Blues as well as soul at Porretta
The Saturday show at Porretta is the biggest evening of the annual Soul Festival and, as usual, the intimate amphitheatre of Rufus Thomas Park was packed. But unlike previous years the first act on the bill was not a local band but an American blues and soul singer named Frank Bey with the Anthony Paule Band. And a great set it turned out to be. Frank Bey, originally from Georgia, is 70 years old, but where has he been all this time? He toured with Otis Redding in the sixties but then dropped out of the music business. But now he's back and boy is he good, as was the band.
Many of his numbers were taken from a recent album called Soul For Your Blues and they ranged from blues to deep soul with a couple of upbeat numbers as well. Stand outs were Bobby Bland's Ain't That Loving You, Somebody Else's Baby Too, I'm Leaving You, the beautifully soulful It's Good To Have Your Company and I Don't Know Why. Other numbers included Still Called The Blues, Charles Brown's Hard Times, Buzzard Luck, Don't Mess With My Monkey, Imagine, with the Porretta crowd waving heart shaped Peace cards, and Get Your Money Where You Spend Your Time.
A really great set and it proved to be the highlight of the evening, but there was much more to come as the Muscle Shoals All Star Band took to the stage again. First on was Guitar Shorty who provided some heavy blues with The Blues Has Got Me and It's Too Late, during which he toured the audience and carried on playing as he went behind the stage. He followed with Born Under A Bad Sign but in the end his set was just too heavy as he strayed into Jimi Hendrix territory with Hey Joe. Shorty's a great showman but not really right for the festival.
The following three acts were all cover artists who, although highly proficient, were a tad unoriginal. First it was the Aretha Franklin-styled vocals of Chick Rodgers, whose set included Respect and Dr Feelgood. Then it was Chilli Bill Rankin, who provided the traditional Otis Redding coverage with I've Been Loving You Long and Try A Little Temderness. Then it was Jerry Jones, with his versions of Solomon Burke's Got To Get You Off My Mind and Cry To Me. All well performed but rather predictable fare.
In between two of the acts Graziano presented the annual Porretta award to original Muscle Shoals musicians Jimmy Johnson, David Hood and Mickey Buckins. Then it was time for the undisputed Queen of Porretta Toni Green, who was as glamorous as ever wearing black hair extensions this time and hot pants. More covers followed, but all given the Toni Green treatment, with Bustin' Loose, Tell Mama, If Loving You Is Wrong, I Never Loved A Man, Do Right Woman and I'd a Rather Go Blind. Toni wasn't on her most sparkling form but her set was still very enjoyable as ever. Finally it was the return of Chilli Bill and Jerry, this time looking very smart as Sam and Dave. Hold On I'm Coming, When Something Is Wrong With My Baby and Soul Man brought the audience to its feet and finished the evening on a hgh note.