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.