Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Porretta final day plus photos

The final night at the Porretta Soul Festival featured most of the acts from the previous couple of days performing just two or three numbers each. It was a very enjoyable evening, even though most of the songs had already been performed during the Friday or Saturday shows. It began, however, rather shakily, with a blues band called Amnesia International, who were competent enough, but not really suitable for a soul festival. Numbers included Hold On I'm Coming, I Put A Spell On You, Steamy Windows, Every Day I Have The Blues and Midnight Hour, sung by MC Rick Hutton.
The evening improved when the excellent Anthony Paule Band took over the backing duties. Derek Martin reprised three of his numbers and Prince Phillip Mitchell, suffering a cold, did two before Theo Huff emerged wearing a splendid white suit with orange hat, trimmings, shoes and shirt and gave a bravado performance on Running Out Of Lies and It's A Good Thing I Met You. He's a real showman and hopefully we will see more of him in the future.
Frank Bey (pictured above), making his third appearance of the weekend, kicked off with a superbly soulful song I Just Can't Go On, written by Christine Vitale, wife of Anthony Paule, plus three from his earlier appearances. There was an appearance by Bernard 'Pretty Purdie, and a return by Sugar Pie DeSanto, this time wearing a black spangly trouser suit and hat. David Hudson actually completed a couple of superb numbers this time, including Love And Happiness, while Chick Rodgers and Wee Willie Walker again impressed. The show ended with the now traditional finale with nearly all of the artists on stage together contributing to various numbers including Drink Muddy Water, Every Day I Have The Blues and Stoop Down Baby.
Here's a selection of photos from the weekend: First, here is Wee Willie Walker.
This is Sax Gordon, who was on stage for nearly all the weekend.
Here is Sugaray Rayford, a surprise hit from the Friday show.
Drummer Bernard 'Pretty' Purdie sold out of his autobiography. Of the 2500 artists he has worked with the singer who showed most emotion, he said, was Aretha Franklin.
Theo Huff was one of the real stars of the weekend. Here he is in action on the final evening.
Prince Phillip Mitchell showed that he is as good a singer as he is a songwriter.
Here is Derek Martin.
Stax sax man Joe Arnold played a few numbers on the Saturday evening.
Chick Rodgers has a big voice, very much in the style of Aretha.
More of an entertainer than a singer these days, here is Sugar Pie DeSanto.
Here is Porretta regular David Hudson,
Finally, here's one of me with Prince Phillip Mitchell.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Porretta Soul Festival day 3

After the excellence of the Friday night's music at the Porretta Soul Festival, the third night, Saturday, proved to be a hit and miss affair, with rather more miss than hit. It started badly with a Spanish band from the Canary Isles called the Sugar Hill Band who proved to be a holiday camp show band whose music bore little relation to soul. Despite a six piece horn section and 15 members in total their set failed to impress. Having said that they went down well with most of the crowd, many of whom it seemed were there for a good time, rather than good soul.
Things improved markedly when the Anthony Paule Band took the stage and sixties soul singer Derek Martin appeared. After a dodgy start with an audience participation version of Hit The Road Jack, he got into his stride with his Sue single Daddy Rolling Stone. Another song of his, You Better Go, followed, slowing things down a bit, and he moved on to Otis's I've Been Loving You Too Long. Derek recalled travelling with Otis - he called him The Bear because of his size and the bear hugs they exchanged. After a new song, a jazzy number called Let's Talk About It, he finished strongly with Don't Put Me Down Like This, the flip side of Daddy Rolling Stone. A longer set would have been appreciated but it was good to see him.
Next on stage was Memphis sax player Joe Arnold, a man who backed many of the best records that came out of Stax and Muscle Shoals. After impressive instrumental versions of 6345789 and Last  Night he was presented with an award by festival organiser Graziano Uliani, who has done so much over the years to attract soul greats to Porretta.
Completing the first half was Chick Rodgers, a slim lady with a big voice who does a remarkably good take on the songs of Aretha Franklin. A regular at Porretta, her set included Don't Play That Song, Dr Feelgood, Baby I Love You and Natural Woman, plus Gladys Knight's I've Got To Use My Imagination and B B King's To Know You Is To Love You. Predictable as her set was, it was none the less enjoyable, as she really does have power in those lungs of hers.
It was after the break that things began to get rather shambolic. Well known session drummer Bernard 'Pretty' Purdie came on stage and brought his unique style to an instrumental called Funky Donkey, and then supported two numbers by Loralee Christensen (Cold Sweat and Rock Steady), plus a cracking version of Memphis Soul Stew with Sax Gordon handling the vocals. There were delays with a further presentation, this time to Bernard, and what seemed like an unplanned version of The Meters' Cissy Strut and an impromptu version of Land Of 1000 Dances by MC Rick Hutton.
Presumably the hold up was caused by the late arrival of Sugar Pie DeSanto, making a return to Porretta after a break of several years. Now nearly 80 she is as energetic as ever, very funny with one liners, instructions to the band and leering facial expressions, but her voice is not what it was. There was a lot more talk than singing, but she did manage to get through I Don't Want A Fuss, part of the slower Life Goes On, her early hit I Want To Know, I Don't Care and, as an encore, In The Basement. No Soulful Dress though.
By this time the show was running late so it was a bit of a surprise to see Frank Bey return for a second night. His voice is great though so it wasn't a problem listening to his four numbers, which included Still Putting Them Down, Kiss Me Like You Mean It and Hard Times. With the time now after two it was at last the turn of Atlanta based David Hudson, who has now become an annual visitor to Porretta. He seemed in no hurry however as he talked his way through Nothing Ever Felt So Good. He has a great voice but I guess we will have to wait for tonight's finale to hear it, as I'd had enough as he eventually got round to his next number Take Me To The River.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Day two at Porretta Soul Festival

Day two of the Porretta Soul Festival lived up to expectations with five excellent male singers, backed by bands that more than did them justice. It was a pleasantly cool evening after a huge thunderstorm earlier in the day and the less than capacity audience were royally entertained, not least by Prince Phillip himself. But more about him later..
First on was the Luca Giordano Band, plus the excellent Sax Gordon, who backed LA based blues man Sugaray Rayford. A new name to me, he proved to be a big man with a big voice, with more than a touch of southern soul about him. He began with the uptempo Blind Alley, from the CD of the same name, and followed up with the bluesy If I Live To Love Again, All I Think About and Stuck For A Buck, which showed he could move as well as sing. A tour of the audience followed with Albert King's I'll Play The Blues For You which led into Little Milton's If You Talk In Your Sleep. His encore, Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World, was performed seated with just a piano for backing. A subdued end to what had been an excellent set.
After a short break the Anthony Paule Band took the stage to back the remaining acts. After a couple of well delivered numbers by Loralee Christensen, one of the Sweet Nectar backing singers (Hold On I'm Coming and Son Of A Preacher Man) it was back to the men, in the form of Theo Huff, a young soul singer from Chicago who made a good impression when he appeared at Porretta two years ago. Dressed in a smart red suit and hat he stuck largely to songs by Johnny Taylor (Who's Making Love and Cheaper To Keep Her) and Tyrone Davis (Turn Back The Hands Of Time and The Turning Point) plus It's A Good Thang I Met You from his Now Is The Time CD. Finally Theo was joined on stage by David Hudson for Last Two Dollars, a duet which set the Rufus Thomas Park stage very nearly alight.
Next on was the tall slim figure of Prince Phillip Mitchell, dressed in a white suit and looking very elegant. Best known as a song writer, he is a fine singer with a light high voice. His set included several of his own songs, including Turning Over The Ground, Starting All Over Again, a big hit for Mel and Tim, I'm Gonna Build California All Over The World, and Bobby Womack's Home Is Where The Heart Is, and covers such as I've Been Loving You Too Long and, rather predictably, At Last, which seems to be performed at every festival these days.
Next on stage was Anthony Paule's regular vocalist Frank Bey, who made a tremendous impression this time last year. Frank is a relaxed singer with a voice that oozes soul. Numbers included Its Good To Have Your Company, the pleading You Don't Know Nothing, I'm The One Who Loves You, Next To My Heart, Not Going Away, a soulful version of John Lennon's Imagine, which went down well with the Italian audience, and If I Could Reach out. Another superlative performance I thought.
Final act of the evening was the diminutive Wee Willie Walker, a Goldwax artist in the sixties, who has lost none of his vocal talent. Numbers included I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water, You Name It I Didn't Have It, Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come (another festival favourite these days), If Nothing Ever Changes, a slow version of the Beatles' Help (a duet with Loralee) and Read Between The Lines. Final number, as the crowd dispersed, was Lucky Loser. For the audience, however, it had been a win from beginning to end of a great night's soul music. Photos soon.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Porretta on track once more

The Porretta Soul Festival - Europe's, if not the world's, best soul festival - has rolled round again and woken this sleepy Italian hill town from its slumbers once more. Now in its 28th year, the Thursday night here is usually an all Italian affair, with local bands taking the stage. But this year, after a performance by a band of smartly dressed Carabinieri, we were treated to a show by Japanese band Osaka Monaurail. Basically a tribute to the sounds of James Brown, they are an energetic 8 piece outfit with loads of musical talent, humour and well orchestrated routines, with a lead singer who can match James's stage craft. Numbers included Sex Machine, an Isaac Hayes tribute in the form of Walk On By, and a funky number called  She's A Fruitbasket, which is one of their own. A fun way to kick off the festival.
They were followed on stage by Italian band Groove City, featuring a singer named Sabrina Kabua, who were ok, but brought to life when Goldwax recording artist Wee Willie Walker came on stage. He joined Sabrina in a duet of I Can't Stand The Rain, followed by a slow soulful version of Help and his 1960s Checker release Lucky Loser. His voice sounded great and I'm looking forward to seeing him over the weekend. MC Rick Hutton proceeded to do a couple of numbers and he was joined on stage by soul men David Hudson and Prince Phillip Mitchell. There will be much more of them over the weekend, so keep an eye on the blog. Photos wil follow soon.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Tito Jackson - Under The Bridge, London

Guest writer Seamus McGarvey has been to see a Jackson...
Last Friday at Under The Bridge I went to see singer-guitarist Tito Jackson, the third oldest member of that famous musical family, in a rare solo performance. Although I had heard Tito perform some blues numbers a few years back, I wasn't sure what to expect, but  he delivered an entertaining blend of blues and some Jacksons hits, and took the opportunity to let the fans hear six new songs from his forthcoming album, and found them well received. 
I caught the last two numbers from the first support act, Larissa Eddie, who hails from Brighton and has toured with Lionel Richie and others; an energetic performer with a good voice and stage personality. Next came the band supporting Tito on the night, The Diane Shaw Band. I last saw Diane (pictured below) and her excellent band at the Northern Soul Weekender at Butlins, Skegness, last September, and they sounded equally solid this time. Before Tito's appearance, Diane performed a mix of covers from The Miracles' 'I Second That Emotion' and Fontella Bass's vibrant 'Rescue Me' through The Elgins' 'Heaven Must Have Sent You' and The Velvelettes' 'Needle In A Haystack' to Edwin Starr's 'Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.)', all delivered with verve and a strong voice, and enthusiastically received by the audience.
 Introduced on stage by Diane to excited applause from the large audience, Tito opened with a great piece of rocking blues featuring good vocals and some nifty guitar work in the shape of 'I Gotta Play' from his first solo album, and a nicely paced version of T-Bone Walker's 'T-Bone Shuffle', the band hitting just the right tempo and Tito playing some easy strolling guitar. With some jokes about his voice not being as high-flying as his late brother Michael's, along with Denise Pearson (Five Star - pictured below)) and Haydon Eshun (Ultimate Kaos) Tito launched into a selection of The Jacksons hits from 'I Want You Back' to 'ABC' and 'Dancing Machine' from their Motown days, on to numbers from the brothers' or Michael's days with Epic including 'This Place Hotel', 'Black Or White' and 'Blame It On The Boogie'. Both Denise and Haydon were in good voice and danced energetically, while Tito himself  remained well to the fore and kept it all moving along. 
For the final section of the show, Tito returned to his solo role and featured songs from his forthcoming album, demonstrating versatility across a range of musical styles. The numbers included  a fine funky piece called 'Jammer St.' with Tito playing some nice solo guitar, the medium stepping 'So Far So Good' and the punchy 'Get It Baby'. He changed the pace for a country number, 'On My Way Home To You' which, as he explained, was 'where I started back in the day', and a medium-tempo reggae-styled number called 'Home Is Where the Heart Is', once again featuring some tasteful guitar picking. Despite all of this being new material, Tito managed to get the crowd onside and singing along, ending with another medium-stepper, 'We Made It', before the full line-up was reassembled for the closing 'Shake Your Body'. Despite loud calls for 'more!' and much chanting of 'Ti-To! Ti-To!', that was it; the end of a well-balanced 75-minute set, and an entertaining evening. Seamus McGarvey ('Juke Blues' magazine)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ernie Maresca and David Somerville RIP

Sadly, the catalogue of music deaths this year just gets longer and longer. There are two major figures in the world of doowop who have passed on in the last day or two.
Ernie Maresca, 76, wrote many of Dion's early hits including his two biggest Runaround Sue and the
Wanderer. A few years earlier he wrote No One Knows for Dion and the Belmonts and continued Dion's classic run in the early sixties by writing Lovers Who Wander and Donna The Prima Donna. As a performer he was a member of the Desires, who became the Regents and hit with Barbara Ann, but his greatest solo success was in 1962 when Shout Shout (Knock Yourself Out) became a massive US hit. Follow up singles were less successful but as a songwriter he continued to prosper with such hits as Runaround by the Regents and Hey Dean Hey Jean by Dean and Jean.
Another doowop great who has died is David Somerville, lead singer of the Diamonds, at the age of 81. Canadian group the Diamonds were a cover group making successful 'white' versions of R and B hits, but they were among the better cover bands of the time. After winning a talent show they were signed by Mercury records and had huge success with songs such as Why Do Fools Fall in Love, Church Bells May Ring, Silhouettes, Little Darlin' (reckoned by some to be better than the original by the Gladiolas - although not by me), and, a particular favourite of mine, The Stroll. Later records included Eternal Lovers, Kathy-O and She Say. David went on to sing with the Four Preps and also made a career in acting. I saw him perform at the Long Island Doowop Festival last year (pictured) and he was excellent on Why Do Falls Fool In Love, The Stroll, Silhouettes and Little Darlin'.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujyQpMVuf_Y
Other recent music deaths worthy of mention include Wendell Holmes of the Holmes Brothers, who I well remember enjoying at the Watermans Arts Centre in Brentford a few years back, Chris Squire, formerly of Yes, jazzman Ornette Coleman and middle of the road Irish entertainer Val Doonican. A final word too for two of the best known British actors of the last century - Hammer Horror star Christopher Lee and Patrick MacNee, who portrayed the English gent to perfection in The Avengers, one of my all time favourite programmes. The Vinyl Word raises a glass to them all.

Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens

Daptone recording artists Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens brought some gospel fervour to London last night with a sparkling show at Under the Bridge in Chelsea. The Brooklyn based quartet delivered some inspirational lyrics and delicious harmonies in this, their first UK appearance. The group has produced two albums over the last few years - What Have You Done My Brother (2009) and last year's Cold World - and their excellent set featured 15 gospel and R and B numbers from them.
Naomi was originally from Alabama where she grew up immersed in the church. Now in her seventies she moved to Brooklyn 40 years ago where she became a night club singer, as well as continuing her gospel work, forming the Gospel Queens when she met up with long time friend Cliff Driver. They came to the attention of record producer Gabriel Roth who went on to form Daptone records which led to their 2009 recording debut. She has a deep, raspy voice, somewhat in the style of Mavis Staples, and combines effectively with the Queens - Bobby Jean Gant, Edna Johnson and newcomer Angel McKenzie. Her backing band was led last night by bass player Fred Watson, formerly with James Brown's JBs.
After a couple of numbers by the backing band (Tighten Up and Pass The Peas), featuring the bass playing of Fred Watson, the group kicked off with Lift My Burden. The quartet showed their vocal harmonies to good effect on this, and the uplifting Jordan River. Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come was delivered with passion while the uptempo I Earn Mine was reminiscent of the Isley Brother's Shout. What Have You Done My Brother included call and response with the Queens while Sinner, from their latest album, had a slight reggae feel to it. The three Gospel Queens took the lead on the next three songs, all of them showing off their superb soul drenched voices, with He Knows My Name (Bobby Jean Gant), Too Many Turn Away (Angel McKenzie) and Hold My Hand ( Edna Johnson). Then it was the turn of the audience to get involved with the rousing Am I Asking Too Much. 
Naomi knows how to handle an audience, even from a wheelchair, and slowed things down with Etta James's At  Last, before launching into Cold World and, in her words, taking things to a higher level, with Higher Ground and Reach Out And Touch, which brought a great response from the predominantly female gospel fans in the audience. Finally Naomi and her Queens sang What More Can I Do, which brought the audience to its feet. 
All in all this was an excellent show by four female gospel singers who combined beautifully together and produced soul music of the highest order. Daptone may be best known for the powerhouse soul of the likes of Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, but Naomi is quite a powerhouse herself and so are her Brooklyn Queens.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yM5mqfG2Vk
Nick Cobban

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

My top ten July 1965

I'm dipping back 50 years again today with a look at my personal top ten, as recorded at the time on July 8th, 1965. This was a great year for music and there are some memorable tracks in the list (which actually runs to 12 records, as there were three at joint number 10). Here they are.
1. The Ovations - It's Wonderful To Be In Love. US Goldwax 113. When I first heard this on one of the pirate stations I thought I was listening to an unreleased track by Sam Cooke. The name of the artist
wasn't mentioned but one listen was enough to put it at number one in my top ten. It was only a day or two later that I discovered that it was in fact The Ovations and that the singer I was listening to was Louis Williams. The 45 wasn't released in the UK so it was impossible to buy a copy at the time. But it turned me on to the great Goldwax label and the wondrous stuff produced by Quinton Claunch.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7TmrbFIrGQ
2. Sam The Sham & the Pharaohs - Wooly Bully. MGM 1269. I reckon it's impossible not to jump around to this brilliant record by Tex Mex artist Domingo 'Sam' Samudio. Dressed in Arab robes and turbans, the band produced some of the best rock and roll records of the late sixties, and this was their first and probably their best.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcguLZaMelE
3. The Impressions - Woman's Got Soul. HMV 1429. This was yet another great slice of soul by the Impressions, but although it was written by Curtis Mayfield, it was first recorded by Jerry Butler in 1963.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEc-0r5QS5Q
4. Four Tops - I Can't Help Myself. Tamla Motown 515. By mid 1965 the Motown sound was well established, but despite this, the fourth Tops release in the UK, despite being a US number one only got as high as 23 in the UK. Levi Stubbs in superb vocal form.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXavZYeXEc0
5. Gene Chandler - Nothing Can Stop Me. Stateside 426. Eugene Dixon (Gene's real name) recorded Duke Of Earl as a member of the Dukays but when it was released on Veejay it was credited to Gene Chandler. After a move to Constellation Gene recorded some classic soul records in the sixties and went on to enjoy disco success in the seventies. This was one of his very best.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nx4KPE5iWlI
6. The Anglos - Incense. Brit 004/ Fontana 589. This was released on the short-lived Brit label, the Fontana label and, a few years later, on Island. But just who were the Anglos? No one seems to know for sure. It's an extremely soulful American sounding 45 which has been linked to Steve Winwood, but I'm pretty sure this is a US original and there have been numerous online discussions trying to pin it down. Best guess seems to be that it was issued originally on the US Orbit label.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uObuFeLN5-I
7. The Beach Boys - Help Me Rhonda. Capitol 15392. This one needs no introduction. Just a great record.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Te_lCF69Aw
8. Major Lance - Pride And Joy. Columbia 7609. Just why EMI decided to release this cover of Marvin Gaye's 1963 hit I'm not sure. But it's a great version, by one of soul music's greatest vocalists.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CstRAS-voo
9. The Marvelows - I Do. HMV 1433. This is another great soul/doowop record that slipped below the radar at the time. It was recorded by a Chicago soul group for ABC but was their only UK release. Wonderful record in my opinion. They later recorded as the Mighty Marvelows.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiMtoIZOq0U
10= Bobby Goldsboro - Voodoo Woman. United Artists 1091. Bobby Goldsboro is best remembered for his tearjerking Honey, but prior to that he made some good blue eyed soul records, including this one. Well worth a listen.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFiSKBa7s-o
10= Solomon Burke - Tonight's The Night. Atlantic 4030. Another superb record by the King of Rock and Soul, with a great B side as well - Maggie's Farm.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KUE1zgUIak    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWvJOCbsosE
10= Otis Redding - Mr Pitiful. Atlantic 4024. Still hanging on in my chart after two months, this was Otis at his very best.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QG8ebaTvU80

Friday, July 03, 2015

Rock 'n' Roll America

Trust BBC4 to come up with a music series that gets to the heart of its subject. Rock 'n' Roll America, the first of a three part series, made a good stab at presenting the beginnings of the music that has influenced pop music for the last 60 years, with loads of original footage from the fifties and contributions from artists who were around at the beginning.
It's a huge subject to cover, but it started at the right place: New Orleans, with Allen Toussaint and Deacon John talking about the J and M Studio and Cosimo Matassa, with early film of a smiling Fats Domino who probably did more than anyone to break down segregation among American youth in the mid fifties. Deacon John, sporting a bow tie, visited the Dewdrop Inn, where many of the early New Orleans music pioneers played, pointing out where the stage would have been. At least the place still exists: I thought that Katrina might have destroyed it.
Alan Freed got a mention, but the programme focused on the black influences that led to rock and roll, including Rocket 88 (no mention of Ike Turner I noticed) and doowop, with the Spaniels singing Goodnight Sweetheart. The influence of radio and the juke box was covered and there was splendid footage of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. The rebellious element of the times was covered with clips of Marlon Brando in The Wild Ones and Glenn Ford in Blackboard Jungle, as well as the impact of Bill Haley and the Comets..
Sam Phillips and the rise of Elvis was covered as was the emergence of Little Richard, who turned everything
on its head with his style of music, not to mention his over the top persona and appearance. Contributors, many of them making just a small contribution, presumably with more to come in future episodes, included Jerry Lee Lewis, Pat Boone, Marshall Chess, Don Everly (pictured), the grand daughter and son of Sam Phillips, Tom Jones, Robert Gordon, Wanda Jackson, Chubby Checker and P F Sloan, but perhaps the most telling contribution came from Bobby Rush, who talked about Beale Street in the early days. Bobby, of course, is still at the top of his game at the age of 80 and still looking great. Apparently Little Richard once said that the prettiest guys in the world were himself and Bobby Rush. Bobby would have preferred the word 'handsome'.
The rise of Chuck Berry - the 'Shakespeare of rock and roll' - ended this fascinating and well produced show. Chuck brought a new approach to rock and roll, with intelligent lyrics. He also sang about smart cars at a time when most young blacks would not have the chance of owning one.
Next week's show, called Whole Lotta Shakin', continues the story and I will be looking out for it, plus the third show Be My Baby which continues the story to the emergence of the Beatles. Tonight's programme was followed by the movie Rock Around The Clock and there's more good stuff to comeon BBC4 over the next few weeks. There are also several programmes on BBC Radio 6 coming up, including features of Jerry Lee and Bo Diddley, and it's not too late to catch some of the recent Ronnie Spector programmes on doowop and the beginnings of soul, which are excellent. Well done the BBC.