P.P. Arnold at the Jazz Cafe
Emerging from a gospel background, and as one of Ike & Tina Turner's Ikettes who, with encouragement from the likes of Mick Jagger, opted for a solo recording and performing career starting in London in 1966, P. P. Arnold has had an interesting history, and this appearance on Saturday October 24 was an excellent opportunity to catch her 'live', something I'd not managed to do for many years.
With a tight six-piece band led by guitarist Ray Russell, and two strong backing singers - Debra Lewis-Brown and her daughter Chantal – P. P. appeared on stage, as she herself said later in the set, 'still looking good for my ahem.. years', and in fine voice from the off on The Ikettes' 'What'cha Gonna Do' before 'the song that brought me to the U.K.', 'River Deep, Mountain High', showing that she could still do The Ikettes' 'two-step' dance routine.
There was some humorous to-and-fro with the fans in the audience about her first meeting with Mick Jagger, leading into the Cat Stevens composition which became one of her biggest hits, 'The First Cut Is The Deepest', in a suitably soulful treatment which again demonstrated her range and vocal edge, and on into the self-penned 'Am I Still Dreaming'. There was a strong '60s feel to the set with numbers like '(If You Think You're) Groovy' and 'Everything's Gonna Be Alright' (which became a Northern Soul hit) alongside 'Speak To Me' (the flip-side of 'First Cut') and numbers like 'Uptight' and Aretha Franklin's '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman', the latter displaying her soulful delivery and her ability to really hit the high registers vocally. From her 1968 'Kafunta' album came the soulful 'Letter To Bill' and on through 'God Only Knows', 'Eleanor Rigby' and The Bee Gees' 'To Love Somebody', plus Chip Taylor's 'Angel Of The Morning', a number making the most of her expressive voice and delivery, before the melodic mid-tempo 'Beautiful Song' from the Band Of Sisters' 'Issues' album last year prefaced her closing and emotional 'Afterglow Of Your Love', composed by The Small Faces' Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane.
A nicely balanced set from a fine singer displaying all the attributes of a seasoned performer, very much at ease on stage, interacting well with the audience, complete with witty retorts to any shouts from the fans. If you haven't seen her recently, she's on at the Tales From The Woods' ( TFTW.org.uk ) January 31 show at The Borderline: one for the diary. Seamus McGarvey ('Juke Blues' magazine)