. He's a good guitarist and has a strong voice (with backing on stage by his wife), and his was an enjoyable set, without quite hitting the heights. His numbers included Rocking My Life Away, I Was There When It Happened, Mailman Bring me No More Blues, Halfway To Paradise, Mess Of Blues and Adam Faith's Don't That Beat All, as well as some of his recordings such as Right Now (originally by Mel Torme), Doug Sahm's She's About A Mover, Money and Long Gone Baby, a Norman Petty song. He finished off with Tony Joe White's Polk Salad Annie and Chuck's Bye Bye Johnny.
Overall this was a highly enjoyable show and Keith Woods
deserves much praise for maintaining, and improving the quality of his revival shows over the years. A word too for MC Rockin' Ricky Stevens
, who also sang well on Sheila, Del Shannon's The Answer To Everything, Blue Suede Shoes and Summertime Blues, and for DJ John 'Mr Angry' Howard
, but the greatest praise must go to John Spencely and the excellent House Band. What a talented bunch they are! Here are some photos of Ricky and members of the group.
Words and photos by Nick Cobban.