Memphis soul singer Toni Green has become a favourite at the Porretta Soul Festival in recent years, earning herself the unofficial title of the Queen of Porretta. Her performances always feature glamorous gowns, deep soul of the highest quality and not a little in the way of histrionics (but in a good way). Her repertoire, though, tends to be established and relatively well known soul numbers - not surprising given her connections with such Memphis greats as Willie Mitchell, Isaac Hayes and Ann Peebles.
Now, however, she has teamed up with French soul/funk group Malted Milk and the result, as I witnessed at the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen in London last night, is stunning. The combination was impressive. Toni came on stage in a pink sparkly trouser suit with matching high heeled shoes and waved a pink feather fan constantly in an attempt to cool herself. As ever, she looked great and her voice was as strong and soulful as ever. The seven piece band from Nantes, led by guitarist Arnaud Fradin, included two horns and proved capable of handling everything from funk to blues, with a lot of southern soul as well. And the material was not your usual soul fare, including several original numbers and others from such soul artists as Tommy Tate and Garnet Mimms which you seldom hear in a soul set. Many of the numbers are included on their album Milk and Green on Nueva Onda Records, which I will have to seek out.
Toni kicked off with I'd Really Like To Know, written by Tommy Tate, which showed off her soul credentials to perfection. Other numbers included Hold Back This Feeling, written by Arnaud, and Sexy Love Machine, writtten by Toni herself, which brought a great response from the crowd, as she picked out some of the sexy men and women there. Just Ain't Working Out proved to be a superb blues number, while Deep Inside, another original by Arnaud and the band, was pure southern soul. Garnet Mimms' As Long As I Have You increased the tempo, as did I Don't Need Nobody. She left the stage at that point, leaving Malted Milk to carry on with their very competent funk and soul, and returned for an encore 20 minutes later.
Altogether an enjoyable show - Toni's first in London she said. The decision to team up with Malted Milk looks to be a good one and is certainly giving Toni, a true southern soul veteran, a new lease of life.