Monday, January 31, 2011

Fifth 2 I's rock and roll show hits right note

The fifth annual trawl through the byways of British Rock and Roll - the Tales From the Woods tribute to the 2 I's coffee bar - moved to a new venue this year, the Borderline in Soho, not far from the original Old Compton Street coffee emporium. And it wasn't just the venue that was new. There was a professionalism about the show that was lacking in some of the early shows. It ran to time and there were no diversions from ageing singers of questionable talent doing their own improvised numbers. These shows get better every year.
The evening was held together by the Tales from The Woods House Band (lead guitarist John Spencely, Brian 'Bunter' Clark on drums, Claire Hamlin on keyboards and Robb Davis on stand up bass). They backed three of the four main acts and were excellent throughout.
First act that I caught was Simon Scott (pictured below), who had flown in from Florida for the gig. He had a minor hit on Parlophone in 1964 with Move It Baby, a favourite on the rock and roll scene these days apparently, which was the highlight of his set, which was otherwise a selection of rather average covers of rock and roll favourites, from Blue Suede Shoes, to Bye Bye Love and a dirge-like Love Me Tender. He has enthusiasm and a reasonable voice, but seemed a little rusty, forgetting lyrics on occasions.
Next up was Terry Wayne, who was a star of an earlier 2 I's show, who continues to look and sound pretty good. Terry had a string of 45s issued on Columbia in the late 50s, including covers of Matchbox and Oh Lonesome Me and his own composition Slim Jim Tie, all of which he played. He said he had had no chance of rehearsing with the band, but you wouldn't have known it as he went through a string of crisp rock and roll and country covers including Baby I Don't Care and Sea of Heartbreak, plus Teenage Boogie, a disc now out on a CD single. Highlight of this year's show was Graham Fenton, formerly the frontman of the 70s and 80s rock and roll band Matchbox. His set was mostly rock and roll covers, but his energy and choice of material set him above most the early British rock and rollers still on the scene. Among the highlights were Freddy Cannon's Buzz Buzz A Diddle It, Conway Twitty's I'll Try, Elvis's Trying To Get To You (with great guitar from John Spencely) and Ricky Nelson's Believe What You Say. He finished with Rockabilly Rebel, a hit for Matchbox in the seventies.
The show owed a great deal to the brilliant House Band, with the guitar work of John Spencely (pictured) outstanding, but good support also from the rest of the band.
This year's show, like last year's, climaxed with the Incredible Roy Young Band featuring Howie Casey on sax and John Spencely standing in on lead guitar. Roy is a great boogie woogie player with a raw, exciting voice and he belted his way through a selection of numbers made famous by Little Richard, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Willis. He certainly got the good sized crowd going and even though there was little original about the material he chose, it was very much what the audience wanted.
Final photo is of saxman Howie Casey, once of Liverpool band Howie Casey and The Seniors.
Overall this 2 I's show was a pretty good evening's entertainment, ably supported by MC Ricky Stevens and DJ 'Mr Angry' John Howard. As one friend remarked to me: "I always thought British rock and roll was rubbish but after tonight I have revised my opinion." I wouldn't go that far - it was and still is largely rubbish - but at least the choice of acts showed imagination, even if the choice of material in some cases did not. A success again for promoter Keith Woods and all at Tales From The Woods.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Gladys Horton of the Marvelettes

Gladys Horton, lead singer of the Marvelettes, one of Motown's earliest and most successful groups, has died aged 65. Gladys (pictured centre) was just 16 when she sang lead on Motown's first number one Please Mr Postman and her strong voice was heard to good effect on a string of classics until she left the group in 1967. These included Beechwood 4-5789, You're My Remedy, Too Many Fish in the Sea and Don't Mess With Bill, plus Locking Up My heart, the Oriole release of which is one of the rarest 45s in my collection. After she left the group success continued for a couple of years before breaking up in the late 1960s. Gladys later performed under her own name but in recent years suffered a number of strokes. A sad loss. Here's her singing the first great Marvelettes hit with a later version of the group

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jazzfest line up disappoints

The line up for this year's New Orleans Jazzfest has been announced, and I reckon it's the most disappointing yet, with a few exceptions. There's Bobby Blue Bland and Willie Nelson, and old favourites such as Irma Thomas and the Neville Brothers, but very little else of great interest. These are the best known headliners: Arcade Fire, Bon Jovi, Jimmy Buffett, Kid Rock, John Mellencamp, Wilco, Neville Brothers, Willie Nelson, Strokes, Robert Plant, Lauryn Hill, Tom Jones, Jeff Beck, Sonny Rollins, John Legend, Wyclef Jean, Dr John, Cyndi Lauper, Allen Toussaint, Bobby Bland, Marcia Ball, Jesse Winchester, Walter 'Wolfman' Washington, Maze, Arlo Guthrie, Irma Thomas, Gregg Allman Blues Band, Robert Cray, Ken Mo, Mighty Clouds of Joy, Kermit Ruffins, Ahmad Jamal, Rance Allen, Ricky Skaggs, Sonny Landreth, Henry Butler, Maceo Parker, Michelle Shocked, Charlie Musselwhite.
The full line up is here

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Another music man passes

Hot on the heels of the passing of Bobby Robinson, another music great has died - this time Don Kirshner. He managed many of the 'Brill Building' songwriters, including Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka, Howard Greenfield, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. He also directed the careers of Bobby Darin, Carole King and Neil Diamond. As a record producer he had a hit with 'Martian Hop' by the Ran-Dells and was instrumental in creating the Monkees (pictured) and the Archies before moving into TV presenting in the 70s.

A final word also for Joseph Jones, who was a member of South Carolina beach music band The Tams for many years, but joined them after their early hits such as Hey Girl Don't Bother Me and What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I Am).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rockin' in Crondall

I checked out my local rock and roll club at Crondall Village Hall, Hampshire, last night. The place was packed and it's clear the local rock and roll scene is thriving. The live act was The Caezars, a young four piece band with stacks of energy who play raw rock and roll with no frills but plenty of enthusiasm. They are launching their new CD 'Shake Down' at the Luminaire next week and clearly have potential. Not your typical rockabilly band for sure, with a garage sound, but worth a listen. Here's their promo on YouTube
Great documentary on Sister Rosetta Tharpe on BBC4 the other night. The Godmother of Rock and Roll, and dedicedly non spiritual at times in her life. What a bizarre gig that was with her playing in the rain at the disused Chorlton cum Hardy railway station. Great TV.

Worrying news about a couple of the all time greats. Etta James has been diagnosed with leukemia and dementia And Chuck Berry cancelled his latest tour because of exhaustion The Vinyl Word wishes them both well.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Bobby Robinson RIP

Sad to hear the news that Bobby Robinson has died, aged 93. Bobby was a New York legend, running his Happy House record shop in Harlem for over 60 years until he was forced to close in 2008 (see the Vinyl Word, July 30, 2007). And as a record producer and record label owner Bobby was second to none in the doowop and R and B field. Among his labels were Red Robin, Whirlin' Disc, Fury, Everlast, Fire and Enjoy. Artists who he recorded included Wilbert Harrison, Lee Dorsey, The Shirelles, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Arthur Crudup, Dave 'Baby' Cortez , Bobby Lewis, Elmore James and King Curtis. In the seventies he became an innovator of hip hop, recording Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's first record in 1979. A true great. Check out John Broven's 'Record Makers and Breaker' for a fascinating insight into his career.
Pictured is one of Bobby Robinson's classics. I have a copy for sale if anyone's interested.
Farewell also to Gerry Rafferty, who will forever be associated with Baker Street and Stuck In The Middle With You. And to Grady Chapman, original lead singer of The Robins, forerunners of The Coasters.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Jools brings the New Year in

It's a New Year tradition these days to see the old year out with Jools Holland's Hootenanny. He invariably has one or two roots artists alongside the more pop orientated acts. This year the main interests for me were Wanda Jackson and Toots Hibbert.

It's always to good to see Wanda and it's not often she gets to appear on national TV, but she is beginning to show her age and her versions of Rip It Up and Let's Have A Party were just a bit anaemic. Rather better was Toots, whose voice on Monkey Man and Funky Kingston was as rich as ever. Ruby Turner wasn't bad either, nor was Roger Daltrey doing Mannish Boy, but Rico Rodriguez was rather wasted on a feeble version of What A Wonderful World.

Bunter reminded me yesterday that it was the 25th anniversary of the death of Ricky Nelson, so the Vinyl Word raises a glass to his memory. A farewell also to Bobby Farrell of Boney M, who died on December 30, and to pianist Billy Taylor who wrote the civil rights anthem I Wish I Knew, who died on December 28.

A very Happy New Year to all my reader(s).