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.