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.


At 6:24 pm , Anonymous Harry van Vliet said...

Hey Nick , on friday and saturdaynight I watched almost the whole show live on the Internet and I have to say i was right in deciding to skip the festival this year .....lord have mercy you have to go through a whole lot of crap to finally see one or two completed songs without crowd anticipation or reminiscing about the Big O ( who is that geezer anyway:) .
Further more the amount of time that is given to mediocre singers like LoraLee is astonishing why bring over great artists like Phillip Mitchell and let them wait for hours and hours before they get to do a couple of tunes ? Your comments on yesterday's show are very mellow indeed i would be in the pub around the corner much earlier :) And what was wrong with David Hudson ? He's a GREAT guy but someone should really tell him to sing instead of talking and talking ...i remember his show from two years ago when he did at least 6 complete songs in half an hour.....and Sugar Pie Desanto's orders to the crowd to "stand up" and "sit" .. phew....she's done this act several years in a row now and judging by the reactions of the crowd they're also tired of it ....... The organiser Graziano does a fantastic job but why invite the same artists year after year ? Of course he works with a tight budget and he can't afford artists like Al Green or The O'Jays but artists like Millie Jackson ( still gives great shows ) , Little Anthony and the Imperials,the Impressions, Willie Clayton or why not invite a "new" artist like Anthony Hamilton he fits perfectly in this Old Skool setting .....anyway I stop my moaning and will be watching later on ! Seen any good shows lately Harry ? yes Bunny Wailer was fantastic three horn players and Song after Song after Song . Enjoy yourself and the nice weather ( it's raining in Amsterdam :) Give my regards to everybody Ciao Harry van Vliet

At 8:22 pm , Blogger Nick said...

You're right Harry: I was probably too kind. I agree that the line up is becoming predictable, but I'm sure Graziano would get other artists if he could. Of this year's list I thought Theo Huff and Frank Bey were excellent, Chuck Rodgers, Wee Willie Walker, Sugaray Rayford and Prince Phillip Mitchell pretty good and Sugar Pie and David Hudson disappointing. The inclusion of Bernard Purdie and Joe Arnold was interesting but they didn't add much to the show: if anything they encouraged Loralee to sing more than her fair share of songs, not to mention Rick Hutton. The Anthony Paule Band, however, was excellent. Sounds like Bunny Wailer was good. I'm looking forward to the Flirtations later this week.

At 10:40 pm , Blogger freezonetrumpet said...

For the record Sugar Pie did not arrive late. She was in the wings a good twenty minutes before she was to go on. A last minute trip to the toilet with not very clear directions was the hangup.

At 8:37 am , Blogger Graziano Uliani said...

Thank you for your comments largely agree. It 'easy to put together a good line-up on paper. much more difficult to put it into practice. Very hard to even try to give rules to excellent artists such as David Hudson or other rules that do not. I'm the first customer of the festival and are never fully satisfied with what I do. I have to deal with a budget more and more scarce and with the tastes of the public but often are different from mine. Allow me to say that the quality of the bands that have succeeded in Porretta rarely seen elsewhere..One last thing. Mike Rinta, the horns arranger, he had to write the parts for more than 50 tracks. This is why last night, when adding new pieces. it was exhausting work. Unfortunately very few artists arrive in Porretta with musical scores.I hope to see you next year.

At 7:53 pm , Blogger Nick said...

Thanks for your comment Graziano. You have done a fantastic job over many years to attract great soul artists to Porretta. As you rightly say, it's highly unlikely that we would have seen many of them if it hadn't been for you. Long may you continue to do so - and I'm sure this sentiment is shared by all the fans who go there every year. Mike Rinta deserves enormous respect for the work he did this year and in the past, as did the entire band. I will be back next year without a doubt!

At 1:44 am , Blogger Loralee Christensen said...

Interesting and honest perspective of this year's festival. I can't begin to tell you what a true honor it was to be granted two songs per show at the festival this past summer. Even more of an honor? To do backgrounds for all of the soul royalty that graced that stage. Being included in the festival was not taken lightly and I was beyond honored for Graziano's generosity in including me. I can tell you that it is every performer's desire to do their very best. :) I can tell you that a lot of blood, sweat, tears, work, time and heart went into all of the musician's performances and not a one of us gets up there wanting to hear how we disappointed anybody, but alas this the nature of the business!! As for your comments regarding me, Loralee, I would sincerely love to hear WHAT made me mediocre in your estimation? Since you went out of your way to make mention of me I would genuinely and like to know. I do realize that my style is not everone's cup of tea because diversity is what makes this great big music world so wonderful, but I've never, ever actually been called a mediocre vocalist before. In my whole 30 year career. In all honesty, all of the comments here, regarding my mediocrity, have my curiosity up. I am absolutely, 100% honestly and sincerely interested in a critique that would make me a better singer/entertainer than just a comment about how mediocre I am. WHY did you find me mediocre? Eagerly awaiting your reply, my friends. :)

At 7:10 pm , Blogger Nick said...

Just read your comment Loralee. Actually it wasn't me who said you were mediocre, but someone who wasn't even there - just watching on line. I thought your performance was very good and said so. You clearly put your heart and soul into your numbers which went down well. The only criticism. by those of us who had travelled from England and elsewhere to attend the festival, was that the more songs that were performed by yourself, Rick Hutton and others, the less time there was for the artists that brought us to Porretta in the first place. That's not a criticism of you personally, but the great thing about Porretta is that every year Graziano manages to attract artists who we never dreamed we would see. Over the years there have been some of the great names of soul appearing, and those are the people we travel to see. Long may it last.


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