Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Great female singers

I've just watched Gladys Knight on Jools Holland's show on BBC2 and was in raptures. She's fantastic. To think that it's nearly 50 years since I first heard her sing with the Pips. Doesn't seem possible.
Still. it made me think about the great female singers who I've had the pleasure of hearing and, in some cases, seeing over the years. So here is my top 50 female singers (and apologies to any I've missed) in no particular order:
1. Irma Thomas, 2. Gladys Knight, 3. Aretha Franklin, 4. Ruth Brown, 5. Lavern Baker, 6. Carla Thomas, 7. Patti LaBelle, 8. Brenda Lee, 9. Connie Francis, 10. Maxine Brown, 11. Dee Dee Sharpe, 12. Diana Ross, 13. Mary Wells, 14. Martha Reeves, 15. Dinah Washington, 16. Dionne Warwick, 17. Nina Simone, 18. Etta James, 19. Fontella Bass, 20. Brenda Holloway, 21 Lesley Gore, 22. Barbara George, 23. Betty Everett, 24. Jackie DeShannon, 25. Sugar Pie DeSanto, 26. Patsy Cline, 27. Amy Winehouse, 28. Dusty Springfield, 29. Billie Holiday, 30. Shirley Brown, 31. Millie Jackson, 32 Denise LaSalle, 33. Laura Lee, 34. Dorothy Moore, 35. Wanda Jackson, 36. Freda Payne, 37. Esther Phillips, 38 Marlena Shaw, 39. Jean Carne, 40. Mavis Staples, 41. Marcia Ball, 42. Barbara Lynn, 43. Betty Lavette, 44. Inez Foxx, 45 Ann Peebles, 46 Tammi Terrell, 47 Bonnie Raitt, 48. Anna King, 49. Toni Green, 50. Kim Weston.
Comments/additions would be most welcomed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wish I'd been there last weekend

Saturday festival celebrates blues in Miss. Delta
By The Associated Press
Blues fans from as far away as Europe are trekking to the land where the blues began this weekend to hear gritty guitar licks and soulful harmonica solos at the Delta Blues and Heritage Festival.
Singers Bobby Bland, Bobby Rush, Shirley Brown and Butch Mudbone and harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite are expected to draw about 6,000 Saturday to the Washington County Convention Center in the Mississippi River town of Greenville.
"It's just amazing the popularity of blues in other countries," Howard Boutte Jr., president and chief executive officer of the festival's sponsor, Mississippi Action for Community Education.
Founded in 1978, the Greenville event is now one of the oldest continuously operating blues festivals in the United States. The San Francisco Blues Festival, founded in 1973, holds the longevity title.
Greg Johnson, curator of the blues archives at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, said the top-name blues artists have performed in Greenville over the years. Past performers include blues luminaries such as B.B. King, Sam Chatmon, Son Thomas, Willie Foster, Ruby Wilson, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Denise LaSalle.
"The festival is really celebrating one of the great cultural exports of Mississippi, which is the blues," Johnson said Friday.
Mudbone, who lives in Memphis, Tenn., has played at the Greenville festival at least five times. He said there's nothing like performing blues music in the region where the genre was born from hardship and slavery.
"Blues music, it's like smiling through the suffering or celebrating the suffering of life even though it's hard," Mudbone said this week. "Everybody goes through hard times, and the music, it's medicine."
Boutte said artists will perform on three stages: one for the headliners, one for gospel and a "juke stage" for impromptu jam sessions.
"To be frank with you, a lot of folks spend their entire day at the juke stage," Boutte said.
Mudbone, who has performed at music festivals across the U.S., Canada and Europe for decades, said he most enjoys performing in the South. He has played the New Orleans Jazz Fest more than 25 years.
Mudbone said Delta blues fest-goers can expect to hear a mix of his band's music — with Mudbone on guitar, harmonica and vocals — and hits by blues greats such as B.B. King and Freddie King.
"You can't go to a blues festival in the Delta and not play some B.B. King," he said. "That would be like going to New Orleans and not playing some Neville Brothers or Louis Armstrong. People would look at you like you don't know what you're doing."
Mudbone, who used to live in New Orleans and has performed with Deacon John, Charles Neville and others, said he will be performing a handful of songs from his most recent album, "End Of The Trail." But mostly, he said, he'll be keeping his performance traditional.
"You can't go wrong with traditional blues," he said.
MACE launched the festival to use the Delta's own blues power to help stimulate social and economic development in the perpetually poor region. The first few festivals were held at Freedom Village, a rural community that had a population of fewer than 100 people. While the festival has grown, it is still considered by its organizers a community event.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Peter, Paul, but no Mary

Mary Travers of Peter Paul and Mary has died aged 72. Mary began singing with Pete Seeger's backing group the Song Swappers and teamed up with Peter Yarrow and Noel 'Paul' Stookey in 1961. In the early sixties, before Bob Dylan became well known, Peter Paul and Mary's melodic but rather boring folk music was just about the most political material to hit the mainstream, with the possible exception of Joan Baez. And their versions of Where Have All the Flowers Gone, Blowin' In The Wind and If I Had A Hammer became anthems for radical youth. Later on they had big hits with Puff The Magic Dragon and Leaving On A Jet Plane and split up in 1970. They reformed and toured extensively. My photo shows them performing with Pete Seeger at the New Orleans Jazzfest in 1995.
Here are a couple of obituaries: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article6838825.ece http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/sep/17/mary-travers-obituary

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Some more deaths

Some more deaths to report I'm afraid. First, Juanita Brooks, not a household name perhaps, but a New Orleans funk singer who was lead singer of the Explosions and recorded for the late Eddie Bo's Gold Cup label. Here's her singing lead on Hip Drop http://helium.lunarpages.com/~funky4/sounds/explosions_hipdrop.mp3
Also connected musically, although not central to my tastes, is Patrick Swayze, who appeared memorably in Dirty Dancing and Ghost, and who has died at the young age of 57. Also TV chef Keith Floyd, 65, who managed to present cooking programmes while apparently pissed out of his head. A man after my own heart.
Finally the Times has belatedly published an obituary of Johnny Carter, formerly of the Flamingos and the Dells. Here it is: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article6834249.ece

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Beatles - don't you just hate them?

The new Beatles digitally remastered anthology and video game have been attracting a lot of media attention. But I won't be putting my hand in my pocket. For one thing I've already got all the original albums, having eventually succumbed to buying them not long ago (at a knock down price) from a second hand shop. And for another, I'm one of those people who are ambivalent, at best, towards them. I still haven't forgiven them for murdering some of the classic soul and rock and roll 45s of the early 60s, including Anna, Chains, Baby It's You, Twist and Shout, Roll Over Beethoven, You Really Gotta Hold on Me, Money, Rock and Roll Music and Kansas City.
To be fair, the Beatles did play a role in popularising the music, but so too did the Stones and a whole lot of lesser British bands like Freddie and the Dreamers, the Swinging Blue Jeans and the Searchers, and there's no way I can think of anything positive to say about that lot. But despite my in built prejudice against British beat music of the sixties I have to admit that many of the Beatles albums are still worth the occasional play. When my sons visit the music they want to listen to is primarily the Beatles. Obviously I didn't bring them up very well, but when forced to listen to their later LPs there is a certain appeal, in the tunes, the backing and the vocals. Compared with most of the dross that passes for pop music today it's sheer brilliance. Did anyone hear Speech Debelle, or whatever she calls herself, who won the Mercury prize for an album that sold 3000 copies? I rest my case.
The BBC website today ran a story about what it's like to be fully paid up Beatles hater. Such paragons of musical taste include James Bond (in Goldfinger) and Robert Elms. Even though I don't fully subscribe to their views they have my full support. Here's the article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8246313.stm

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Music photos from 2000/2001

I've been going through some of my old music photos again and picked out some from 2000 and 2001 which I hope are of interest.
In the autumn of 2000 Ace Records put on a series of shows at the Jazz Cafe featuring some great names from soul and R and B. First, here is Memphis R and B performer Roscoe Gordon, whose shuffle beat tracks such as No More Dogging went on to inspire the early ska movement in Jamaica. Roscoe died in 2002 aged 74. Mary Love is a favourite among Northern Soul fans as a result of early records including Lay This Burden Down and You Turned My Bitter Into Sweet. In the 80s she began to record gospel under the name Mary Love Comer.
William Bell is one of the true soul greats and his You Don't Miss Your Water, recorded in 1961, was one of the first hits on Stax/Volt. He went on to record many great records for Stax and other labels, and also wrote many songs, including Born Under a Bad Sign, made famous by Albert King. I saw him in New Orleans last year and he is still excellent.
The next two photos were taken at a gig at a pub in north west London - no doubt Dave can remind me of the name. Laurel Aitken was known as the Godfather of Ska, having recorded mento records for Island records in Jamaica as early as 1958, and ska records throughout the 60s, having moved to the UK in 1961. He died in 2005.
Trombonist Rico Rodriguez was another Jamaican ska musician who moved to the UK in the early 60s and recorded many great records. He is probably best known today as having played on many of The Specials hits.
The final four photos were all taken at the Hemsby rock and roll festival in 2001. I don't go to many UK music festivals (crap weather) but this one was well worth the visit. Here is Sanford Clark, who had success in the late 50s/early 60s with a run of hits such as The Fool (written by Lee Hazlewood), Son Of a Gun and Run Boy Run, with Al Casey backing him on guitar.
Al Casey, who backed Sanford at Hemsby, was a session musician, played on many of Duane Eddy's ealy hits and had success of his own in the 60s. He died in 2006.
Sanford Clark was introduced on stage by Lee Hazlewood, who was involved with Sanford, Al and Duane Eddy and found worldwide fame when he teamed up with Nancy Sinatra in the mid 60s. He died in 2007.
Canadian born Jack Scott has one of the great voices of rock and roll and he is equally effective on rockabilly numbers like Leroy and ballads such as What In the World's Come Over You. He proved at Hemsby that he had lost none of his vocal power.