Saturday, August 01, 2015

Sixties soul with The Flirtations

Sixties soul came to the Jazz Cafe last night with an appearance by the Flirtations, a girl group who still put on a fun and very tuneful show. Sisters Earnestine and Shirley Pearce got together with another sister, Betty, to form the Gypsies in 1962, before changing their name to the Flirtations. Betty left in 1964 to be replaced by Viola Billups who, as Pearly Gates, enjoyed solo success in the seventies and eighties. Although originally from South Carolina and Alabama (in Vi's case) the Flirtations were  based in the UK, where they made a string of up tempo soul numbers for Deram which failed to make a great deal of impact at the time but which are now regarded as Northern soul classics. Today the three Flirtations still look gorgeous and harmonise well. They also have a great line in humour between numbers.
Kicking off with a lively stab at Arthur Conley's Sweet Soul Music, and backed by a band which suited them well, they moved on to another soul classic Do I Love You, before singing their own Need Your Lovin'. Marvin Gaye's Little Darling (I Love You) was followed by the belting Stronger Than Her Love, a Flirtations original. Next was Can't Stop Lovin' You, a song which, they said, Tom Jones was given preference over by their record company. Other numbers included Martha and the Vandellas' Nowhere To Run, their own Someone Out There and their biggest hit Nothing But A Heartache, before they returned to the Motown songbook with Junior Walker's Shotgun and the Jacksons' I Want You Back. They dug back to the early sixties with Jerk It, recorded when they were known as the Gypsies, before finishing strongly with Dancing In the Street. In between Vi complained about a sore throat, although she sounded fine, while Shirley, wearing a fetching blonde wig, described herself as 'the sexy one', and Earnestine insisted she was 'the pretty one'. To my eyes, they all looked great and this was a show that brought a smile to our faces.
Earlier, and I kick myself for arriving late, I caught a bit of the support act - Diane Shaw, an ebullient and highly vocal soul singer from Manchester. She sounded fantastic on Edwin Starr's Stop Her On Sight and I wish I had seen more.
Nick Cobban


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